But, here’s what I know no matter where you operate your business…it’s far better to “Hope for the Best…all the while….preparing for the worst.”

With wall-to-wall coverage of a slow but ever-so powerful hurricane approaching and devouring the East Coast of the United States this week in August, it’s tempting to become riveted to the news and paralyzed with fear.  

Realistically, you can’t avoid getting caught up in it if you watch TV, listen to the radio or surf the Web. It’s everywhere. And to those of you who live on the West Coast and deal with earthquakes and those in the Midwest who deal with tornados, the over the top attention to this East Coast event may seem to be unwarranted. Fair enough.  

But, here’s what I know no matter where you operate your business…it’s far better to “Hope for the Best…all the while….preparing for the worst.”  

Even if you weren’t ready this time or you just lucked out because you took a glancing blow from a natural disaster it’s good to follow the Boy Scouts of America® motto and “Be Prepared.”  

It’s hard to know what to do so here’s a good punch list:
    1. Get into a quick meeting and discuss what planning you all need to do for the event that is on its way.

    2. Fire up your electrical generator - and you should have one. If you don’t have an electrical generator, go get one if you can still find one.

    3. Make sure there are plenty of batteries on hand.

    4. Back up your computers and get them physically up as high as you reasonably can off the floor. Move that backup someplace where it’ll be high and dry. That might mean planning ahead and moving it to the “clouds.”

    5. Have all the emergency phone numbers on hand.

    6. Have all the contact numbers for the staff known to all those who need to know it.

    7. Make sure the calls can be call forwarded to a remote location and/or make sure your after-hours answering service is ready to handle things if need be.

    8. Move all of your trucks out of your shop if they are normally all parked there. This way the fleet is in motion and less likely to all be caught under water, literally.

    9. Trim back branches and tree limbs from the building.

    10. Tape windows or board them up if you’re in the path of heavy winds.

    11. Take anything in the yard that can get easily airborne in high winds and move it inside or secure it in every way possible.
After the storm has passed and you are beginning to return to normal, this is the time to do a post-mortem and decide what you need to do to be proactive.  

At my shop years ago, the good news is we had already invested in a very heavy-duty generator for just this type of emergency. The bad news is none of us really knew the steps to fire it up and even what was connected to it. So, we licked our wounds and wrote up a detailed sequence for every step to use this powerful tool in adverse conditions. We then put a recurring reminder in Outlook to fire it up and test it out every six months and then we actually posted the steps right next to the generator. Plus, we separated the critical circuits in the building so we could power the essentials without missing a beat.

Staying prepared means staying safe

Sometimes you might even have a good preparedness habit that you let slip away. We did. We used to practice how to layout and fix broken snow chains the first day every Labor Day. This is not a misprint. It was a legacy of training from our own tough Service Manager who would drill this good habit into us every year just after Labor Day. We thought he was nuts! That is until he had retired and we stopped doing this every year.

The first monster snow storm hit and we scrambled to find what snow chains went with which vehicle at the worst time possible. Today this, too, is in Outlook to remind us to practice this good habit.  

We even included a procedure in our Operations Manual:

Driving During Inclement Weather:

    Drivers must check their vehicle's windshield washer fluid regularly and make sure the windshield wiper blades are in good shape. See the Fleet Manager for washer fluid or wiper blades.  

    Drivers should always drive at or below the posted speed limit but during inclement weather additional precautions are required. If necessary, a driver may drive in a lower gear, but only for short periods.  

    The Company provides each service vehicle with a shovel, which a driver should use to dig a stuck tire out of the snow. If a driver has his windshield wipers on, he must also turn on his headlights.

    If a driver finds his vehicle stuck on ice in a position where it is blocking traffic, or in danger of being struck by another vehicle, he must call the Dispatcher and ask for help. Use your four-way flashers.  

    Note: If there’s a rain or foggy condition, use extreme caution and drive with low beam headlights. If the driver deems the rain or fog to be too heavy, they’re to pull the vehicle over to a safe location and call the Dispatcher.

Finally, remember that Customers do business with us when they could have chosen any of our competitors. They are counting on us to be there in the tough times and to provide them with the services their families rely on. It’s our obligation to be as ready as possible at all times. The only mitigating factor is to ensure the safety of our staff.  

Plan ahead and you’ll be doing more than hoping for the best. You’ll be playing a part in making things turn out better than you could hope.