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In Case Of Emergency


Last month Ashley Hoadley of Darwin Clayton shared valuable tips on protecting property and drivers in severe winter weather. Here the insurance expert focuses on contingency planning for the business and the home.


Meteorologists and the media may blame severe weather on the position of the jet stream, global warming, or the ominous-sounding ‘weather bomb’. But don’t expect to escape blame too if your service to customers is severely disrupted by a cold snap. Looking at it another way, it could be an opportunity to show your professionalism and customer care.


The most important advice is – don’t wait for it to happen. Review your Business Contingency Plan now, if you haven’t already this season. Think about how you’ll best be able to service your customers, suppliers and key stakeholders if there are several days of snow, transport disruption (for any reason), power cuts, or other system failures.


Part of the plan should be to issue an early warning of any problems to your customers and suppliers. No one likes hearing bad news, but they’ll prefer a timely notice and respect you for it. Your plan will also include a list of all the telephone numbers of the people you’ll need to contact: insurance company, emergency plumber/ electrician, etc. Make sure the list is up to date and kept in a safe place known to managers.


There will be some areas around your premises that you need to keep free of snow and ice, even if


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it’s only the entrance steps. Some businesses will have depot access routes, loading bays, customer and staff car parks and other areas too. The plan should identify priority zones to be salted and gritted in advance, and who will carry out the work. Check that the stock of materials and equipment is adequate. Temporary signs may be necessary to indicate safe routes, but don’t forget, if the extreme weather persists, access routes will need to be inspected regularly.


But your business will still grind to a halt if your employees can’t get to work. Encourage staff to plan alternative routes to work if their usual way is likely to be disrupted. Mobilise your IT department early to enable more of your staff to work from home.


And what about the home front? One of the worst things that could happen in sub-zero temperatures is a pipe or water tank burst. As the coldest time is between 1am and 3am, it’s advisable to leave the central heating running at a constant temperature – if possible, in all rooms – rather than rely on your usual timer settings. Also be sure to check the lagging on your pipes and water tank. If the house will be empty for a period, either leave the heating on or drain your water and heating systems. To do this, turn


off the supply at the stopcock, shut down the boiler, and open all the taps. Speak to a plumber if you’re unsure about the central heating, and remember to leave your insurance details with a neighbour if you’re going to be away.


Don’t forget to bring pets indoors, and if you have fi sh in a garden pond, leave a football or something else fl oating in the middle. Then remove it from the surface ice so they have a supply of air.


Your home contingency kit should include a supply of batteries, torches, and candles, plus extra provisions in case supplies to shops and supermarkets are interrupted. In the event of a power cut, keep the freezer door shut to protect these food supplies longer.


We’re lucky that in living memory our winter weather has not been so extreme or protracted that our national infrastructure couldn’t cope, or at least bounce back relatively quickly. With some proper contingency planning, surviving the challenging conditions our climate can throw at us shouldn’t be a matter of luck.


www.darwinclayton.co.uk


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