Though the return of spring is not far off (hooray!), you never know when the weather can take a turn. From ice and snowstorms to heavy rainfall, high winds, floods, or wildfires, nature’s fury can catch anyone off-guard and have a devastating impact on your commercial property.

We all know a major storm can shut a small business down with little to no warning, whether due to an ongoing power outage or worse. And in an era of climate change, when storms are becoming more frequent and increasingly severe, no business owner can take the chance of being ill-prepared for when extreme weather hits.

Data cited by the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) finds the cost of severe weather events across Canada reached $2.1 billion in damages in 2021. The floods in B.C. and the fierce hailstorm in Calgary last year rank as the sixth costliest weather events in this country since 1998. The Fort McMurray, Alberta, wildfire in 2016 stands as the most expensive in damages inflicted at an estimated $5.4 billion.

A major storm over Toronto

Enduring, surviving, and rebounding quickly from drastic weather calls for a forward-looking strategy to protect your business, employees, and customers. Here are eight ways you can help protect your commercial property from extreme weather throughout the year and hopefully avoid having to file an insurance claim:

1. Know What the Risks Are

Think about the types of natural disasters or severe weather that is likely to affect the area where your business is located. For instance, if your small business is situated in a coastal town or city, it may be susceptible to floods or a tsunami warning. Or, if you’re located near open fields and forests, the risk of drought and fire is likely a threat. Always keep on top of your local weather forecast and be aware of what the conditions are.

2. Prepare Your Commercial Property to Withstand Severe Weather

Think about your commercial property’s preparedness. For example, storm shutters or shields on the building can protect windows and prevent debris from getting inside and damaging your inventory and equipment. Using tarps to secure items stored outside can help minimize water damage. Secure larger materials that could become projectiles in high winds. Moreover, as part of your business continuity plan, stockpile emergency items, including a first-aid kit, blankets, non-perishable food and water, and have a flashlight and spare batteries on hand should you need to hunker down and shelter in place.

3. Establish a Remote Location

Suppose the building, office, or warehouse where your business operates becomes uninhabitable following a flood or windstorm. In that case, you’ll need to run your business from a remote location until you can return. Identify different places aside from your primary business address where you can still conduct necessary administrative functions should you need to make a move elsewhere. Have cash available to assist your recovery efforts (in an emergency, accessing your bank or an ATM may not be possible).

4. Think About Your Business’s Supply Chain

If you receive daily or weekly inventory deliveries from partners and suppliers, ask them about their plans if extreme weather or a natural disaster affects their businesses. How can you maintain your inventory and supplies after a weather disruption if they don’t have a business continuity plan? You may need to source other suppliers in such an event, but it’s best to have those sources in place before disaster strikes rather than run the risk of running out of necessary supplies.

5. Protect Your Employees

When dangerous weather descends, it’s vital to protect your employees from being hurt. Have evacuation procedures at the ready that everyone on your team is aware of and designate a meeting area offsite for employees to assemble to make it easy to identify anyone who may be missing.

6. Safeguard Your Data

Bad weather or not, backing up your data regularly is a necessity. Use cloud storage systems to back up your data and records, including a detailed inventory list, customer contacts, and other mission-critical documents and information. Have a remote backup service provider that stores copies of your data at another high-security geographic location other than where your business is. Ensure all your data is encrypted with SSL (secure sockets layer) protocols and limit the number of people who can access that data in an emergency.

7. Have a Communications Plan

Assume landlines fail, cellphone service is patchy at best, and the power goes out in the throes of a major storm. How will you stay in touch with employees and customers? If possible, start by communicating in advance with your employees and customers to let them know if you must close temporarily and what the best ways are for them to reach you. For example, create a phone tree or call-down list for employees to communicate with one another if your business space is shuttered. In addition, utilizing texting apps, social media networks, and email can serve as valuable alternatives to a phone when contacting customers in an emergency.

8. Ensure Your Business Insurance Policy Is Up to Date

It’s wise to review your business insurance policy at least annually and engage with a licensed broker to ensure your policy adequately covers the risks you face. But consider making it a biannual effort. That can go a long way to making sure you have the right types of coverage and coverage limits. For instance, do you have business interruption insurance as part of your policy? It provides coverage for net income lost following a covered property loss such as an extreme weather event.

Have a Plan for Extreme Weather Emergencies

You may have taken all the above steps to protect your commercial property, but even those practical measures may not guarantee your business won’t be affected by a natural disaster. Thus, it’s wise to have an additional backup plan to follow. Public Service Canada offers tips for assembling an emergency kit to keep at your location. 

Being prepared for an extreme weather emergency to protect your business starts with a commercial property insurance policy. Without it, you’re left paying for the costs associated with loss and damage to your business. Fill out an online application and get a free quote. Our licensed brokers will shop the market for you to find the right type of coverage and tailor it to your business’s unique needs.

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