Winter comes with many business continuity risks for businesses across the United States.

Is your business prepared for a winter storm?

The lake effect storm that dropped a record-breaking 5+ feet of snow on Buffalo, New York, and the surrounding Great Lakes area in a 24-hour period highlighted the express need for businesses to prepare for the worst that winter has to offer. If this storm is any indication, this winter could be a particularly rough one, and companies that don't have a continuity of operations plan in place for the various threats that winter has to offer will be stuck spinning their tires while the competition plows ahead.

There are a wide variety of risks to business continuity that firms face throughout the colder months. From employees not being able to make it in to work due to poor road conditions to power loss, winter presents just as many risks as hurricane season or tornado season in the right areas, and potentially worse ones for areas not accustomed to snow and ice. Below are some of the worst threats a company may face this year:

  • Ice-overs – If roads, powerlines or even your business itself ices over, you may not be able to open the doors, literally.
  • Snow depth – In many areas, if snow piles up too high on a business's roof, it legally cannot open to customers due to the risk of collapse.
  • Windy conditions – High wind speeds are just as likely  in the winter as they are in other seasons and can can force a business to shutter its doors temporarily.

Of course, these are just a few of the immediate threats a company faces during winter. But less immediate threats can also have implications for your business. For example, if a supplier is located in a northern state, a major storm could disrupt the supply chain without even striking a business' primary area of operations. This is why it pays to consider every contingency in business continuity planning for winter threats.

Here are a few tips for making the most of continuity of operations during the holiday season:

Implement work from home policies – Having a strong, tested work from home policy in place will ensure employees know what to do if road conditions make it unsafe to travel into the office during the winter. This will ensure that productivity isn't interrupted due to a storm.

Invest in winter supplies – Have emergency winter supplies stored in the office, including snow shovels and Ice-Melt to help employees get home safely should a storm strike while they are in the office. Having a backup supply of food and water is also important should they become trapped at work.

Plan for crisis communications – Put a solid crisis communications system into place in order to ensure employees can be kept in the loop regarding business continuity and the plan for any given day. If workers need to know to work from home, or if they are expected to make the trip into the office, an optimized text-based alert system can notify them know quickly and efficiently.

Regularly backup data – Make sure that you backup all of your data and systems regularly throughout the winter in case ice or snow takes out the power in the middle of the workday. If your data center is located in a northern state or country, make sure you have backup systems ready to go should that location be struck by a winter storm as well.

Review insurance coverage – Make sure you have the right insurance to cover the many risks of winter weather, including flood insurance for when the snow starts to melt.

For further assistance in preparing for potential winter risks, make sure to hire a talented business continuity consultant to take every threat into account.