Can Your Business Handle Extreme Weather?

April 23, 2012
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Last year’s spring and summer produced many shocking weather headlines. Death tolls were higher than normal, some cities and towns were leveled, and others were pelted with damaging hail and dust storms. The weather didn’t play very nice, and it doesn’t look as though things are going to be much different this year.

Already there have been severe and deadly storms across the Midwest in places like Oklahoma, Kansas, Iowa, and others. More than 100 tornadoes were reported over one weekend — and more are on the way. As government officials, residents, and business owners surveyed the damage from this storm outbreak, a state of emergency was declared in multiple areas to assist with the cleanup and rebuilding of damaged structures. The kicker is it’s only April. There’s still a month of spring left and a long, unpredictable summer is approaching on the horizon.

Dealing with the weather is something HVAC contractors do all the time. The question this year is, “Are contractors ready to deal with extreme weather?”

Emergency Business Plans

Each region has its weather challenges. Some are more extreme than others, but most push business owners to have plans in place or suffer the consequences. There are multiple plans needed for a contractor’s business to be thoroughly prepared.

One is a shelter-in-place plan and another is an evacuation plan. These two usually go hand in hand. Depending on the emergency, it is important that contractors know how to get their employees to safety quickly. Sometimes that will require staying in the building and other times it will require leaving. Either way, there should be a well-thought-out plan that can be communicated quickly in case of emergency.

It is important that technicians on the road have emergency plans as well. From rooftops to basements to traveling on the road, technicians’ locations change daily. It is necessary for them to understand what is expected and how they should respond to the possible weather emergencies they may face in the areas they work in.

Once the storms have passed, it is important for contractors to have a plan to put their business back on track. Depending on the storm, that could be as easy as waiting for the power to be restored or it could be as difficult as completely rebuilding. Either way, it is important that contractors consider having their data backed up at an off-site location and that they have a communications plan in place to reach their technicians both at home and on the road.

It is also important to remember that other businesses will likely be struggling as well. Depending on the severity and location of the storm, the distributors normally relied on may not be able to provide the products contractors are used to getting. Flexibility and patience may well be the only two tactics that help the contractor deal with the need for parts and equipment.

Taking Care of Customers

Once contractors have secured their employees and the business, it is time to take care of their customers. Depending on the severity and type of the storm, contractors may not be the first call on a home or business owner’s list. Customers will often have to wait for the water to recede and rebuilding to begin before they have the heating and cooling system assessed and repaired or replaced.

Dust and hail storms, however, may cause an immediate need for technicians to be dispatched and damaged units to be cleaned, repaired, or replaced. Contractors should have a plan to deal with an increase or decrease of calls after extreme weather. In preparing that plan, they should consider that they may be understaffed as their employees deal with the aftermath of extreme weather at their homes as well.

Make a Charity Plan

Weather doesn’t have to rip a house from its foundation to be considered extreme. Heat indexes were incredibly high in areas across the United States last year, and the length of those heat waves made conditions unbearable at times.

In the interest of the people, as well as their business image, contractors may want to set aside time, money, or equipment to deal with the extremes in temperature and how they affect the less fortunate.

The height of each summer season is already busy and at times complicated. The scramble to meet a need can cost more money and effort, but planning ahead to be generous to a community can help save a contractor time and money. It is often easier to be prepared to meet a heating or cooling need.

Do you have extreme weather and emergency plans and tips for your business? Post them to our Facebook page or email me at angelaharris@achrnews.com to share your ideas.

Publication date: 04/23/2012

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