By Christopher Zook
With all the hype surrounding Hurricane Sandy and the East Coast right now, it’s important to remember that, in addition to adequately preparing yourself, your business should be ready for the worst the storm has to offer. Here in The WEBstaurant Store’s hometown of Lancaster, PA, we’re supposed to get hit with up to 4” of rain by tomorrow morning, and we're getting off lucky. Add to that the high winds and slow movement of the hurricane, and Pennsylvania and other states of the Northeast are in for a rough couple of days. So, assuming you already know about the storm and have personally prepared for what’s coming, here’s how you can protect your valuable business from the worst that Frankenstorm has to offer.
The Golden Rule
As hard as it is to eat the cost of lost inventory, it pales in comparison to the consequences of cooking with spoiled or unsafe foods. So when in doubt, throw it out. This is mostly because all foods, even sealed and canned goods, have the potential to go bad in the mayhem of a heavy storm. Always check the food itself if you are able, but if you're unsure about its quality, get rid of it. You can always get more.
Wash Your Hands
Especially important for flu season, clean hands are also critical during flood conditions. Flooded streets, fields, parking lots, storm drains, and other public areas have the potential to wash dirt, fertilizers, oil, and hundreds of other contaminants all over the place. So if you have to drain your business of excess water, don't do it at the same time you're trying to salvage food. Even if the food is sealed, your hands could be a breeding ground of harmful bacteria and chemicals that could hurt your customers. Wear gloves at all times, and if you're in any doubt about the cleanliness of your hands (or an employee's), thoroughly wash them before moving on to another task.
Wild Electricity Is Your Enemy
Salted or impure water is a fantastic electrical conductor. Unfortunately, that's bad news during floods. Flood water collects hundreds of impurities as it moves and even when it stagnates, meaning there are plenty of free ions in the H2O to conduct and propel an electric charge. If you believe the electrical systems of your business may be in danger during a flood, avoid contact with any surrounding water. As a precaution, you can help protect yourself by wearing rubber. Rubber galoshes and gloves probably won't stop an electrical current dead in its tracks, but they will help absorb the shock. However, to reiterate, the best way to prevent electrical harm during a flood is to avoid live circuits and hazardous electricity entirely.
When around live electricity during flood situations, it is absolutely essential to remember that while shocks from volts may be painful, it is the amps that are fatal. It takes less than one ampere through a human heart to permanently stop it, and the most common electrical socket (a NEMA 5-15R) can carry up to 15 amps. So really, really, really avoid wild electricity at all costs.
Check the Sewage
Sewage safety is something that every business should practice. As gross and grungy as it can get, it's critical to the health, safety, and well-being of your customers and employees. Ensuring a sanitary sewage system can also help reduce the damage done to your business, which could eventually lead to nasty molds, fungi, and other harmful growths. Add on the potential damage from flooding in general, and you could have a nasty situation on your hands if you don't make sure your sewage is safe.
Get it. Get it, get it, get it, get it. Get insurance. Any level is literally better than none when you're facing a hurricane, heavy storm, or flooding of any kind. Foregoing disaster insurance may be a way to cut back on monthly or yearly costs, but it exists for situations like Hurricane Sandy. If you plan to swallow the cost of flood and wind damage yourself, you're going to deal a massive blow to your business that will probably cost more than the expense of insurance anyway. In a purely figurative sense, you're playing with fire. In a very literal sense, you're putting your whole business at risk. It will hurt your bottom line, but your business needs insurance for storms like Sandy.
Protect Your Records
Keeping your important documents safe is possibly the most important part of preparing for large storms. Get a waterproof and / or fireproof safe to store everything important, including insurance documents, financial records, and other necessary papers. This is the best way to be sure that you can make any insurance claims you need while making sure you can open your doors as quickly as possible after a storm subsides.