May 31, 2012 Leave a comment
On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike tore through the Gulf Coast. Five days later, the Houston Zoo was open for business.
The zoo’s speedy recovery was the result of a thorough disaster preparedness plan. With hurricane season upon us (June 1 to November 30), zoo officials were kind enough to share these disaster preparedness tips.*
Remember that you don’t have to be in the direct path of a hurricane to be affected. After all, Ike caused flooding and downed power lines as far north as Ohio.
Start early. Houston Zoo officials start preparing for hurricane season in May. They review the emergency preparedness plan. They stock up on batteries, flashlights, fuel for emergency generators and chain saws, and supplies that are critical to their operations. Some employees may have to ride out the storm on site. The zoo makes sure they have food, water, radios, first-aid kits and other survival basics.
Practice. Posting your emergency plan is not enough. Train new hires on emergency procedures. Conduct drills during the year to make sure everyone knows what to do if a disaster strikes.
Understand your insurance coverage. Review your windstorm, flood and business interruption insurance policies. Find out what they cover, what they don’t cover and what your deductible is. If you have questions, ask your agent.
Communicate with your employees. Have a plan for notifying them if, when and how to return to work. The Houston Zoo uses a dedicated website and telephone hotline to communicate with its employees before and after a disaster.
Communicate with your customers. Two days before Ike hit land, Brian Hill, the zoo’s public relations director, sent a press release. The release announced changes in hours of operations, explained how staff was preparing for the hurricane, and directed the public to its website and main phone number for updates.
Customer communication is especially important if you provide a service that people will need immediately after the storm passes, such as health care or roofing repair.
Prepare the job site. Move heavy equipment, materials, tools, vehicles and trailers to secure areas. Stabilize objects that could become airborne in high winds, and make sure exits are clearly marked and not blocked.
Secure sensitive items. The Houston Zoo’s “sensitive items” include 4,500 lions, tigers, African Wild Hogs and other residents. Moving the animals off site would be too stressful for them. Zoo officials move them to secure holding areas to ride out the storm.
The rest of us should prepare for extreme weather by unplugging our computers, backing up data for off-site storage, getting critical equipment out of harm’s way and storing hazardous chemicals properly. Review each chemical’s material safety data sheet for more information.
This article provides basic information about disaster preparedness. For detailed information on preparing your business and your home, visit these websites:
- The Spring 2012 issue of our policyholder newsletter includes an article titled, “Five Things Your Emergency Plan Should Address.”