A new villain may also be among us this Halloween. He blows into town uninvited, freezing pipes, disrupting supply chains and wreaking havoc on everyone’s immune systems. He may be known by many names, but none as recognizable as Jack Frost. Just like a typical Halloween bad guy, Jack surprised us with his early arrival across much of the United States last week, but will he continue to lurk around every corner through the rest of the winter season?
According to ImpactWeather’s long-range forecast expert, Fred Schmude, these early cold temperatures will linger for a while. During our recent winter outlook webinar, Fred stated that a large section of the United States, from the Rockies to the East Coast, will experience below normal temperatures with wetter weather forecasted for much of the Southeast. This translates into a higher than normal risk for wintry weather in the South, higher than normal snowfall and freezing rain from the Midwest to New England, and extreme cold warnings for much of Canada and the Northern United States.
Jack Frost may not wield a machete, wear a mask or hide under the bed, but his menacing ways can cause unnecessary downtime for your business if you’re not prepared. Icy roads, freezing rain and extreme snowfall result in power outages, employee absence, transportation delays, travel cancellations and more.
There is a way, however, to combat Jack Frost’s tyranny with a well-thought-out winter weather response plan. Below are a couple of simple steps you can utilize this season:
- Develop and/or update your emergency response plan – Ensure that your severe weather response plan includes steps to be taken during such weather conditions as blizzards, snowfall and ice. Will two inches of icy rain affect your business or will it take 20 inches of snow before you shut down operations? Knowing the answer to these questions ahead of time will improve your response to severe weather.
- Utilize a mass notification tool – Blizzards and ice may make it hard for employees to safely travel to work. In the event of a severe snow storm, stay connected with your employees by sending updates, travel advisories and more through an established mass notification tool.
- Establish a telecommute policy – If icy roads keep your employees from traveling to work, telecommuting is a safe alternative to encourage continuous work flow.
- Winterize your supply chain – Nothing is more susceptible to the winter weather than pipes, chemicals and vehicles. Maintaining a list of contractors and parts suppliers for your facility will mitigate downtime associated with freezing weather. Prior to the first freeze, your business should also inspect and test power sources such as generators and heating systems.
- Remind personnel to use any portable heaters safely – Even though many buildings ban portable heaters, we all know that one employee who gets a chill when the temperature drops below 80 degrees. Improperly stored heaters are a fire hazard. Make sure your employees are aware of the risks.
- Provide moisture absorbent mats at building entrances – This will reduce injuries from employees slipping and falling on slick surfaces.
Even though the first day of winter doesn’t technically arrive until Dec. 21, many states have already seen a glimpse of what’s to come this season with snowfall in the Rockies and bitter temperatures across New England. It’s not too late, though, to combat the holiday blues by preparing your business today for Jack and his arsenal of winter weather woes.