Businesses preparing for hurricane season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 16, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Hurricane season begins June 1 and more such storms are being predicted to reach our area than did last year.

Last September surprised all of us when Hurricane Isabel swept through Suffolk and more of Virginia, leaving the majority of people with severe property losses and without power or water for several days.

Email newsletter signup

It is devastating enough when residences are damaged, but when businesses also get knocked about, they can experience double devastation by being set back to a stage where they are unable to operate. Therefore, many owners and managers of businesses are practicing the Boy Scout motto, &uot;Always Be Prepared,&uot; and taking action to make this motto official and permanent.

Andy Damiani, president of the Suffolk Downtown Association, owns property spaces in Suffolk Square Mall and two other offices on West Washington Street.

He said you have to use the good common sense and judgment by boarding up windows and other parts of your property to protect it.

&uot;It is also very important that all business owners check their insurance policies because last fall some didn’t receive the coverage that they thought they had,&uot; he said. &uot;During our next Downtown Business Association Meeting on May 26, we will have information on how to be prepared for hurricanes before they even start.&uot;

Sam Wiggs, manager at Wal-Mart on North Main Street, said Hurricane Isabel taught him to start preparing earlier.

&uot;During the last hurricane we lost power and it seemed like it took forever for the generator to kick in. This year we will be on standby a lot earlier,&uot; he said.

Lisa Saddler, the manager on call at Belk Department Store on North Main Street, said that store boarded up doors and windows to protect the glass, but experienced damage to the roof, which caused some leakage and merchandise damage in the area of the leak.

&uot;To get us better prepared for the upcoming hurricane season, we will get the landlord to check the spots on the roof where the damage was done and make sure that merchandise is removed from those locations in the store during the next storm,&uot; said Saddler.

The community needs food and water even when it is closed in during a storm, and the most aggravating thing was the time when most power was out for days causing many to seek food that wouldn’t spoil or require refrigeration.

Mary Harden with customer service at Food Lion on Portsmouth Boulevard said this year the store is going to try to keep a good supply of non-perishable can foods on hand and to have more back-up generators going for perishable foods.

&uot;What I learned from the hurricane last year is that one can strike at any time and the best way to be prepared is to have all the things you need in place which we usually do,&uot; said Harden.

These owners and managers seem to be thinking ahead with caution. However, listed below are more recommendations that businesses should consider before the season begins:

nAsk your local emergency management office about community evacuation plans.

nEstablish facility shutdown and warning and evacuation procedures, Make plans for assisting employees who may need transportation.

nMake plans for communicating with employees’ families before and after a hurricane.

nPurchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery backup. List for hurricane watches and warnings

nSurvey your facility. Make plans to protect outside equipment and structures.

nProtect windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection. Covering them with 5/8-inch marine plywood is a second option.

nConsider the need for backup systems such as portable pumps to remove flood water, alternate power sources such as generators or gasoline-powered pumps and battery-powered emergency lighting,

Also, prepare to move records, computers and other items within your facility to another location.

For more information on business and industry planning, download the Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Web site.