By: Edward L. Blais, JD, CIC, CPIA

business closed due to snowWith the first dusting of snow early this month, winter is officially here. Now is the time to prepare your business before the next storm brings heavy snowfall, winds, freezing temperatures, or icy conditions. 

Heavy ice and snow can down trees and disrupt utilities and internet service. Winter conditions can make the roads hazardous, affecting your employees’ ability to come to your office. Freezing temperatures can also impact pipes and other systems in your office.  

Take these five steps to get your business ready for the winter. 

  1. Assess your risk. Where is your business most vulnerable to winter weather? Loss of access due to icy roads? Damage from a burst pipe? What would happen if loss of power, internet, or severe weather caused your business to shut down for several days? Take the time now to make the necessary improvements and upgrades to your facilities to mitigate these risks. And, for worst-case scenarios, develop contingency plans, such as setting up remote work for employees, or lining up alternative vendors if your primary contractors become unavailable for work. 
  1. Add up the costs. Estimate how much business interruption would cost for days, or even longer, in the event of severe winter weather damage. Then you can better determine your insurance needs and build up a cash reserve.  
  1. Protect your employees. Take steps to prevent slip and falls to protect your employees and avoid excessively high workers’ compensation costs. Create a winterization checklist that includes the following: removal of all snow and ice before employees’ arrival, an inventory of all snow and ice removal equipment and supplies, monitoring heavily traffic areas and exterior public walkways for icy conditions and any potential incidents. Designate one staff member to oversee the plans. And train your employees in the dangers of slip and falls and other winter hazards. Also, make sure any slip and falls are promptly reported. 
  1. Review your insurance. With the above information in hand, reach out to your insurance agent to confirm you have enough insurance to cover all your needs. One good question to ask is, How much can I afford to lose? That will determine how much insurance you need. Likewise, confirm that you have the right kind of business insurance—business interruption, property, liability, commercial auto, or otherwise. 
  1. Have a communication plan. Have a plan to communicate with your staff, customers, and vendors during inclement weather. Consider setting up an email or text alert system. Make sure you have the contact information you need for staff and vendors. Use Facebook and Twitter to update the public on the status of your business during a storm and its aftermath. At the same time, make stay tuned in to official guidance from local government officials and modify your plans accordingly. 

Winter weather can be unpredictable. But you can plan for whatever happens in advance. We hope you find these tips helpful in ensuring that you have all your bases covered. 

Source: Adapted from information from the Beacon Mutual Insurance Company.