5 Tips for Small Businesses Dealing With Winter Storms

The weather outside is starting to get frightful and cold…

Basically the complete opposite of delightful (unless, of course, you love to see a lot of snow). Whether you live in chilly New England and are used to massive snowstorms, or if you live down in south Florida with warmer climates, the weather patterns are frequently changing.

No matter where you live, there’s a chance you’ll be dealing with an unexpected cold front or severe below zero-degrees days. It’s always crucial to have your small business prepared for super cold and snowy conditions so you aren’t held back from performing daily work duties.

Though snow and wind chills aren’t as devastating as a hurricane or other natural disaster, being unprepared could turn into a serious situation. Electrical wires could go down, pipes can freeze and flood, and if you have employees driving into work with terrible road conditions, you put their safety at risk.

Instead of putting your business at risk for closing down with wintery weather, here are a few tips you can do to prepare for colder conditions.

Tips For Protecting Your Business During Winter Weather

1. Think about your current insurance.

Some policies may cover damage from storms, including snowstorms and cold fronts. If you don’t have it, talk with your insurance provider about it and see if you can add it. And if you do have a policy that covers storms, make sure you have the policy number and claim number in case your physical property is damaged from a winter storm or cold front.

You also want to look and see if you have any business interruption coverage, as any major storm could have a big enough impact to shut down your office for a few days or weeks… and sometimes months. Even if your business is closed just a few days, that can take a toll on your finances, which is what business interruption coverage is for!

2. Check your office space or building.

Whether you own a building or rent out a small office space, go check it out. During a winter storm, your building is at risk. If there are a lot of trees and loose items nearby that could either blow away in the wind or be knocked over by the weight of snow, make sure you find a way to take care of it. If you can, trim the greenery, or cover your windows so if something falls over, it doesn’t crash through.

Also monitor your pipes, because even if there’s not a storm, the freezing temperatures of winter can cause a pipe to burst and flood. If your front door leads directly to outside, snow can melt and seep in. Replace the weather stripping there, and also check for any spaces that have a draft, cracks, or leaks, and make sure to seal them off, particularly around your front door, windows, and roof.

While inspecting your office space, you want to switch both your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors so they are battery-powered. It’s pretty common for power to go out during storms (even when they aren’t severe), and you want to ensure those are still functioning during storms.

Even after you do all of that, make sure your expensive equipment is covered and protected – both with insurance and also physically in case there is a leak to prevent water damage. For even more ways to look over your building and protect your property, check out our article on storm prep!

3. Make sure you have emergency tools.

Sometimes, snowstorms are unpredictable – a forecast may say a light dusting, but then you find your car covered in a foot of snow or more! If you have employees, it’s also extremely helpful for them if you plan ahead of time to have enough emergency snow tools, such as:

  • A standby electric generator
  • Car jump starters (in case the freezing temperatures causes someone’s car battery to die)
  • Sandbags
  • Window scrapers
  • Snow brushes
  • Road salt or ice melt
  • Flashlights

If for some reason, you have to stay put in the office until snow plows have come through to clear the roads, you should make sure you have a space heater, water, food, blankets, and any other necessities to keep warm and stay nourished.

This leads to the next point on the list…

4. Identify shelter locations.

Your office space may be compromised in an emergency snow situation, so it’s incredibly important to look for local shelters and become familiar with them too. Plus, you want your employees to know about them in case they live far away and can’t get on the road to go home. You want to look for a space that can fit all of your employees, as well as have it well-stocked with survival necessities.

5. Make a business continuity plan.

If you don’t already offer remote work to employees, you should strongly consider it during the winter season. If an employee has a long commute, roads can be terrible and asking someone to drive to work compromises their safety. Even if someone is local enough to take public transportation, sometimes that gets shut down when there’s too much snow and ice. Many businesses are now remote friendly, and it works really well.

This also helps to keep work going if your office loses electricity or needs to be closed for any other reasons. It’s probably smart when you are anticipating a major blizzard, to tell everyone to work remotely (including yourself) so everyone is safe and sound inside. Aside from the dangers of driving in snow storms and poor conditions, your employees also lose valuable work time as they have to drive slower and so take much longer to get into the office.

You could also adjust work hours and tell employees to play it by ear. Say there’s a small storm in the morning, adjust the schedule for people to come in later and stay later. This definitely depends on the weather forecast, because it may snow twice in the day and be worse at night.

It’s also smart to alert your customers about your hours during projected or unexpected storms. If you know there’s going to be a few inches of snow, it’s best to keep your customers’ safety in mind and reschedule their services. Send out an email to your email list (if you have one) that lets them know you’re going to be closed either in the morning or all day long. Make sure if you do send out an email alert, that you emphasize the safety of both employees and customers as the reason to avoid extremely upset customers.

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