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Should You Close Your Customer-Facing Business Before A Hurricane?

The official peak of hurricane season spans between mid-August and late October. With this portion of the year having already arrived, and with the devastating weather that has already occurred, now is the time for businesses on the coast to review their natural disaster plans. One common struggle among many small and medium-sized business owners is the decision about whether or not to close before, during and after a hurricane. This is especially true for customer-facing companies, where the safety and needs of employees and customers alike must be considered. If your organization has struggled with making this crucial decision in the past, explore three ways to make your choice easier for future hurricane events.

Always Put Your Customers and Employees First
Maintaining business continuity in the face of a natural disaster is always top-of-mind for business owners. However, when the threat of a hurricane looms, the first priority must always be your customers and employees. It is crucial for companies of all sizes to protect the people that support them, even when this means a financial loss. Additionally, in the case of customer-facing businesses, you could be putting yourself at monetary risk by not closing in hazardous conditions. If injured on-site due to the weather, a customer may decide to sue your business. Rather than opening up the potential for injury, encourage people not to venture out into the storm. This is especially true if many of your customers are families, as they should focus on taking all the steps necessary to keep their little ones safe at home. Even if these customers seem disappointed in the short-term, preserving their safety (as well as the safety of your employees) should always be your main priority.

Stay Up-to-Date With the Latest Weather Updates and Closures
If you are considering the closure of your business prior to a hurricane, but you believe that you do not have enough information to make an informed decision, don’t feel pressured to make an official decision early. Even though some local businesses may choose to close as many as 4-5 days before a hurricane actually makes landfall, current forecast models are simply not accurate that many days in advance. In fact, the exact path of a hurricane can be challenging to forecast 24 hours in advance. Therefore, prior to making your decision to stay open, close or reopen, be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest forecasts. Additionally, be sure to stay aware of closures in your affected area. If certain businesses close that will make it challenging (or impossible) for you to stay open, this will also help factor into your decision-making process.

Consider Creating a ‘Hurricane Team’ for Business Continuity If your customer-facing business is essential for your community, and closing is next to impossible, consider the implementation of a ‘hurricane team.’ Ask for a volunteer group of employees who agree to come in before the weather starts to get bad. Provide these employees with extra pay, safety training, and accommodation in case they are unable to get home safely after their shift ends. This measure can help ensure business continuity, and provide proper staffing for customers who need your products or services.

While these guidelines and considerations can help better inform you when deciding to close or stay open during a hurricane, there is no easy way to make this decision. Since every storm, location and business is unique, it is best to assess each hurricane on its own, and by the day. 

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