Experts recently revised this year’s forecast for an above-average hurricane season with up to 20 named storms and nine named hurricanes. There have already been five named storms, with Tropical Storm Elsa causing damage and destruction from Florida to the Northeast, including dramatic flooding in New York City’s subway system.

In addition to the weather, your business may still be dealing with pandemic-related precautions through the fall, such as social distancing, extra cleaning and sanitizing, and potential closures and reopenings.

Here are six easy steps for hurricane preparedness for fast-food restaurants.

Assess Your Risks

Your building and its contents are likely your biggest assets and can also be costly to replace. A risk assessment can help bring awareness to the specific hazards your franchise faces and the possible consequences if those risks go unaddressed.

Hurricane preparedness for fast-food restaurants is location dependent. Restaurants located along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard face the biggest risk, including areas inland.

Significant natural risks to life and property include high winds, torrential rains, storm surge, inland flooding, mudslides and tornados. Blocked or damaged roads, downed power lines or fires can also occur.

Consider your vulnerability to particular risks, such as storm surge, inland flooding or wind damage. Create an emergency plan to address your greatest risk vulnerabilities.

Research Your Insurance Options

Having the proper insurance coverage is key to protecting your restaurant’s building and its contents. Match your risk vulnerabilities to coverage protections, educating yourself on the options available and the best choices for your business.

Talk with your insurer about options for Property coverage, Business Interruption Insurance and more. Ask questions so that you can make the best decisions, including questions about coverage, limits, deductibles and any waiting periods. Check up on other important coverage details, such as exclusions, sublimits and policy stacking.

Develop a Storm Plan

Planning for hurricanes can be difficult, because the strength, path and impact of any one storm is always just an educated guess. But when it comes to hurricane preparedness for fast-food restaurants, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

These four simple planning steps can dramatically reduce your risk.

  • Create an emergency response plan in advance and share it with employees. Make sure the plan is documented in writing and revisit it as needed.
  • Stock supplies you may need in the event of a storm, such as generators, fuel, sandbags, window coverings, plus pandemic supplies like cleaners and masks.
  • Keep duplicate records, or invest in software that will backup essential, sensitive documents. Acquiring Cyber Liability Insurance may also be beneficial.
  • Decide on a communications plan to keep customers and employees informed about potential store closings and other restaurant emergencies.

Follow Your Hurricane Preparedness Plan

Your restaurant’s hurricane response plan will be unique to your business and the situation, but here are some key points if you do face a storm this season:

Before a hurricane:

  • Determine the conditions for deciding to close
  • Back up computer systems and deposit excess cash
  • Store important documents in watertight containers
  • Check batteries for flashlights and weather radios
  • Clean out any debris from drains and gutters
  • Secure or remove loose outdoor furniture
  • Board up windows and sandbag the doors
  • Raise stock off the floors and cover to protect from water
  • Unplug equipment and shut off the main gas before closing

During a hurricane:

  • Stay on top of developing weather news
  • Confirm contact info and availability of essential personnel
  • Keep communication open in case closure is necessary
  • Review inventory and availability of needed supplies
  • Make sure the gas line is shut off if closing becomes necessary
  • Remind employees of hazards, such as wind, debris, downed power lines and fast-moving water

After a hurricane:

  • Determine who will be first on scene to assess damage
  • Document damage, take inventory and begin mitigation efforts
  • Report downed power lines to 911
  • Document all damage with photos and descriptions
  • Ensure the structure is stable and secure
  • Check for flood damage and contamination of supplies
  • Document mitigation efforts to prevent further losses
  • Assess inventory and restock if needed
  • Engage experts to assist with recovery
  • Document recovery actions taken and track your receipts
  • Work closely with your insurer to reach a resolution on any claim

Prepare During COVID

Recognize that your hurricane preparedness for fast-food restaurants may be complicated by pandemic-related issues. Take care to also gather and stock supplies you will need to keep employees and guests safe from COVID.

Inactive businesses often face an increased risk of damage. If your restaurant is closed in advance of a storm, inspect the property, take inventory and carry out maintenance before the hurricane arrives.

Losses are also more common after a period of business inactivity. If you are resuming operations after a storm, check all equipment and facilities for safe operation before reopening for business.

Your restaurant’s hurricane risk may change over time, perhaps even yearly. Review your business’s needs and insurance policies annually to ensure you have the right coverage in place.