Hurricane Irma is predicted to be the most powerful hurricane to strike the Atlantic coast. The hurricane, currently bearing down and affecting the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, will make its way north, heading towards Florida later into the weekend. “Irma is a potentially catastrophic hurricane and will bring life-threatening wind, storm surge, and rainfall hazards” to areas it affects, the National Hurricane Center says. 

What is classified as a Category 5 hurricane, Hurricane Irma can cause sustained winds of 157mph or higher. Based on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, Hurricane Irma has the potential to cause catastrophic damages, including:

  • Destroyed homes
  • Roof failure
  • Vehicle write-offs
  • Wall collapses
  • Fallen trees and power poles/lines
  • Power outages for weeks-months
  • Uninhabitable homes and land

Although expected to touch down in Florida closer to the weekend, the forecast will continue to grow more certain over the next few days. Forecasts predict the storm’s path to track up the east coast of Florida, rather than the gulf that was initially predicted. The chance of impact continues to increase and will be more certain in the next few days. However, local officials are preparing for the worst.

Hurricane Irma path
Image via http://abcnews.go.com/News/hurricane-irma-takes-aim-florida-storm-makes-landfall/story?id=49645643

Mandatory evacuation orders and policies take effect at 7 p.m. on Wednesday for all residents and business owners. The governors of Florida declared a state of emergency to give locals “resources, time, and flexibility” to prepare for what is to come.

With Hurricane Irma making her way into Florida, FADA provides the numerous auto dealerships in the area, with some great insights and tips on how to protect an auto dealership from the powerful storm effects.

Regardless of the dealership’s proximity to the storm, there are many “best practices” that should be considered for automotive business owners. These include:

  • Developing a written Hurricane Preparedness Plan for your automotive business
  • Developing an Inventory Evacuation Plan
  • Purchasing flood insurance protection or making sure you are covered
  • Determine a power backup plan for your business
  • Arrange for storing vehicles and equipment at a higher area, to help reduce damage

Developing a Hurricane Preparedness Plan

Developing a hurricane preparedness plan and putting it into place is imperative. Business owners should train their employees of the plan so that it is successful in the case of a hurricane. A hurricane preparedness plan should include:

  • A preparedness plan for all dealership locations.
  • A list of tasks for what needs to be done in all phases of the hurricane (pre-season, hurricane warning, hurricane watch, during, and after the hurricane).
  • Include plans for the building, equipment, cars, documents, data, etc.
  • Include details of the business hurricane chest (the location, supplies, etc.)
  • An emergency contact list (the staff, contractors, insurance etc.)
  • Assigning tasks to different employees and teams.

Hurricane Chest

As part of the hurricane preparedness plan, your dealership should have a hurricane chest that encompasses all of the emergency supplies needed for your business. For an auto dealership specifically, a hurricane chest should include:

  • Recovery plan: including all of the employees responsible for the recovery of the business.
  • Emergency contacts: contact information for security, phones, fuel, contractors, storage etc.
  • Communication methods: including cellular phones and radios to get in contact with the rest of the team.
  • Flashlights with plenty of batteries.
  • Plastic bags that can be used to cover equipment.
  • Boxes to store papers.
  • Rolls of hazard tape to close off the areas where the cars are.
  • Extra key sets.
  • Non-perishable foods and water containers.

Protecting your Auto Dealership

Protecting your dealership and your employees is a number one priority during a hurricane situation. There are a number of things that you can do to best prepare in this type of situation. They include:

  • Locating your hurricane supply chest and making sure all necessary supplies are in there.
  • Implement your inventory evacuation plan.
  • Try to have all customers come and retrieve their cars in advance.
  • Move all vehicles on the lot to an indoor location. Park them as tightly together as possible and lock them and store keys in a locked cabinet. Move the larger vehicles to the outer locations to help create larger wind blocks.
  • Unplug all plugs that are plugged into a wall socket. This includes coffee machine, computers, phones, machines, TV, etc.
  • Cover all office equipment and machinery including phones, fax machines, printers etc. Remove all computer units from the floor in the offices. Backup all necessary and important information on the computers and store it off-site from the dealership. Using a heavy plastic, tape down all of the equipment.
  • Place all loose desk papers in locked cabinets.
  • Install hurricane shutters on large windows or where necessary.
  • If your dealership has gas pumps, make sure they are shut down.
  • Take all personal items home to prevent them from being damaged.
  • Place sand bags on the outside of the dealership if possible. These are good for helping to redirect water and debris away from the building.

As the hurricane starts to approach your area, make sure to listen to the live news updates concerning the storm’s path. This is imperative so that you have your plan in place and can implement it when needed. For larger dealerships, it is important to take the necessary steps before the warning comes as the preparation can take a long time.

After the Hurricane

There are some practices that need to be followed after the hurricane has hit. These are just as important as the initial planning and process. After the hurricane, it is very important to:

  • Monitor radio and TV news stations to see if returning back to your business is safe.
  • When returning to the dealership, access the buildings from the exterior. If noticeable damage has taken place, do not access the building at all.
  • Be aware of power lines, these are a huge hazard for electrocution.
  • Contact your insurance provider right away to let them know of the damage.
  • Refrain from causing any additional damage from occurring by securing possible hazards using plastic, tape, and wood.
  • Take photographs of all the damage. This is important for the insurance company later on.
  • Contact your contractors to arrange for repairs.

Without a doubt, Hurricane Irma will be the most powerful hurricane that the Atlantic coast has ever experienced. By following the proper protocols and tips on how to prepare for Hurricane Irma, you will make the horrible experience better for yourself and your business. Prepare for what is to come and stay safe!

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