Weather-related emergencies stemming from hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, and wildfires are on the rise, and extended public utility outages often occur during and after these events. If you own a bed and breakfast, evaluate your disaster preparation plans periodically, because situations change and new technology can help preserve your business and save lives. 

Your plan should include preparations started weeks or months before severe weather season as well as supplies and contingencies for up to four weeks after a major event while government services work to restore utilities and normalcy. Island locations may need to begin preparing several months in advance because of how long materials can take for shipping and customs.

Preparing for severe weather

By the time you hear of a specific threat on the news, the time has already passed for preparations. Purchasing bottled water, canned goods and plywood becomes difficult once everyone else is also rushing to make last-minute preparations. In places with distinct hurricane, tornado, and wildfire seasons, begin stocking emergency supply kits weeks or months before the first event of the season. 

Keep an ample supply of plywood or storm shutters in a dry storage area, as well as screws and fasteners, rope and even duct tape, which can help to contain glass shards from broken windows. Drainage systems surrounding your property can easily become clogged or overwhelmed by heavy rains, so if your property has ever experienced flash flooding, keep materials on hand for making sandbags to redirect rainwater.

Bottled water, canned goods, and batteries cannot be stored indefinitely; check expiration dates and create a plan for rotating stock into everyday use before they expire. Follow safety precautions for storing things such as candles, lamp oil fuel, and other potentially flammable items, and store other goods in waterproof or water-resistant containers such as plastic totes to ensure their viability in case they’re exposed to the elements.

Type or write a list of local, state, and national emergency numbers, as well as locations of all nearby shelters and evacuation routes for your guests. Many emergency organizations communicate through social media accounts, so include their social media handles on your list as well. All important emergency contact information should be laminated or placed in a zip-close bag, and multiple copies can be posted throughout the building.

One of the most important preparations for any business is a source of backup power for when the public utility fails. Some of the most reliable, sturdy systems are diesel generators with Perkins engines. The generators need to be above the potential for floodwaters or flash flooding and optimally within a walled enclosure to protect the unit from high winds and flying debris.

Riding out severe weather

Move vehicles out of parking spaces that might be prone to flash flooding, and move them to the lee side of your home in case high winds might be powerful to move them in the direction of the storm (and possibly into the building envelope). Have a contingency plan in place if your low-lying shelter area becomes inundated with floodwater; in addition to flashlights, an emergency radio and external cell phone batteries, an axe and a pry bar can be lifesaving equipment that helps you to get through debris to safety. 

Blankets should be on hand, ideally in a watertight covering, and backup light sources may be needed. Flares, whistles, flags, and safely contained fire can be used to signal nearby first responders to your location if you’re unable to reach them by phone.

Coping in the aftermath

Be prepared for your surroundings to remain chaotic for several days or even weeks after severe weather strikes. Chainsaws, electrical saws, bolt-cutters, and pipe-cutters may be needed to clear debris from your property. Communicate updates of local conditions on your website to help incoming guests determine their best options for booking, and don’t try to return to normal operations before conditions are ideal. Complaints and even lawsuits can be far more damaging to your business than vacancy rates.