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Critical Event Support with SISC - Self Insured Schools of California-

Planning, coping, and recovery resources when tragedy strikes.

Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry (Part 8)—Hurricanes, Tornadoes, Storms, and Technological Emergencies


Hurricanes are severe tropical storms with sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater. Hurricane winds can reach 160 miles per hour and extend inland for hundreds of miles. Hurricanes bring torrential rains and a storm surge of ocean water that crashes into land as the storm approaches. Hurricanes also spawn tornadoes.

Hurricane advisories are issued by the National Weather Service as soon as a hurricane appears to be a threat. The hurricane season lasts from June through November.

Planning Considerations

The following are considerations when preparing for hurricanes:

  • Ask your local emergency management office about community evacuation plans.
  • Establish facility shutdown procedures. Establish warning and evacuation procedures. Make plans for assisting employees who may need transportation.
  • Make plans for communicating with employees' families before and after a hurricane.
  • Purchase a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery backup.
  • Listen for hurricane watches and warnings:
    • Hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible within 24 to 36 hours. Stay tuned for additional advisories. Tune to local radio and television stations for additional information. An evacuation may be necessary.
    • Hurricane warning means a hurricane will hit land within 24 hours. Take precautions at once. If advised, evacuate immediately.
  • Survey your facility. Make plans to protect outside equipment and structures.
  • Make plans to protect windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection.
  • Covering windows with 5/8-inch marine plywood is a second option.
  • Consider the need for backup systems like
    • Portable pumps to remove flood water
    • Alternate power sources such as generators or gasoline-powered pumps
    • Battery-powered emergency lighting

Prepare to move records, computers, and other items within your facility or to another location.


Tornadoes are incredibly violent local storms that extend to the ground with whirling winds that can reach 300 miles per hour. Spawned from powerful thunderstorms, tornadoes can uproot trees and buildings and turn harmless objects into deadly missiles in a matter of seconds. Damage paths can be in excess of one mile wide and 50 miles long.

Tornadoes can occur in any state but occur more frequently in the Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest. They occur with little or no warning.

Planning Considerations

The following are considerations when planning for tornadoes:

  • Ask your local emergency management office about the community's tornado warning system.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio with a warning alarm tone and battery backup. Listen for tornado watches and warnings:
    • Tornado watch means tornadoes are likely. Be ready to take shelter. Stay tuned to radio and television stations for additional information.
    • Tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted in the area or is indicated by radar. Take shelter immediately.
  • Establish procedures to inform personnel when tornado warnings are posted. Consider the need for spotters to be responsible for looking out for approaching storms.
  • Work with a structural engineer or architect to designate shelter areas in your facility. Ask your local emergency management office or National Weather Service office for guidance.
  • Consider the amount of space you will need. Adults require about six square feet of space; nursing home and hospital patients require more.
  • The best protection in a tornado is usually an underground area. If an underground area is not available, consider
    • Small interior rooms on the lowest floor and without windows
    • Hallways on the lowest floor away from doors and windows
    • Rooms constructed with reinforced concrete, brick, or block with no windows and a heavy concrete floor or roof system overhead
    • Protected areas away from doors and windows
    • (Note: Auditoriums, cafeterias, and gymnasiums that are covered with a flat, wide-span roof are not considered safe.)
  • Make plans for evacuating personnel away from lightweight modular offices or mobile home-size buildings. These structures offer no protection from tornadoes.
  • Conduct tornado drills.
  • Once in the shelter, personnel should protect their heads with their arms, and crouch down.

Severe Winter Storms

Severe winter storms bring heavy snow, ice, strong winds, and freezing rain. Winter storms can prevent employees and customers from reaching the facility, leading to a temporary shutdown until roads are cleared. Heavy snow and ice can also cause structural damage and power outages.

Planning Considerations

Following are considerations for preparing for winter storms:

  • Listen to NOAA Weather Radio and local radio and television stations for weather information:
    • Winter storm watch means severe winter weather is possible.
    • Winter storm warning means severe winter weather is expected.
    • Blizzard warning means severe winter weather with sustained winds of at least 35 miles per hour is expected.
    • Traveler's advisory means severe winter conditions may make driving difficult or dangerous.
  • Establish procedures for facility shutdown and early release of employees.
  • Store food, water, blankets, battery-powered radios with extra batteries, and other emergency supplies for employees who become stranded at the facility.
  • Provide a backup power source for critical operations.
  • Arrange for snow and ice removal from parking lots, walkways, loading docks, and so forth.


Earthquakes occur most frequently west of the Rocky Mountains, although historically the most violent earthquakes have occurred in the central United States. Earthquakes occur suddenly and without warning.

Earthquakes can seriously damage buildings and their contents; disrupt gas, electric, and telephone services; and trigger landslides, avalanches, flash floods, fires, and huge ocean waves called tsunamis. Aftershocks can occur for weeks following an earthquake. In many buildings, the greatest danger to people in an earthquake is when equipment and nonstructural elements such as ceilings, partitions, windows, and lighting fixtures shake loose.

Planning Considerations

Following are considerations for preparing for earthquakes:

  • Assess your facility's vulnerability to earthquakes. Ask local government agencies for seismic information for your area.
  • Have your facility inspected by a structural engineer. Develop and prioritize strengthening measures. These may include
    • Adding steel bracing to frames
    • Adding sheer walls to frames
    • Strengthening columns and building foundations
    • Replacing nonreinforced brick filler walls
  • Follow safety codes when constructing a facility or making major renovations.
  • Inspect nonstructural systems such as air conditioning, communications, and pollution control systems. Assess the potential for damage. Prioritize measures to prevent damages.
  • Inspect your facility for any item that could fall, spill, break or move during an earthquake. Take steps to reduce these hazards:
    • Move large and heavy objects to lower shelves or the floor. Hang heavy items away from where people work.
    • Secure shelves, filing cabinets, tall furniture, desktop equipment, computers, printers, copiers, and light fixtures.
    • Secure fixed equipment and heavy machinery to the floor. Larger equipment can be placed on casters and attached to tethers which attach to the wall.
    • Add bracing to suspended ceilings, if necessary.
    • Install safety glass where appropriate.
    • Secure large utility and process piping.
  • Keep copies of design drawings of the facility to be used in assessing the facility's safety after an earthquake.
  • Review processes for handling and storing hazardous materials. Have incompatible chemicals stored separately.
  • Ask your insurance carrier about earthquake insurance and mitigation techniques.
  • Establish procedures to determine whether an evacuation is necessary after an earthquake.
  • Designate areas in the facility away from exterior walls and windows where occupants should gather after an earthquake if an evacuation is not necessary.
  • Conduct earthquake drills. Provide personnel with the following safety information:
    • In an earthquake, if indoors, stay there. Take cover under a sturdy piece of furniture or counter, or brace yourself against an inside wall. Protect your head and neck.
    • If outdoors, move into the open, away from buildings, street lights, and utility wires.
    • After an earthquake, stay away from windows, skylights, and items that could fall. Do not use the elevators.
    • Use stairways to leave the building if it is determined that a building evacuation is necessary.

Technological Emergencies

Technological emergencies include any interruption or loss of a utility service, power source, life support system, information system, or equipment needed to keep the business in operation.

Planning Considerations

Identify all critical operations, including

  • Utilities including electric power, gas, water, hydraulics, compressed air, municipal and internal sewer systems, and wastewater treatment services
  • Security and alarm systems, elevators, lighting, life support systems, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and the electrical distribution system
  • Manufacturing equipment and pollution control equipment
  • Communication systems (both data and voice computer networks)
  • Transportation systems including air, highway, railroad, and waterway

Determine the impact of service disruption:

  • Ensure that key safety and maintenance personnel are thoroughly familiar with all building systems.
  • Establish procedures for restoring systems. Determine need for backup systems.
  • Establish preventive maintenance schedules for all systems and equipment.

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). (Updated 2013, September 26). Hurricanes, tornadoes, severe winter storms, earthquakes, & technological emergencies (pp. 57–65). In Emergency management guide for business and industry: A step-by-step approach to emergency planning, response and recovery for companies of all sizes (Pub. No. FEMA-141). Retrieved February 6, 2024, from

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