Let’s face it, when you got into fulfillment you probably were not considering the potential threat of a Hurricane. That said, being that we are in the heart of hurricane season, it is prudent to start thinking about how to prepare a warehouse for a hurricane.
Today in North Carolina we are staring down the muzzle of a loaded cannon that is Hurricane Florence. In the next 2-3 days all of the might of a Category 4 Hurricane will be crashing down on the east coast and traveling in-land directly to our offices.
The supermarket shelves are barren as the good people of Raleigh and Durham stock their pantries as though they are in preparation for the end of days. While North Carolina has a bit of a reputation for over-exaggerating when it comes to the weather, a vivid memory from the Dallas-Fort Worth area jumps to mind every time a storm like this rears it’s ugly head.
In April 2012 a tornado ripped through a transportation company sending 18-Wheeler trailers flying over, across, and into a major Dallas Highway. I was bartending that evening and remember the soaked clothes and wide eyes of patrons arriving from that direction. From their descriptions, I assure you the videos do not do the chaos justice.
A rather lively discussion erupted that evening surrounding the question: now what? How do you get those trucks back? What did they lose? Can this put a company out of business? From the bottom of my heart, I hope your business never has to face these questions first hand. However, someone will. If that someone is you, what will you do?
Prepare a Warehouse for a Hurricane: Threats
There are four major things to worry about with a hurricane:
- High Wind Speeds
- Storm Surges (and flooding)
- Torrential Rains
Any one of these is enough to threaten your safety and the safety of your business. Even if your warehouse can withstand speeds of 170mph, you still may be at risk for flooding. FEMA created a portal where you can determine how susceptible your space is for flooding.
Prepare a Warehouse for a Hurricane: Before the Storm
Check Your Insurance
When you prepare a warehouse for a hurricane, it is important to know what insurance will cover. It may be too late to add coverage at this time, but at the very least you need to know what is and is not protected in your warehouse. If you know ahead of time, then when you prepare your warehouse for the hurricane you will know what special accommodations you may need to make.
Create an Emergency Plan
This is a plan you need to make with your warehouse staff. Here is an example of some scenarios to consider:
So, let’s say your warehouse and inventory are all fine, but there are some fallen branches that will prevent a truck from getting to your dock. You need to fix that in the next 12 hours. So, you need to make sure members of your staff will be on “branch duty” in the morning. You are accomplishing three things here: you are insuring minimal down time, you are letting your team know that no matter what, they have a job and they are expected to show up, and you are mitigating risk by covering all outcomes.
Depending on your specific scenario, you may need to acquire some supplies. For example, a generator, water, hand tools, sand bags, food, etc. Preparing your warehouse for a hurricane can mean capital investment up front that will protect you in the future. We have a client in Puerto Rico still running a warehouse with a generator from Hurricane Maria. So don’t skimp on the supplies.
Count Your Inventory
If you are a Shipedge client then your information is in the cloud and that is very good news. It means that no matter what, your information will not be destroyed. Shipedge keeps track of inventory automatically, but as you are preparing your warehouse for the hurricane, it is smart to do a cycle count. You want a clear image of what you have in house today. This helps both with insurance and getting your operations back up and running quickly.
Inform Your Clients
There is a good chance that some of your clients do not realize the threat an incoming hurricane poses to your warehouse. Using the Shipedge Wall you can reach out to all of your clients at once to update them on your warehouse status. Tell them what days you will be closed for the storm, when you expect to be operational, and your game plan in case of emergency. When you inform your clients ahead of time it reduces post-storm customer service and gives your clients the opportunity to pass the information onto their customers.
Prepare a Warehouse for a Hurricane: Batten Down the Hatches
If you want to prepare a warehouse for a hurricane, then it works much the same as if you are preparing your own home:
- If it is outside, bring it inside.
- Board up windows or tape a large “X” on the glass to prevent shattering
- Clear up all desk space – if there is a fire you do not want to feed it with post-its.
- Move what you can away from windows
- Lift inventory and important files off the ground
- Shut down all non-critical systems and devices – everything but refrigeration can be unplugged and shut off at the breaker box.
- Make sure your gutters are clean (Protect from roof collapse)
- Copy and secure important documents
Prepare a Warehouse for a Hurricane: After the Storm
Depending on your situation, we recommend you establish 1-3 employees to check on your warehouse after the storm passes. Once you know it is safe, you can determine structural damage and alert your team which contingency plan to run.
From Shipedge to you – be safe out there. To any of our clients – if the storm affects your business, let us know. We will do whatever we can to help you rebuild.