Summertime brings family fun, sunny weather and back-to-school shopping, but it also brings the launch of Hurricane season. If your business is located on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast, you’re all too familiar with this time of year and the challenges it can bring to operations.
At Old Dominion Freight Line (OD), we’ve learned that it’s best to plan for storms and floods while the sun shines, not when storm clouds are on the horizon. We formalized our hurricane preparedness plans in the post-Katrina era, after experiencing property loss and extreme service disruption from the category 5 storm.
Now with our hurricane preparedness plan already in place, it’s easy to activate if disaster strikes. And our planning pays off. We have seen firsthand the benefits of having a plan in place. Once a storm system is identified, our team knows what to do and when to do it. Because everyone understands the plan and works closely together, our property losses post-Katrina have been minimal, and we can help get our customers back to business.
Check out our top tips for keeping business up and running in the face of hurricane-force winds.
1.) Have a plan in place well before hurricane season.
For OD, that means our team members all know what to do if we’re facing hurricane conditions. We make sure there’s a place to store trailers out of a storm’s path — whether that’s at a customer’s dock or our nearest service center. We move all freight at least four feet above ground in case of flooding and secure our service centers to prevent as much equipment damage as possible. Part of our planning is also to constantly monitor the storm through the National Weather Service, as these large systems are unpredictable and conditions and trajectories can change quickly. Our OD Command Center features large screens that allow our team to monitor conditions and make updates to our routes based on real-time data.
2.) Keep an open line of communication with customers.
Customers want to know their freight is safe and that it will get to its destination. At OD, we provide multiple communication channels with our customers when we’re in an active hurricane situation. A real-time interactive map on our website draws from National Weather Service data to show warnings nationwide, so our customers can see what’s affecting their freight routes. We also depend on customer updates to let us know if they’re able to operate. This will determine whether or not we’re able to run shipments for them.
3.) Make sure employees are well-equipped to keep their homes and families safe.
Our employees are the lifeblood of our company; without them, no trucks will run, no freight will be loaded, and no customer updates will go out. We make their safety and well-being part of hurricane preparedness planning from the start, ensuring they have time to make the proper preparations if they are in the path of a storm. For us, this is part of the OD Family Spirit, the family values that guide our company.
4.) Develop relationships and work with local government officials in potentially affected areas.
It is important to listen to local government announcements in case of road closures or state of emergency declarations. In some cases, the government will shut down entry roads into an affected city, so OD makes a point to be ahead of the game and bring in extra help to move trailers out before an area is shut down. As a rule, we aim to move our trailers out of cities in a storm’s path one to two days before the local government shuts down roads.
5.) Do good whenever possible in the face of disaster.
With our extensive network of more than 250 service centers nationwide and more than 23,000 employees, it only made sense that we became a Disaster Responder for the American Red Cross earlier this year. Through our commitment of support, we’ll be helping the Red Cross purchase supplies in preparation for upcoming disasters.
You can check out our operation level map at any time for real time weather alerts. With a plan in place, weathering the storm can be a little bit easier, for companies and their customers. After all, we’re in the business of helping others run their business and keep their promises, and we want to keep that commitment rain or shine whenever possible.