Brought to You by One of Our Safety Champions at Marek Brothers Systems, Inc.
Top Tips to Prepare for Hurricane Season
We often learn most from experience and practice; however, dealing with a hurricane is not the type of situation you want to learn from. It is one you always want to be prepared for. Jorge Vazquez, Safety Director at Marek Brothers Systems, Inc. based in Houston, Texas provided his top tips to prepare for hurricane season.
1. Have a Plan
To avoid being caught unprepared, the first thing you need to have is a plan that covers the before, during, and after. At Marek they have an Emergency Preparedness Plan which can be deployed for many crisis scenarios – a hurricane being the most common that occurs for them. When a warning is announced, there are many questions around the impact to the business, employees, and customers that need to be reviewed and answered ahead of time to set in motion the relevant plays:
- Do we return rented equipment?
- Do we cancel any orders on materials?
- How do we respond to the customers who are expecting things to be completed by a schedule?
- How do we shutdown and secure the job site safely?
In the lead up to Hurricane Laura, Marek’s number one priority was the safety of their employees – “because of the news …we took the precautions to send the employees home the day it was supposed to arrive” to ensure they were not being put at risk unnecessarily. The job site was secured following the Emergency Response procedure, including image and video evidence to show the results and protect against claims should anything happen to the equipment and site when it is left vulnerable. For additional actions to take, review Marek’s ‘Safe Before The Storm’ article written by Jorge on their website.
Having a plan ensures you have all bases covered and that your response time will improve each time it is put into practice until it “becomes second nature”.
2. Have a Safety Committee
In Houston, Texas, Jorge states it is common to encounter a hurricane once a year or every two years if they are lucky. Being in an area of such high risk requires a strong level of commitment to face these challenges successfully – this is where the Safety Committee comes in. Marek’s Safety Committee is a designated resource group that is focused on the safety of the workers and their families, as well as helping the business continue. At Marek, they introduced task force groups to help those whose houses had flooded, “ensuring they feel their families are safe and they can return to work”. They also had a questionnaire that their employees would complete if they were heavily affected by the hurricane and “the committee would review every case and either issue money or resources to help the employee come back to work”. They are currently developing a training that will be available for employees during hurricane season that will cover CPR, First Aid, how to operate a generator, and other basic survival skills.
3. Have a Communication Strategy
Last, but certainly not least, is having a strong and clear communication strategy that reaches all employees and customers. Jorge explained that their plan consists of “steps to deal with the social platforms, website, and intranet to communicate with the employees in different ways” while also “relying on text messages” in case there are power outages. They are set up to provide communication effectively through multiple channels from the first alert, providing the company response and position, through to returning to work. It is important to keep the communication relevant and focused to avoid the risk of messages being lost.
“We can have a great plan, but if we don’t have a way to validate contact information, we’re going to struggle,” says Jorge.
One of the main lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey in 2017 was knowing if the employee contact details were up to date. Since then, Marek has introduced a system that will prompt employees to validate and provide the opportunity to update their contact details on a regular basis. Jorge recounts “we had a list of things to do and what communication needs to go out. What we learned was we needed to have a way to update contact information from the employees” otherwise the plan cannot be executed.
If you need help getting prepared or started with your own preparedness plan, check out our Hurricane Response Checklists for business and home which can be adapted for other emergency situations, as well as our support article to get this set up on your eCompliance account today.