Preparation is an important element of every workplace. Financial advisors and board members prepare financially for seasonal trends in evolving markets. Human Resources teams prepare for company events and the hiring of new employees. Company leaders in various capacities establish quarterly goals and prepare for training meetings and other initiatives to keep employees engaged, accountable, and satisfied.
But is your office prepared for a winter emergency?
With Jack Frost arriving in many geographical areas of the United States, winter storm preparation should be a consideration of every organization. Whether you’re an office manager, facilities coordinator, or company executive, it behooves us all to avoid common winter weather mistakes both at home and at the office.
Read on for the “why” and the “how” of winter preparation specific to workplaces.
Why prepare for winter storms?
Most importantly, preparation allows a business to adequately keep employees and clients safe and provided for in the case of dangerous travel conditions, loss of power, and other perils that accompany extreme winter weather.
Preparing for winter storms at your workplace reduces your chances for preventable slip and fall accidents on-site, which keeps employees safer — and protects the company from injury-related liability suits. According to statistics from the Snow and Ice Management Association, the average cost of a slip and fall claim is $15,000.
Finally, if you have the resources to function amidst winter storms, you can get extra business from customers that might otherwise go to competitors deterred by the weather. And even if winter doesn’t yield your greatest profits of the year, you can provide confidence, security, and resources in times of need — which builds trust among your employees and customer base.
Make multi-level preparations
Adequate preparation ideally takes place at multiple levels of an organization, such as an individual level, department or floor level, and company-wide level. It’s a good idea to add emergency preparation to your next meeting agenda to raise awareness and to discuss how each team member can play a role in effective prepping.
Communication between the various entities of an organization is crucial. Don’t wait until the first storm hits before you get a communication system in place. Someone should follow storm updates and make decisions regarding office opening and closing based on safety and specific storm warnings. Use email, slack, or a text message auto-alert or phone chain to let employees know if conditions are unsafe to come in.
If you haven’t already, consider implementing a protocol that allows employees to work remotely when transportation conditions are adverse. If working from home isn’t an option for your industry or for your particular organization, make an alternate plan to catch up on flexible calendar days or another HR solution that protects both the employees and the company.
Plan for snow and ice removal
As was mentioned, slip and fall injuries are a chief concern for both residential and commercial properties during the winter. It can seem impossible to combat Mother Nature’s forces when they keep dumping snow, sleet, and rain on already-icy surfaces. But watchful maintenance during snowfall will keep you ahead of the game.
Keep shovels and ice melt on site for sidewalk clearing. If you’re dealing with snow buildup or heavy ice, the best ice melt to use is the type that contains calcium magnesium acetate, which begins melting snow immediately on contact. It’s more expensive than rock salt, but it is biodegradable so it won’t harm the environment or corrode concrete as dramatically.
Any office or storefront with a parking lot will most likely require snow blowing. Consider purchasing a snow blower rather than taking the time and back-aching effort to shovel a large area. Many organizations find it more effective, time-efficient and cost-efficient to hire a contractor for snow and ice removal. If you’re considering it for yours, check out the Better Business Bureau’s advice for hiring a snow removal contractor.
Have a backup electricity source
Blizzards often trigger power failures, impacting most buildings on-the-grid. Having a generator on-site at your home or business allows you to power certain systems and appliances like lights, heat, refrigerators, and essential tech gear.
For a home-based business or very small office, a backup solar generator can meet your needs for capacity if you have some time to let it charge. But the majority of businesses and organizations require a commercial generator.
Automatic or standby generators are permanently connected to a building’s electrical system and automatically restore power to the building in the case of an outage. However, small business owners should be aware that a typical generator (even an automatic one) can’t harness enough wattage to power an entire commercial building.
Store water and food
Though you’re unlikely to be snowed in at a workplace for a matter of days, it’s possible. And even an overnight hibernation requires food and water.
An approach to company water storage can be simple: keep a large inventory of plastic water bottles that can be used daily irrespective of an emergency situation. In this situation, it makes more sense to store water in a form that will be used no matter what and can be rotated through than to store large barrels of water. It’s a good idea to invest in some canned water, too, which can have a 50-year shelf life.
Your food storage approach can be similar. Many food storage items make great everyday snacks, such freeze-dried fruits, which are a rich source of fiber, vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants and are also vegan-friendly. You can rotate through food storage entrees like just-add-water chicken noodle soup and beef stroganoff for in-house lunches, too.
As you prepare your workplace for winter storms, the hope is that your emergency preparation won’t ultimately be needed. However, regardless of the storms may or may not come, being prepared provides peace of mind to company leaders, employees, customers, and clients — a benefit that can’t be overstated.
Here are some additional considerations to take into account as you prep:
- Make a habit of keeping cell phones and laptops charged.
- Store a few cordless, battery-powered space heaters.
- Though not as crucial during daytime work hours, store flashlights.
- Keep a detailed inventory of equipment and assets for insurance and replacement purposes.
- Have pipes inspected regularly and know the locations of the temperature and shutoff valves.