Destructive hurricanes do not only happen late in the summer. According to the NOAA, hurricane season actually begins on June 1st. It is absolutely critical to make your preparedness plans now, before hurricane season really ramps up, so that your business and your drivers are protected. Here are Commercial Truck Trader’s 10 hurricane preparedness tips for fleet managers.
1. Track the Weather
Luckily, there is typically lots of warning before a hurricane makes landfall — you just have to make sure you’re getting the news! In addition to keeping an eye on the local news station, use your smartphone to sign up for alerts from the National Weather Service, giving you instant updates about the storm’s power, direction, and speed. If you’re a business owner, have your fleet manager check daily weather reports and monitor oncoming storms, providing you with regular updates once the hurricane actually touches down.
2. Create an Emergency Response Plan
Make sure that your fleet is empowered to quickly prepare for a hurricane and respond to its aftermath by establishing a specific emergency plan.
- Test your backup generators.
- Review your insurance policies.
- Secure the lot, vehicles, and other property from the storm.
- Map out alternate routes for drivers in case of road closures.
- Acquire common parts you might need for emergency repairs.
- Ensure employees have constant access to emergency supplies.
- Map out emergency escape routes for each building on the property.
- Establish clear safety procedures for drivers potentially caught in the storm.
- Determine how you’ll contact and communicate with drivers and other off-site staff.
- Assign specific preparation duties to on-lot employees, such as securing vehicles or property.
- Develop and maintain a list of emergency contacts, including emergency responders and fuel suppliers, as well as emergency contacts for each employee.
- Inspect, tune-up, and refuel vehicles and other equipment, ensuring they’re ready for emergency use, paying particular attention to tires, windshield wipers, and lights.
3. Prepare Your Team
It’s great to have all these plans, but they’re no good if employees don’t actually know what they’re supposed to do. Review your hurricane preparedness plan with your team regularly, making sure that no task is left unassigned and that time is designated to practice emergency procedures. Ensure that every worker knows their roles and responsibilities, as well as evacuation plans and the location of first-aid kits and nearby shelters. Post the plan where it can be clearly seen by all employees, and set up a notification system that can alert both on-site workers and traveling drivers to severe weather and/or the initiation of emergency procedures.
4. Secure or Relocate Vehicles
If your lot or garage is on or very close to the water, see if you can relocate your essential vehicles offsite and away from potential flooding. If you are keeping trucks or vans on your property, move them into your garage or, if you don’t have a building, away from any trees and to the highest ground available in the lot. Consider covering vehicles with car covers or tarps to protect them from flying debris.
5. Secure the Lot & All Property
You can’t redirect a hurricane away from your worksite or fleet lot, but you can decrease the chance of damages caused by wind, flying projectiles, rain, or flooding.
- Place important on-site documents, such as accounts receivable, customer and employee records, and tax records, into a water- and fire-proof safe.
- Secure any and all loose objects, from handheld tools to portable bathrooms, by moving them indoors or tying them down.
- Place glove box copies of registration and insurance into airtight zip-top bags.
- Dumpsters should be secured to the ground and tightly closed.
- Place sandbags around ground-level entrance ways.
- Check security and flood lighting.
- Turn off propane at the tank.
- Board up building windows.
6. Stock Up on Supplies
Keep the business facility, as well as each vehicle, stocked with emergency supplies in case on-site workers become trapped at the facility or traveling drivers become stranded on the road. Key supplies include:
- Road flares
- Bottled water
- Non-perishable food
- Portable phone chargers
- Batteries of various sizes
- Rain gear, including rain jackets and boots
7. Establish an Emergency Fuel Plan
Fuel quickly becomes a scarce resource during an emergency, which you’ll desperately need for your vehicles and, if you lose power, for your office or garage generator. Research fuel suppliers who offer an emergency fuel plan, which essentially works like an insurance contract in that you pay an extra monthly charge that guarantees you access to a certain amount of fuel during emergency situations, even if regular fuel distribution is stalled. When talking with fuel providers, see what they offer in terms of emergency services, supply/demand forecasting, distribution network reach and security, transport capacity, delivery guarantees, and emergency contact availability. Here are a few extra tips for your emergency fuel plan:
- Fill or top off all relevant tanks, vehicles, and generators. Try to have an emergency fuel supply that can last at least 72 hours.
- Create a priority list that determines which vehicles or other aspects of your business should receive fuel first during emergency fuel deliveries.
- Protect your stored fuel from rain and flood damage by equipping tanks and vehicles with water-tight seal caps.
- Regularly inspect fuel storage tanks, vehicles, and generators throughout the year, so you’re not caught off guard by leaky components right as a hurricane is bearing down.
8. Make Important Calls
In the lead-up to a hurricane, there are lots of different people or organizations with whom you may want to touch base:
- Insurance company: Make sure you’re covered for flood and windstorm damages, and that you know how to quickly and effectively file a potential claim.
- Clients: Provide regular updates to clients so they can maintain realistic expectations about how quickly you’ll be able to resume the services for which they’ve hired you.
- Suppliers: Check in with your regular suppliers to understand their hurricane contingency plans, and identify suppliers who can deliver emergency supplies if needed.
- Local Fleets: Check in with other local fleet managers to share information and coordinate mutual assistance plans during hurricane preparation or recovery.
9. Take Before & After Pictures
Your final step directly before the hurricane hits should be to take pictures to mark the pre-storm condition of your facility and vehicles. After the storm has passed, one of your first steps should be to re-take those photos. Comparing images lets you see exactly what has been displaced or damaged as a result of the hurricane, which is useful to both your business and the insurance company.
10. Teach Drivers to Exercise Extreme Caution
Avoid sending drivers out into hurricane weather at all costs. Instead, plan for them to be out of the area, back home, or pulled over at a motel or other location where they can shelter in place. However, due to unexpected circumstances (or if you’re in a business that provides emergency services), there is always a chance that drivers might get caught on the road in the worst of the storm. Even after the hurricane passes, there can still be risks to drivers. Make sure your employees know these precautionary best practices:
- Double-check operational status and planned routes with dispatchers before going out or before resuming operation.
- Exercise extreme caution, including slowing down, increasing driving distance, braking slowly, and keeping headlights on. Remember that high winds can still tip over vans, trucks, and even big rigs.
- Take routes that are less likely to be affected by river rise, sewer overflows, and other flash-flood risks.
- Carefully follow all travel advisories and road restrictions.
- Keep in mind that stop lights, street signs, and electronic message boards may be missing or damaged. Treat intersections with failed traffic lights as a four-way stop.
- If visibility or driving is impaired in any way, safely exit the road, turn on emergency flashers, and shelter in the vehicle until it’s safe to resume operation.
- NEVER drive into flood waters, which are often deeper than they appear and can hide dangers under the surface. Only a few inches of water can cause you to lose control of your truck or van, and two feet of water can start to carry a vehicle away. Flooding is the second leading cause of weather fatalities, and most of those deaths are driving related.
- When a vehicle becomes stuck and storm surge waters begin to rise around you…
- If the water is not moving, abandon the vehicle and move to higher ground.
- If the water is moving, remain in the vehicle to avoid being swept away.
- Keep a watchful eye out for branches, downed power lines, and other debris.
- Always provide right-of-way for any emergency rescue, law enforcement, or military vehicles.
Conclusion: Safety should always be a top priority, but that’s even more true during hurricane season. We hope this comprehensive set of preparedness tips helps keep you, your business, and your drivers safe in the event of a hurricane. And if you’re in the market for another truck or van, check out all the for-sale inventory available nationwide at CommercialTruckTrader.com and our sister site NextTruckOnline.com.