By Sarah Hamaker
WASHINGTON—The National Weather Center forecasts a busy Atlantic hurricane season this year. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, this hurricane season, which opens today, will likely have 13 to 19 named stores, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5 velocity.
“Especially in this time of COVID-19, retailers are pressed for time, but not preparing for a hurricane or other natural disaster will put them at a distinct disadvantage and will hamper the ability to re-open quickly,” Craig Fugate, former administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), told NACS Daily. “This year, all of our planning is going to have to add COVID-19 preparations, too.”
FEMA released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season to help businesses prepare. The document recommends businesses think about questions like:
- Does your response plan take into consideration reduced staffing due to COVID-19?
- Have you updated your plan to continue essential functions with little or no interruption?
- Does your plan include how to protect your employees from both the natural disaster and COVID-19?
- Have you purchased and stockpiled PPE for workers who need it?
Overall, planning for hurricane season should include discussing with local emergency management agencies about potential hazards, such as the current local evacuation zone and route. “Even if your store isn’t in an evacuation zone, your employees might be in the evacuation zone and be unable to come to work,” Fugate said. “That could impact your ability to operate safely and serve your community.”
For convenience stores, Fugate recommended hurricane plans to include extra personnel on site ahead of an evacuation to help manage long gas lines and keep up with COVID-19 sanitization schedules. “Retailers will have to manage the cleaning for COVID-19 as well as the increased demand for fuel, so having a plan in place will ensure they have both things covered,” Fugate said. “The longer retailers can stay open during an emergency, the more customers they can help.”
For more on how to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters, see the NACS Convenience Store Emergency Planning and Job Aid resources.
Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer and NACS Daily and NACS Magazine contributor based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.