Weathering the Storm

Inarguably, nothing is as it should be. The pandemic has dramatically affected how we do business, how we forecast, how we plan. It’s hard to know what’s coming next for the most part. But there is one thing we can count on. One thing that hasn’t changed — storm season.

We’ve witnessed the wraths of Isaias, Laura and Sally. Yet, while we’re in the tail end of Hurricane Season 2020 — which descends upon us from May through November — we’re not out of the woods yet. These storms are becoming more frequent and more severe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects we will experience at least 13, and as many as 19, named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour or higher). As many as 10 of those may manifest into hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), with up to six of those becoming major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

And then comes the winter storms — snow, ice, blizzards.  

As businesses navigate through the financial challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic, it is painful to have to think about spending yet more money to protect their facilities from Mother Nature, too. But with the high number of storm predictions slated for the rest of the year, it cannot be ignored. It therefore makes sense to identify any way to save a little money to make this and future storm seasons a little more manageable.

Storms can be costly and disruptive. Power goes down. Storm drains flood. Windows break. Roofs are destroyed. Navigating all of that within quarantine orders today is hard enough. And then, there’s the adding-insult-to-injury experience: the price gouging that often occurs. Costs for essential materials and systems rise, particularly when sought in a post-event recovery phase.

A natural disaster’s devastation is hard to predict. However, there are some pre- and mid-season disaster preparation steps that can be taken that are often overlooked. These can save you time and money, while providing some peace of mind that you will be able to weather much of what a storm brings to your door.

Partner Up — FM Provider

If you don’t have one already, consider contracting a facilities maintenance (FM) partner to assist with your disaster recovery plan preparation and execution. Be sure this service provider has the proper experience and regional or national reach required by your specific business type.

Board Up — Lumber

Since lumber prices rise right before a storm, work with your facilities maintenance partner to purchase boards well in advance. Have them precut to your building’s specifications and store them in one of your locations or one of your partner’s nearby warehouses.

In the days prior to a storm, all you then need to do is make a call. Your FM partner will board up your building without scrambling to source and cut the material last minute.

Stack Up — Sandbags

In conjunction with the growing frequency of big storms, sea levels are on the rise around the country. Sea surges in coastal areas have become a major problem that can do a lot of damage. Much like with the lumber, purchasing and storing a reasonable number of sandbags in advance can dramatically decrease pre-storm chaos.

Backup — Generators

The loss of power brings a host of pain for all sorts of businesses. Though, perhaps that pain is far more poignant for foodservice and food retail companies — convenience stores, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Saving refrigerated inventory saves money. It can also help make a Board of Health visit during stressful times fast and simple. Generators are crucial to such businesses.

Considering they are expensive, it doesn’t necessarily make sense for every business to own one outright. However, if one is purchased, be sure to have an experienced electrician hook it up to ensure proper performance when the time comes. Similarly, even if you rent one, you want to make sure the service provider installing the generator has the right installation experience for your needs. Consider square footage that must be covered, types of appliances/equipment that will draw power, as well as the wattages required before selecting a generator.

Alternatively, in a pinch, temporary cooling units or even coolers of dry ice can sometimes serve as effective refrigeration solutions.

Clean Up — Emergency Cleaning

After a major weather event, it is important to clean up as quickly as possible. Safety should always come first. Be sure to block off any areas on your property (inside and out) that can be considered dangerous. You can then assess what cleaning measures are necessary and what equipment or infrastructure requires immediate repairs. Then, putting a cleaning maintenance program in place that addresses the situation and meets the timeline for reopening is essential to the overall health of your business.

Read Up — Weather Knowledge

Keeping a pulse on the weather is probably the most basic, financially prudent thing you can do. As best you can, stay abreast of weather trends in your area so that you can prepare and respond accordingly.

As with so many of us, time is often limited day to day. The right facilities maintenance partner will incorporate weather monitoring into their services and reach out proactively to determine your needs and plan — just one less thing you’ll have to do.

Sue McCarty is senior vice president of Powerhouse, a national construction, facilities maintenance and rollout service provider responsible for executing more than 100,000 projects annually across the country.  

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Convenience Store News.