Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a series of winter weather events that have left a trail of destruction in their wake. In 2021, Texas experienced a winter storm that has since become the costliest winter weather event in U.S. history. Not your run-of-the-mill cold snap; it was a bone-chilling experience, with the National Weather Service reporting temperatures plummeting 40 degrees below average.
The repercussions were devastating. Burst pipes wreaked havoc, and the prolonged freeze left a staggering 10 million people suffering from a power outage during its peak. Tragically, nearly 200 lives were lost, and the financial toll reached an eye-popping $30 billion.1
The impact of extreme winter weather events on businesses can be shattering. It spells significant damage to commercial buildings and vehicles, lost production, sales, income, and labor time, not to mention additional transportation costs, decreased tourist activity, and utility disruptions. If that’s not alarming enough, a statistic from FEMA and the U.S. Department of Labor reveals 40% of small businesses never reopen following a natural disaster.2
These facts emphasize the urgent need for businesses to take proactive steps to protect themselves from the unforgiving onslaught of winter.
Assessing Your Winter Weather Risks
When it comes to winter, knowing your enemy is half the battle. Understanding the winter weather risks your business could face isn’t just smart; it’s essential. It’s about making the right moves to protect your employees and property, even before the first snowflake falls. Here’s how you can get a handle on your winter weather exposures:
Conduct a Risk Assessment
First and foremost, businesses should conduct a detailed review and documentation of their unique winter weather risks through comprehensive assessments. These risks vary based on location, industry, operations, workplace conditions, and employee responsibilities. For instance, businesses in colder regions or those relying on outdoor processes may face greater winter weather exposures. By understanding these risks, you can respond accordingly and adopt more effective mitigation methods.
Understand Applicable Weather Advisories and Warnings
In addition to conducting risk assessments, businesses should make it a priority to understand winter storm warnings. A solid grasp of this terminology helps companies to anticipate incoming weather conditions and prepare as needed.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some essential winter storm warnings to be aware of:
- Winter Weather Advisory: This is a less severe warning than a winter storm warning. It’s issued when conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences but are not anticipated to be life-threatening. These advisories are often issued for minor accumulations of snow, freezing rain, or sleet.
- Winter Storm Watch: This is typically issued when there is a potential for significant winter weather conditions, including heavy snow or ice. It’s a heads-up that you should keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared for changes in weather.
- Winter Storm Warning: When this warning is issued, it means that significant winter weather conditions are imminent or already occurring. You can expect heavy snow, ice, or a combination of both. It’s time to take action and prepare for challenging conditions.
- Blizzard Warning: A blizzard warning is a serious matter. It’s issued when strong winds (often above 35 mph) combine with falling or blowing snow, resulting in extremely low visibility and dangerous travel conditions.
- Freeze Warning: This warning is issued when a significant and prolonged drop in temperatures below freezing is expected. It’s essential to take precautions to protect exposed water pipes.
- Ice Storm Warning: When freezing rain is forecasted and is expected to result in significant accumulations of ice on roads, power lines, and trees, an ice storm warning is issued. This can lead to hazardous travel conditions and power outages.
To be aware of incoming winter storms, businesses may rely on proper communication channels and regional alert systems. These include winter storm watches, warnings, and weather advisories from local news stations, mobile applications, and social media platforms. The NOAA’s Weather Radio All Hazards (NWR)offers a nationwide network of radio stations that broadcast ongoing weather updates and forecasts 24/7.
Your Winter Weather Checklist
Before cold weather and winter’s icy grip take hold, ensure you’ve covered all your bases to minimize its impact on your business. Review our winter weather checklist to ensure you’re ready:
Develop a Business Continuity Plan (BCP)
- Create a BCP by outlining how to restore critical operations during service disruptions.
- Identify prevalent winter season operational threats, supply chain risks and their potential consequences.
- Include components like business impact analyses, organized frameworks, recovery strategies, tests and exercises, and regular reviews and updates.
Protect Your Commercial Property
- Prioritize property maintenance and repairs.
- Inspect roof, gutters, drains, and downspouts for damage.
- Test heating, ventilating, air conditioning, electrical equipment, and safety systems.
- Develop snow removal and de-icing plans.
- Utilize landscaping techniques to prevent ice buildup and promote proper drainage.
- Ensure proper insulation and temperature controls.
Safeguard Valuables and Documentation
- Store essential items and documentation in secure locations.
- Safeguard machinery, technology, supplies, inventory, and essential records.
- Establish response plans for safeguarding data.
- Establish Response Plans and Backup Systems
- Create emergency response plans for winter storms.
- Implement data protection plans for regular data backup.
- Consider backup systems such as generators and battery powered portable heaters.
Secure Appropriate Coverage
- Consult risk management professionals to assess coverage needs.
- Update insurance policies to reflect evolving exposures and risks.
- Consider specialized coverage for specific winter weather-related losses.
Winter Is Coming – Get Prepared with MJ
Winter storms can impact lives and throw businesses for a loop. But with the proper knowledge and strategy, you can weather the storm like a pro.
At MJ, our data-driven, holistic approach to risk management helps us keep you ahead of the curve. We work closely with you to tackle business continuity, interruptions, cyber threats, and other emerging risks. We’ll help you identify and prioritize risks, make solid plans to manage them and keep a handle on your total cost of risk.
So, when winter comes knocking, you’ll be ready! Let’s get you prepared for whatever the future holds.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you develop a robust risk management strategy.
- Winter Weather Preparedness and Response Guide for Businesses. zorg. 2023. Retrieved September 2023. https://cms.zywave.com/content/516576?referenceGuid=1481e58a-1134-4d9d-bf92-164e6e169d42&fromLabel=Search%20results&internalHref=%2Fsearchresults%3Fquery%3Dwinter%2520weather%26searchType%3Dcontent%26pageIndex%3D0%26sortType%3Dmatch&defaultLanguage=en-us
- “Study: 40% of businesses fail to reopen after a disaster.”com. Retrieved September 2023. https://www.accesscorp.com/press-