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Extreme Weather on the Way? Here’s How Restaurant Owners Can Prepare

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Following an extreme weather event, restaurants are the first businesses to reopen since food is a basic need. That’s why increasing your business resilience is critical, as it allows you to serve and help more people during a difficult time. 

By preparing thoroughly before any disaster hits your location, you can resume operations quickly. Learn five ways to increase your establishment’s resistance to these weather crises.

Determine and Understand the Risks

The first step to effective preparedness is getting a better grasp of the risky weather events affecting your location. Are you prone to flooding, heat waves or freezing? Based on history, when do you experience severe weather conditions?

Hurricane season happens from June 1 to November 30, but tropical cyclone activities can occur before and after these dates. Meanwhile, freezing happens during winter. There’s a pattern of how and when crises appear. By understanding this, you can tailor your disaster plan and response to a specific event, successfully minimizing your losses.

Ways to Prepare for Extreme Weather Events

Making decisions can become challenging in the face of disasters. The panic and anticipated financial loss can make you forget what you’re supposed to do, paralyzing your response.

A system that summarizes all your next moves during a disaster bypasses the need to make spontaneous, risky decisions. Here’s a guide to increasing your readiness during severe weather events.

1. Develop an Emergency Plan

A top priority for restaurateurs is establishing a comprehensive emergency response that’s easy to follow. It must consist of two parts:

  • The designation of an emergency response team: They’re experts who can direct disaster response activities during a calamity.
  • An outline of the emergency plan: It should cover evacuation procedures, equipment maintenance and strategies to restore communication.

It should also map out how you can secure your establishment from outside human and non-human threats. A 24/7 functioning security system and automated alarms can add a layer of protection to your restaurant.

Assume the worst might happen and include a side-by-side response addressing the problem. Fortunately, weather events are predictable. Before anything can happen, meet with your employees and have a refresher on your emergency procedures to remind them.

2. Keep Food Safe

Flooding, plumbing leaks, and power outages can contaminate the food and water supply, or make them unsafe for consumption. Elevate your food storage or move it to the second floor to prevent contact with water and surfaces. Ensure all items are airtight sealed with their shelf life dates. Monitor their temperatures to avoid spoilage, and use dry ice or ice packs to keep them cold.

Most restaurants have a backup generator to keep the freezer running after an outage, keeping perishable items from spoiling for a few hours. Some also rent a commercial one paired with an automatic transfer switch that toggles to the generator when the main power line goes off. Consider either of these options to ensure your food supplies remain safe.

3. Prepare Your Plumbing System

Aside from food, potable water is essential during emergencies. Reinforce your pipes so you have enough when you reopen. Hire a plumber to inspect them and seal leaks.

They may do a few fixes, like unblocking the drains to avoid stormwater pooling and removing the debris in the gutter to allow rainwater to flow freely. If your location is vulnerable to flooding, consider installing a sump pump to redirect stormwater outside. 

Install a battery-powered one in case the primary pump fails. It runs continuously — even during outages — and prevents severe and expensive damage to your establishment. Some models have innovative features like automatic activation and mobile monitoring capabilities.

4. Review Your Insurance 

Each policy has different terms, and coverage depends on several factors. Before any disaster strikes, talk to your agent and review your plan’s coverage of the physical assets and the building.

Ensure it covers potential weather disasters you may encounter, like water damage due to frozen pipes or a collapsed rooftop due to snow buildup if you typically have harsher winters. New insurance policies usually take effect only after 30 days of waiting. If you need coverage, get it now.

5. Develop a Financial Contingency Plan

After reviewing your policy, plan how to address revenue loss if you have to pause operations for a few days to weeks. Extreme weather crises can lead to massive income loss. Hurricane Katrina — one of the most destructive hurricanes in U.S. history — left damages of $81 billion, driving many businesses to the financial brink. 

An emergency fund is imperative for restaurant owners since it serves as the primary financial source during and after a crisis. Like insurance, you should set this up when you start the business.

Devise a plan to maximize your available funds to pay vendors, suppliers and employees, and cover repairs. Your contingency plan must also include a secondary or third fund source in case you run out of cash before resuming operations.

Increase Your Business’s Resilience 

The best you can do to reduce the impact of freezing, flooding and other natural disasters on your establishment is to prepare for it. Outline a step-by-step solution for every potential problem, from plumbing issues to evacuation and repairs post-crisis. A comprehensive emergency plan can help you handle emergencies with a calmer mind.

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