skip to Main Content
Natural Disaster Preparedness

Harvey’s Wake: How to Prepare Your Business & Workers for a Natural Disaster

Houston, the City without Limits, was struck by tragedy when Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25.  People were informed days in advance, but there was one area that was not prepared enough: the infrastructure.

Houston does have rain and storms, but never to the extent of Harvey’s fury. That was made apparent by the damage, both to lives and to material assets. They were prepared for a hurricane, but not for Hurricane Harvey.

While Kansas City will never be hit by a hurricane, the important lesson still holds true: Prepare your infrastructure, and prepare it well.

Your businesses may be prepared for floods, tornadoes and the cold winter weather, but are they prepared enough? Here are all the things you should do before, during, and after a natural disaster to keep your business and your employees safe, no matter what comes your way.

What to Do Before A Disaster

  1. For floods, have a licensed electrician raise electronic components (these are the circuit breakers, switches, sockets, and most importantly wirings) at least 12 inches above the expected flood levels.
  2. Prepare a contact list of emergency phone numbers in a highly visible part of an area.
  3. Installing backup sump pumps and power sources (like uninterruptible power supplies) will definitely make any disasters less risky.
  4. For valuables, store them as far to the interior of the location as possible, if windows and doors are not reinforced.
  5. Make a disaster plan. Also called an evacuation plan, your workers should know:
  • What conditions need to be met before execution of the plan?
  • Who are the key people to give reports about any incidents to?
  • Who will do important emergency functions?

Have a disaster supplies kit. This kit should contain:

  • First aid kit
  • Extra batteries
  • Dust masks (gas masks would be even better)
  • Whistles (which will come in handy for signaling)
  • Pliers and a manual can opener
  • Local map

If ordered to evacuate:

  • Take time to turn off utilities, particularly electricity, gas and water.
  • Take off all electrical appliances or machinery connected to sockets. This is to prevent electrical shock that may damage said electrical machines.
  • Take only the essentials with you.

What to Do During A Disaster

  1. Listen to the emergency radio.
  2. Ensure that everyone is accounted for.
  3. Learn important differences. For instance, a tornado watch means a tornado may develop while a tornado warning means there is already a tornado that was sighted.
  4. If driving, try not to pass through any bodies of water, especially with floods (tornadoes can pass over bodies of water. The belief that tornadoes cannot pass through rivers or lakes is a myth).
  5. If indoors and a flood warning is given, priority should be:
  • Go to the higher safer ground outdoors.
  • If you cannot go outside, go to the area farthest away from windows, walls and corners and is the highest point of the area.

If indoors and a tornado warning is given, priority should be:

  • Go to the lowest ground or floor (like a safe room)
  • If you cannot go lower or at the lowest area, go to the area farthest away from windows, walls, and corners.

What to Do After A Disaster

  1. Avoid damaged structures.
  2. Watch out for any lingering storms or flooding. Sometimes, there is a lull of calm after a strong storm. Wait until after a go signal is given.
  3. Watch out for debris, nails, and other small but hazardous objects.

More Natural Disaster Resources

For more information, follow OSHA guidelines for preparing for and responding to natural disasters.

Hurricane Harvey was an unprecedented disaster. Again, while Kansas City will never experience the type of severe weather experienced in Houston a month ago, all business owners should have a plan to protect their workers and their assets in the event of a natural disaster.

Back To Top