Guest Column: How businesses can be hurricane ready this Small Business Week

Hurricanes pack a punch, so now is the time to prepare your small business

Chuck Miccolis

Hurricanes pack a punch, beating our buildings with relentless wind and rain. From Hurricane Sally, back to Hurricane Ivan, and a few close calls in between, Alabama is no stranger to their fury. So as National Small Business Week coincides with National Hurricane Preparedness Week, now is the time to prepare your small business for this hurricane season, because it only takes one storm to change your business forever.

While where to get started can seem overwhelming, the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) developed free tools to help business owners based on the research it does to understand buildings and their vulnerabilities to weather.

It Starts with the Roof

When wind attacks a building, it is the roof that often suffers severe damage. Wind can pull on the metal flashing protecting the edge of the roof and begin a cascade of failures. Wind can jeopardize roof cover systems and roof-mounted equipment like air conditioners that are critical to business operations. Start hurricane preparations with a good inspection of your roof, the equipment on it, and all the connections keeping your roof system together.

Based on an inspection, a few projects could make your building more resilient to hurricane season. Minor roof repairs and projects can prolong the life of your roof. Be sure to work with a licensed roofing contractor. For example, adding extra fasteners, especially in the corner and perimeter zones, can increase a low-slope roof’s resistance to wind.

Improving your roof’s drainage will help protect it from wind and rain. By removing loose objects like leaves, sticks, any miscellaneous construction debris and even dirt, you can reduce the chance of water building up on your roof during a storm and the chance of flying debris. Gutters are also important to a roof’s drainage, and you’ll want to make sure gutters are securely attached to the building. Then, ensure gutters and downspouts are clear of debris and draining properly.

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Secure metal edge flashing is also key to the performance of a low-slope roof system. Flashing is the strip of metal installed around the edge of the roof where the roof cover meets the wall. When flashing is loose, wind and rain can get up underneath the roof allowing water entry and the roof to peel away.

By protecting the roof, you can stop a cascade of damage before it starts. When the roof performs well, the contents of your business are protected from the wind and rain of a hurricane.

Have a Plan

Protecting the physical structure and contents is one piece of reducing the impact of a hurricane on a small business and IBHS’s EZ Prep can provide guidance on preparation and recovery. A business continuity plan also helps businesses plan for nontangible assets that may be affected. While it can seem overwhelming to create, “Open for Business-EZ (OFB-EZ)” is a free toolkit to walk small business owners and operators through creating, testing and maintaining a business continuity plan.

Documenting key elements impacting your business, like risks, operations and employees, helps you determine how to reduce potential disruptions. The plan brings together the vital information a business owner will need access to immediately in the event of a disruption. Once created, it’s important to test the plan with employees so everyone is familiar and ready to act on the plan if a hurricane comes your way. Planning on a sunny day can smooth decision making and actions across your organization.  

Creating a business continuity plan now prepares your business not only for hurricane season, but for any other disruption — big or small.

Last Minute Prep

By the time a tropical storm or hurricane watch is issued for Alabama, you’ll want to take the last-minute preparedness steps included in your plan that can’t be done in advance. While you can’t do them in advance, knowing what those steps will need to be can save valuable time and make a big difference for your business after a storm.

Protecting openings like windows and doors keeps wind out. Be sure all roll-up doors and garage doors are closed. Putting up hurricane shutters on all windows will be one of the last steps to take but provides vital protection against wind and flying debris. Plywood should only be used as a last resort if hurricane shutters are not available, as it doesn’t provide as much protection. Remember, taping windows doesn’t provide any protection and wastes valuable time that could be used for other preparation.

You’ll also want to take time to secure outdoor equipment, signage, inventory and other loose items. Things like pallets, signs, tables and chairs can become flying debris during a storm and cause damage to your facility or neighboring buildings. By planning to secure these items in advance, they’re more likely to still be there and useable after the storm.


Small businesses are vital to our national economy and local communities. Planning ahead can help small business owners protect their investment and continue to serve their community even after a storm. For more ways for businesses to be hurricane ready, visit


Chuck Miccolis is the managing director of commercial lines for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. He is also the lead engineer for the Institute’s Fortified Commercial standards, a voluntary commercial construction criteria that focuses on building resiliency and mitigating losses from natural and man-made hazards. A University of South Florida graduate, Miccolis was in the commercial property insurance industry for more than 20 years before joining IBHS.

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