A detailed guide of all the appropriate steps businesses should take before, during, and after a hurricane to safeguard their people, property, and assets.
Hurricanes and Louisiana seemingly go hand-in-hand. As a business owner or leader, you understand that it isn't always a question of if a hurricane will strike but when. From 1851 to 2018, 54 hurricanes were reported in our state, making it the 4th most vulnerable in the nation.
LWCC's goal in this guide is to help you prepare and protect your business through the lens of your workers' compensation coverage. Our team has compiled a detailed list of actionable items to help you and your team avoid both immediate and lasting harm. With thoughtful planning, you can be confident that you are fully prepared, even in the event of the unforeseen.
Fortunately, in today's world of advanced technology and communication, we are well aware of a storm's potential impact before it ever makes landfall, allowing us to prepare. If your area is projected to be impacted by a hurricane or tropical storm, your preparation efforts should cover the three Ps:
Undeniably, the greatest concern for any business owner or leader in times of crisis should be the safety of their people. With that in mind, it is critical to consider all of the following:
Depending on the severity of the storm, your workers could be confronted with high levels of danger. If you are facing a significant weather threat, the best way to prevent injuries and avoid workers' compensation claims is to close for the day.
If any employees must remain onsite during the weather event, ensure they have proper supplies and equipment (e.g., drinkable water, nonperishable food, medical supplies, flashlights, etc.). However, no employee should stay behind if an official evacuation order is in place.
Processing electronic payments following a hurricane may not be possible for some time. Have cash on hand to pay employees and contractors and take care of any necessary purchases.
A natural disaster can present an all-hands-on-deck situation that could require workers to step into roles outside their own. In some cases, this may mean taking additional safety precautions. Ensure that your employees have the appropriate PPE and training.
While this should always be considered, it is crucial during a severe weather event. Have a protocol in place to address work-related injuries quickly and safely. Teach employees how to administer first aid, quickly obtain additional treatment, and the steps to follow for a workers' compensation claim.
While you will most likely have a heads-up that bad weather is approaching, it is also possible for a storm to carry a much greater impact than anticipated. In these instances, everyone should clearly understand how to exit the building and reach safety. Of course, evacuation may not always be the best option. If there is active flooding or hazardous levels of rain and wind while employees are still in the building, the safest course of action could be to remain in place until it blows over. In this case, it is important to confirm that your workers' compensation plan covers sheltering in place for natural disasters.
While your people may be able to leave the vicinity of a storm, your property certainly cannot. Protect your place of business as best you can by taking care of the following before closing or evacuating if possible:
- Repair and fill above-ground tanks with fresh water.
- Fill fuel tanks of generators, fire pumps, and all company-owned vehicles.
- Remove as many goods as possible from the floor or ship them out of the facility.
- Shut off the natural gas supply to minimize fire loss.
- Disconnect the main electrical feeds to the facility, if possible, to prevent a potential fire caused by short-circuiting of damaged equipment.
The time immediately following a disaster is when you will need much of your business documentation the most. It is also when it will likely be most difficult to access. Address that concern beforehand by ensuring you have ready access to all essential documents.
- Ideally, you should have digital copies of your business records with cloud-based access. This will ensure that your information is retrievable from anywhere. Having ready access to your business records can help you restore operations quickly or continue operations remotely.
- If digital records are not an option, protect physical copies as best possible. Use a stormproof container that protects against water and fire. Keep this container elevated to avoid high water situations, and keep additional copies of your documents in a second location.
- Any documents that may be needed for insurance or audit purposes are of particular importance. Depending on your policy expiration, you can be subject to a policy audit to determine the final premium. Maintaining timely records in an easily accessible method eliminates the headache and ensures they are available, even if a natural disaster has just occurred.
All preparations should be finalized well before a hurricane makes landfall. However, the work does not stop there. There are still steps that must be taken to maintain safety throughout the event, including:
Any equipment that must remain online should be constantly monitored.
During strong winds, everyone should remain in a space that has been previously identified as safe from wind and flood.
In the event of power failure, turn off electrical switches to prevent reactivation before necessary checks are completed.
Anyone who has experienced a hurricane understands that the hardest part typically comes after the storm has passed. This is when most work must be done, but with hazards lurking everywhere, it is imperative that all post-storm tasks be undertaken with exceptional care. For business owners, the following steps should be taken after their property has been impacted by a hurricane:
You'll probably be tempted to return to your business property as quickly as possible and assess the damage. However, it is important to wait until roadways have cleared and the threat of heavy rain and high winds has passed. Check your local news regularly for updates, including road closures, and wait until it has been declared safe to once again travel.
Just because the roads are open does not mean your business should be. Before sending employees back to work, check your facilities for safety hazards and necessary repairs such as downed power lines, broken windows, compromised roofing, flooding, and other forms of structural damage. If these exist, they will need to be professionally repaired before your team can safely work on the premises.
While extensive damage and elements such as exposed wiring or severe water damage will require professional restoration, there are cleanup tasks that you can begin on your own. Cover broken windows and holes in roofing immediately. Clean leaves, limbs, and other storm debris. Clear drains and gutters, and begin separating salvageable goods from others. During this phase, you may call in key personnel to help. However, it is important to ensure that safety protocols and fire-safe conditions are first established.
If your business has been hit by a hurricane, timely filing of your insurance claims is of the utmost importance. For LWCC policyholders, the process of filing a workers’ comp claim is simple and can be completed online, over the phone, by email, or via fax. Our website also includes in-depth resources regarding the claims process and answers to commonly asked questions. Once received, our team will work to resolve your claim as quickly as possible and return you and your employees to business as usual.
the Storm with
Storms are a part of life, but with the right preparation and the help of a solid workers’ comp insurance partner, they don't have to cause a complete disruption. By thinking and planning ahead, you can keep your employees safe and limit your liability in the event of a workplace injury.
Should you have questions about your workers' compensation liability in the event of a hurricane, please feel free to contact LWCC. As Louisiana's largest workers' compensation carrier, we specialize in making sure that your workers are fully covered in the event of an on-the-job injury. It is our commitment to be there for Louisiana. Always.
Download a print-friendly version of this guide