Planning ahead can counteract potential revenue-draining events.

Extreme weather and natural disaster situations affect a lot of people each year.

If you watch television, listen to the radio or surf the Web, it’s everywhere. On the East Coast it can be hurricanes, on the West Coast it can be tsunamis or earthquakes. In the deserts of Arizona it can be wildfires, and for those in the Midwest it can be tornados and flooding.

No matter where you operate your business, it’s far better to hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

If you weren’t ready this year for a storm or act of nature, consider yourself lucky. Going forward, follow the Boy Scouts of America motto and “Be prepared.” Here’s a good punch list to get you going.
  • Get into a quick meeting and discuss what planning you need to do for the event that is on its way or is bound to happen based on where you’re located.
  • Fire up your electrical generator. If you don’t have an electrical generator, go get one if you can still find one.
  • Make sure there are plenty of batteries on hand.
  • Back up your computers and get them as high off the floor as you can. Move the backup someplace where it will be high and dry. That might mean planning ahead and moving it to the “clouds.”
  • Have all emergency phone numbers readily available.
  • Distribute all staff contact numbers to all who need them.
  • Make sure calls can be forwarded to a remote location and/or make sure your after-hours answering service is ready to handle things if need be.
  • Move all trucks out of your shop if they are normally parked there. This way the fleet is in motion and less likely to be caught in water.
  • Trim back branches and tree limbs from the building.
  • Tape windows or board them up if you’re in the path of heavy winds.
  • Take anything in the yard that could become airborne in high winds and secure or move inside.
  • After trouble has passed and you are beginning to return to normal, do a postmortem and decide what you need to do to be proactive.

Every detail counts

At my shop years ago, we had already invested in a heavy-duty generator for just this type of emergency, but none of us knew the steps to fire it up or even what it was connected to. We licked our wounds and wrote up a detailed sequence for every step to use this powerful tool in adverse conditions. We put a recurring reminder in Outlook to test it every six months and then posted the steps next to the generator. We also separated the critical circuits in the building so we could power the essentials without missing a beat.

Sometimes you might even have a good preparedness habit you let slip away. We did. We used to practice how to lay out and fix broken snow chains the first day after Labor Day. This is not a misprint. It was a legacy of training from our own tough service manager who would drill this good habit into us every year. We thought he was nuts!

That is until he had retired and we stopped doing it every year. The first monster snowstorm hit and we scrambled to find what snow chains went with what vehicle at the worst possible time. Today, this too is in Outlook to remind us to practice this good habit.

Safety is a must

We even included a procedure in our operations manual about driving during inclement weather.
  • Drivers must regularly check their vehicle’s windshield washer fluid and make sure the windshield wiper blades are in good shape. See the fleet manager for washer fluid or wiper blades.
  • Drivers should always drive at or below the posted speed limit. During inclement weather, additional precautions are required. If necessary, a driver may drive in a lower gear, but only for short periods.
  • The company provides each service vehicle with a shovel, which a driver should use to dig a stuck tire out of the snow. If a driver has his windshield wipers on, he must turn on his headlights.
  • If a driver finds his vehicle stuck on ice in a position where it is blocking traffic or in danger of being struck by another vehicle, he must call the dispatcher and ask for help. Use your four-way flashers.
  • If there is a rain or fog situation, use extreme caution and drive with low-beam headlights. If the driver deems the rain or fog to be too heavy, pull the vehicle over to a safe location and call the dispatcher.

Customers do business with us when they could have chosen any of our competitors. They are counting on us to be there in the tough times and to provide them with the services their families rely on. It is our obligation to be as ready as possible at all times. The only mitigating factor is to ensure the safety of our staff.

Plan ahead and you’ll be doing more than hoping for the best. You’ll be playing a part in making things turn out better than you could hope.