Severe winter weather can lead to property damage, employee illness or injury, and possible business closures. Looking for ways to prepare your home? Read our Prepare Your Home For Winter Checklist.
The following winter weather preparedness checklist will help you identify the areas of your business that are most susceptible to winter hazards. To minimize damage and recover quicker following severe winter weather, it is a good idea to develop a plan of action for your business and staff.
Below you will find critical information and winter weather preparedness tools to assist in protecting your business and the most critical element of your business - your people.
Prepare Your Business BEFORE Severe Winter Weather
- Check your insurance coverage for protection against winter hazards.
- Ensure you have an emergency communication plan in place prior to the storm.
- Have all employees, vendors, and client contact information on hand.
- Check your procedure for restoring electrical services on an item-by-item basis.
- Establish a procedure for relocating salvageable and undamaged stock and supplies.
- Add the following supplies to your disaster supplies kit: rock salt (to melt ice on driveways), sand (to improve traction), and snow shovels (or other snow removal equipment).
- Determine your greatest risk potential: loss of heat, frozen pipes, and/or loss of access due to snow/ice.
- Identify who is responsible for keeping heating equipment in good working order: business owner or landlord.
- Determine what equipment needs to be protected from freeze-up, i.e. computers, telecommunications, manufacturing equipment, etc.
- Are portable heaters or other emergency equipment needed?
- If snow and/or ice prohibit access to your business, are there alternative ways to enter your premises?
- Seal all opening with caulking and insulation where cold air can enter.
- Repair walls and roofs to prevent drafts; inspect roof drains for debris.
- Make sure storm windows are effective, if appropriate.
- Make sure heating and heat-producing process equipment is in good condition and operating efficiently.
- Arrange for snow removal from driveways, doorways, and roofs.
- Can your employees work from home? Establish a plan for days in which employees are unable to come into work.
- Drain all idle pumps and compressors, making sure jackets are vented.
- Provide proper lubrication for cold weather operation (i.e., emergency generators, snow blowers).
- Test cold weather equipment.
- Clean and inspect boilers and firing mechanism/controls.
- Make sure your Uninterrupted Power Source (UPS) is in place to protect equipment from a power surge.
- Maintain automatic sprinkler protection in idle buildings; promptly handle sprinkler system impairments; notify local fire department.
- Monitor building temperature especially in hard-to-heat areas containing vulnerable equipment. Keep temperatures above 5C.
- Mark hydrants near your business for ease in locating and clearing after a heavy storm.
- Remove large amounts of snow from your building's roof to prevent the roof from collapsing.
What to do DURING Severe Winter Weather
- Listen to local news and weather channels for situation developments and road closures.
- Keep all employees posted on the status of the storm and next steps.
- Locate heaters, snow blowers, generators, and cold-weather equipment should it be needed.
- Keep driveways, walkways, and doorways clear of snow and ice.
- Open water faucets slightly to let them drip in order to keep water flowing through the pipes that are vulnerable to freezing. Ice may still form, but the open faucet helps prevent the pipe from bursting by allowing relief for any built up pressure.
- During evacuation, consider your phone lines - redirection to cell phones, answering service, Google Voice, or other lines could be critical.
- Keep names and phone numbers of your heating contractor, plumber, fire department, insurance broker, disaster recovery provider and building owner easily accessible.
- Assign someone to check indoor temperatures should your place of business be vacant for long periods of time.
What you should do AFTER Severe Winter Weather
- Make sure your employees are fully briefed and informed about any transport diversions or time changes.
- Based on damage, notify all critical people of next steps.
- Clear away snow safely to prevent flooding and icing.
- Assess the situation. Make sure heating systems and water pipes are working.
- Check buildings for damage (e.g., downed power lines or trees, accumulated snow or ice).
Severe winter weather may range from a moderate snow in a short amount of time to a blizzard lasting for days. Some storms are regional and may affect several provinces, while others are more localized, depending upon geography and terrain. Common characteristics of winter storms are dangerously low temperatures, strong winds, ice, sleet, and freezing rain.
Know the Terms
Winter storm watch - be alert, a storm is likely
Winter storm warning - take action, the storm is in or entering the area
Blizzard warning - snow and strong winds combined will produce blinding snow, near zero visibility, deep drifts, and life-threatening wind chill - seek refuge immediately!
Winter weather advisory - winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous, especially to motorists
Frost/freeze warning - below freezing temperatures are expected and may cause damage to plants, crops, or fruit trees
Too often, organizations overlook the potential danger of winter weather. Not only can snow and ice create slipping and other hazards for your employees, but they can lead to major property damage as well. In order to properly prepare for the winter season, organizations must take a proactive approach to managing severe weather risks.