Severe weather is a threat every business owner must be prepared for be it hurricanes, tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, earthquakes or any other crisis you can think of. In some cases there is some sort of advance warning that makes it a little easier to keep customers and employees safe. Other times the event occurs without warning. What are some of the weather situations I have contended with as a manager in retail and even working in a college library and what steps did we have to take to recover and get back to normal operations? As a Loss Prevention Manager I had to ensure building safety and ensure our Checkpoint Security System and other retail theft prevention tools were working properly.
Why would I mention a Checkpoint Security System when discussing severe weather and recovery afterwards? The anti-theft systems in the store stop shoplifting and if you and your team are in recovery mode, you may have enough systems up and running to open your doors to sell merchandise and still be less than 100% fully back to normal. This means if there are customers in the store and they are attempting to steal, Checkpoint tags are not going to prevent pilferage if the electronic article surveillance pedestals aren’t working. Checkpoint tags emit a radio frequency signal that is picked up by pedestals and activate an alarm built into the pedestals. The pedestals do require an active power source and if the power is out, or a power surge has damaged the unit, the ability for tags to be detected is disrupted. Obviously many types of storms can result in power issues affecting a store.
I recall one time as a Loss Prevention Manager our store was in the path of a category 1 hurricane. Being in a beach location we are familiar with hurricanes and though they should never be taken lightly, this particular one was just barely above tropical storm strength and most of the locals were not too concerned about it. During a conference call with our district office I was asked my thoughts on whether we should close or stay open. I recommended we stay open. There were several factors I considered but this storm popped up unusually quickly and gave little time to prepare. We kept the store open through the storm and though power went out quite a few customers stopped in and waited out the storm. Some browsed and others hung out in the food court area chatting and making new friends. After the storm passed we were the only store in the area open for business as we ran on partial electricity with our emergency generator. I stood at the front doors conducting receipt checks since our Checkpoint Security System was not operating and I need to try to stop shoplifting to the best of my ability (partial power was reserved for registers and some lighting and while the ability to detect Checkpoint tags was important it was not critical for operations). I also made a point of letting people know the store was open since the store was pretty dark even with partial lights and all the other stores in our block were closed. People were driving by slowly trying to find somewhere that was open. I remember multiple customers telling me how much they appreciated us being open because they needed water, flashlights, batteries and other essentials.
As a store manager/owner, be aware of severe weather. Have an action plan in place even for unusual events and have a recovery plan in place to go back to business as usual. Don’t forget it is still important to stop shoplifting but making sure everyone is safe and the store is up and running are the priorities. In part 2 I will continue with a few more crises I encountered and some tip for preparing your own store. As a former Eagle Scout, I will remind you of the Boy Scout Motto: Be Prepared.
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