Winter may not officially begin until December 21st, but parts of the country are already experiencing bitter cold temperatures and snow. Take Chicago, for example, where 3.4 inches of the white stuff fell in late October. In fact, Halloween 2019 is now in the record books as the snowiest in the city’s history. Weather experts seem to agree there’s plenty more where that came from and are now urging everyone, including the business community, to be prepared.

As evidenced by the not-so-distant past, winter weather events pose a number of serious risks to organizations from coast to coast. Snow and ice can make roads treacherous or impassable, keeping employees from work or even trapping them there. Freezing rain can lead to ice storms, taking down trees and causing widespread power outages. Extremely cold temperatures can lead to bodily injury or even death.

Other common problems that occur from severe winter weather and prolonged cold, snow and ice, include:

– Water damage caused by frozen pipes and ice damming

– Roof damage or roof collapse, due to heavy snow, ice and wind

– Damage to equipment caused by significant temperature changes

– Frozen fire sprinkler pipes, resulting in flooded rooms, document/data loss, equipment malfunctions, etc.

– Injury to employees and guests

– Vehicle issues

– Loss of revenue 

Depending on the severity and duration of winter weather events (along with the many complications that can come along with them), organizations may be forced to modify business hours or temporarily close their doors. They may even need to shift operations to other locations, or alternate facilities, until conditions improve or repairs can be made. In all instances, a Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan serves as the overarching guide for working through such disruptions and keeping business running as smoothly as possible.

If it’s been a while since your organization reviewed or exercised its COOP plan, now may be the perfect time to do so. The start of winter is less than 40 days away (brrr.) And even though there are conflicting opinions on what everyone can expect this season, it’s best to be prepared. After all, Old Man Winter can be pretty unpredictable.