If there’s anything that keeps us Brits happy, it is talking about the weather! Whether we are moaning that it’s too hot, too cold, not enough rainfall, too much rainfall – whatever the weather gods have given us, we will talk about it.
Severe weather events are affecting millions of people around the world and are getting more frequent – from disastrous typhoons affecting games at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, to extreme hurricanes in the Caribbean taking lives, and leaving damaged livelihoods and houses in their wake. Even the UK has had a few extreme weather events in the past few years, meaning that parts of country have come to a complete standstill. We have had record rainfall leading to flash flooding, exceptionally hot and dry summers, and of course the infamous ‘Beast from the East’.
Disruptive at best, life-threatening at worst, weather extremes do not discriminate. Everyone is at risk, and that includes businesses.
After any extreme weather event in the UK, news footage shows us in great detail the devastation it has caused to homes and businesses alike. From flooded premises to impassable roads, icy roads leading to road closures and accidents, to downed power lines caused by falling trees blown over in gale-force winds – all bringing with them specific challenges.
What can you do to protect your business from harsh weather such as extreme cold and flooding?
Different weather extremes lead to different issues. If your premises are flooded, it can take weeks or even months for you to get your business environment fit for your employees to work. Road closures due to heavy rainfall, landslides, ice or snow could mean that key staff aren’t able to get to work, all of which means that your business could lose money.
Putting together an extreme weather plan is an ideal way to prepare your business for extreme or harsh weather events.
Except in the rarest of cases – and Michael Fish – we are given fair warning of an extreme weather event. This means that every business can potentially put a robust harsh weather contingent plan in place.
There are a number of issues that need to be considered, and measures put in place to address any problems that may arise, such as:
- Treatment of icy surfaces in sub-zero weather.
Your local council will make sure that the major roads are gritted and safe for use. However, companies should ensure that there is plenty of sand and salt on site before winter sets in so that car parks and footpaths can be made safe for employees and visitors to your premises.
- Indoor environments – too hot or too cold!
Do you have a backup plan for power or heating failure? What if in summer your premises gets too hot? It is advisable that companies keep a stock of electric heaters in case of boiler breakdown, and desk fans in case of a heatwave in the summer. Although it may not be feasible for some companies, is it possible for you to install a backup generator in case of power failure?
- Employees not being able to get into work
In many weather extremes, your employees may find it is difficult, or even impossible, to get in to work. Therefore, it may pay to put measures in place that allow employees to work from home. Although this is not possible for all businesses, for some office-based jobs employees could be given laptops and remote access to company servers to be able to carry out at least a percentage of their daily tasks. A bit of lateral thinking and you may find a way that many of your employees can work from home in extreme circumstances.
Implementing a flood plan
However bad for business these types of weather extremes are, one of the most disruptive weather events is heavy rain. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, the estimated annual flood damage cost for the whole of the UK stands at £1.1bn.
The effect of flooding could be catastrophic to your business, which is why it makes sense for businesses to prepare a contingency flood plan. This should include:
- Steps to ensure that your employees are safe.
- A detailed plan of your premises showing key locations of services, such as electricity shut off points.
- An inventory of key equipment, whether it can be moved and a place of safety and to where it can be moved.
- A list of important contacts such as insurance details, customers and suppliers, as well as the Environment Agency’s Flood Incident line, and evacuation contacts for all staff.
- If you are in a high-risk area, is it possible to invest in flood prevention barriers or store sandbags?
- The UK Government has prepared detailed advice on preparing your business for flooding. Click here for more information.