During this year’s hurricane season, we’ve seen extreme devastation in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Maria throughout Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. With another two months left of Northern Atlantic hurricane season, many self storage owners are still bracing for storms yet to come, or cleaning up after major storms swept through their area. Hurricane preparedness seems to be at the top of everyone’s mind, especially residents of South Florida.
Unfortunately, your property may not be able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane no matter what what steps you take or how much you prepare. But that isn’t a good reason not to prepare at all: you still need to take steps for the safety of your business and your team, and to protect your business in the event of filing a weather-related insurance claim.
We’ve gathered information from various clients who’ve weathered the storms, and scoured hurricane resources on the web to bring together a comprehensive hurricane checklist for self storage owners and managers. Check it out to get tips on what steps to take before, during, and after a Hurricane Watch is in effect for your area.
Hurricane Preparedness Checklist for Owners and Managers
1. Prepare for emergency weather (six months or more in advance of hurricane season).
- Have the roof inspected annually to ensure it can withstand a storm.
- Prepare a first-aid kit and store in a secure location, including flashlights, bottled water, non-perishable snack bars, extra batteries, cleansing agents, bandages, gloves, etc.
- Install smoke alarms and place fire extinguishers throughout buildings.
- Review property insurance with your insurance agent to discuss adequate hazard, flood, and business interruption insurance.
- Ensure gutters, drains, and downspouts are in good shape and effectively draining water away from buildings.
- Keep an up-to-date list of emergency contact information available, including insurance company and agent’s contact information, emergency hotline for utility services, nearest hospital, and police phone numbers.
- Keep an up-to-date list of owner, manager, and employee contact information.
- Keep a detailed list of passwords and instructions, both in writing and digitally.
- Establish written hurricane procedures for protecting the property and its contents. (Start with our list below, and add or change any list items as necessary for your business.)
- Backup all files to cloud data storage on a regular basis. Make duplicates of printed files (such as insurance policies, financial records, tax records, employee records, and more) and store in alternate safe places.
- Train employees on hurricane and emergency weather procedures.
- Test and service the facility’s emergency power generator under load.
- Repair any leaks or water damage to ceilings, walls, doors, and windows.
2. Protect the property (once a Hurricane Watch has been issued).
- Watch weather reports for your zip code. Monitor local radio and television stations for official emergency information and instructions.
- Clean out gutters and downspouts.
- Remove trees and branches that could potentially fall and damage the building roof, windows, doors, or parking areas.
- Ensure the roof is clear of debris, such as loose shingles, branches, etc.
- Walk the property and take down all items that can be blown away, such as banners, flags, signs (particularly those that could swing or cause damage during high winds), garbage cans, plants, and decorations. Put all items in an empty unit.
- Put hurricane shutters or plywood on windows and doors.
- Close and secure all hallway doors. If possible, lock interior hallway doors.
- Sandbag any areas that are subject to flooding, such as first floor doorways and office doors.
- Ensure your facility first aid kit is well stocked.
- Ensure smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are available and working in all buildings.
- Anchor and brace and large furniture, such as bookcases, shelves, and filing cabinets, to wall studs.
- Make sure power tools are ready-to-go and fully charged, with extra battery packs also charged.
- Ensure several flashlights are available and batteries are fully charged.
- Pick up electronic items off of the floor in the case of flooding. Put other important items in an unused or maintenance unit on high shelves in case of flooding.
- Disconnect all computers and other non-essential electronic items, such as printers, televisions, coffee makers, and etc. Make sure that essential electronics are plugged into a surge protector or battery backup.
- Cover computers and electronics with plastic bags or tarps to prevent water damage.
- Make sure golf carts and facility vehicles are full of gas and secured in a locked unit.
- Walk the property and make sure that everyone is out of the facility before closing the gate and securing all buildings on the property.
- Photograph the interior and exterior of all buildings for pre-storm documentation to assist in verifying any future insurance claims. Store photos in cloud data storage.
- If evacuating, turn off the gate power system. In the event of power loss, the gate can be opened and closed manually by emergency personnel if needed. A closed gate will help dissuade looters.
- Notify local authorities if the facility will be vacant, if alarms are activated, or if security detail will be present.
3. Protect documents and information (once a Hurricane Watch has been issued).
- Back up any information that is stored on a desktop computer or in a filing cabinet to cloud storage, such as bank statements, legal documents, rental insurance documentation, and photo records.
- Ensure emergency contact information is available to the team, including emergency hotline for utility services and nearest hospital and police phone numbers.
- Ensure all owner, manager, and employee contact information is available to the team.
- Keep a detailed list of passwords and instructions, both in writing and digitally.
- Deposit bank deposits and secure petty cash and cash drawer. Arrange to pay employees in advance, while banks are still open and available.
- Contact tenants with RVs, boats, campers, or vehicles in outdoor or covered parking spaces to let them know of the impending storm, the steps the facility has taken to reduce damages, and discuss the options they have to protect their investment.
- Post instructions for tenants on your website and social media pages. Text, email, and print out instructions for tenants on office and facility closings and let them know due to unforeseen circumstances those may change. (Just because the storm is over, that doesn’t mean it is safe for tenants to access the property.)
By following the above tips, you’ll be able to batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst. Remember: above all, keep employees and tenants safe. Advise them to stay away from dangerous weather activity such as moving water and high wind, and keep them away from downed power lines or debris at your facility whenever possible by communicating facility updates effectively.
Post-Hurricane Checklist for Owners and Managers
- Walk the property and assess damage. Stay away from downed power lines and moving water.
- Check buildings for damage. Take photos and write down a list of damages for insurance claims and documentation.
- Take an inventory of damaged property. Keep damaged property (even small hardware like signs, doors, etc.) on hand until the insurance adjuster is able to come out and assess the damage. Account for all damage-related costs.
- Protect undamaged property by making emergency or temporary repairs.
- Remove water and debris from damaged property after documenting.
- Contact insurance company. Assess the value of damaged property and the impact of business interruption.
- Notify tenants on the state of the facility and let them know when they can safely access the property via website and social media announcements, emails and/or texts, and printed instructions. Provide timely updates whenever possible.
Re-grouping in the wake of a hurricane is tough stuff. If you’re a member of your state or regional Self Storage Association, you’ll find a wealth of resources and community in the aftermath of a weather disaster. Reach out to other self storage businesses in your area, and get information from your local chamber of commerce on resources for businesses affected by the storm. By being organized, having a plan, and taking detailed notes, you’ll be much better prepared for the next major weather event that hits your area (knock on wood).
Thanks for reading! If you liked this article, you may also like: PR and crisis management: A comprehensive guide for managers, How to protect your storage facility from summertime pests (Slideshare), and How to prevent pets from being stored at your facility.