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Protect Your Business Ahead of Severe Thunderstorms

Severe thunderstorms include large hail, strong straight-line winds, and tornadoes. Although the spring and summer seasons are the most common time for severe thunderstorms, they can occur at any time of year and damage a business.   

Start Annual Business Prep!

Every year, take these steps to prepare your business before severe weather strikes and reduce the potential for damage. These annual maintenance activities will help you be Thunderstorm Ready!

Checklist: Business Thunderstorm Prep & Upgrades 
Annual maintenance tips and upgrades to protect your business. 


1. Assess your exposure & create a business continuity plan.

Having a severe weather plan helps ensure the safety of you and your employees. A plan enables you to make time-sensitive decisions, communicate clearly, safeguard important equipment and documents, and proactively implement measures to prevent damage to your business.

  • Assess your exposure
    • Conduct a risk assessment to identify the vulnerability of your facilities and identify critical assets and operational functions that could be affected by severe weather in your area. 
  • Create a business continuity plan and a severe weather plan 
    • Use Open for Business – EZ (OFB-EZ) to create a business continuity plan. OFB-EZ provides step-by-step guidance for business owners and staff to build and maintain a plan to prepare for, respond to, and recover faster from a minor disruption or major disaster. 
    • Steps to create a plan include:  
      • Establish an emergency response team responsible for developing and implementing the business continuity plan. 
      • Compile a list of emergency contacts, including fire, police, tree services, utility companies, and your insurance agent. 
      • Designate a safe room for your staff, employees, and even customers to shelter in place when a tornado warning is issued. A safe room or storm shelter that meets FEMA requirements is best. In the absence of a safe room, choose an interior room with no windows on the lowest floor of the building, such as a stairwell or bathroom. 
      • Determine who is responsible for last-minute preparations when severe weather is in the forecast. 
      • Define procedures and communication protocols for employees and customers before, during, and after severe weather. Develop procedures for sharing updates and emergency procedures.
      • Implement an IT data backup and recovery system off-site or utilize a cloud-based location. 
      • Identify alternate facilities or workspaces where your business could operate in case the primary location becomes inaccessible. 
      • Develop an employee support plan. The plan may include guidelines for remote work and resources for mental health. 
      • Conduct regular training and simulation drills. 
Concept of Emergency Preparedness Plan.Businessman touching Emergency Plan icon to learn and prepare in emergency situation .Business Evacuation Training concept.

2) Stay informed

Severe weather can strike any time—day or night—so it’s important to have multiple ways to receive severe weather alerts even without power.  

  • Find a reliable source for severe weather information. Follow your local National Weather Service (NWS) office on social media and the NWS Storm Prediction Center (SPC) on Facebook or X. Tune in to local news often when severe weather is forecast. 
  • Ask staff to enable wireless emergency alerts on their cell phones. Check with your wireless service provider for device-specific information. 
  • Purchase a weather alert radio for your business that broadcasts severe weather alerts from your local National Weather Service office, preferably one with a hand crank.  


2. 3 Ways Wx Warnings

3) Review your insurance. Document inventory and equipment

If your building is damaged and you need to file an insurance claim, you may have to itemize losses. Documenting belongings is easier before a disaster happens. 

  • Know what your insurance covers and what it doesn’t. 
  • Keep your insurance agent’s contact information handy and accessible offsite. 
  • Take a complete inventory of items on the property, including valuable equipment. Take photo documentation of the property highlighting building components, equipment, and inventory. Store the photo documentation safely off-site and in the cloud.  
Warehouse worker working process checking the package using a tablet in a large warehouse distribution center. Caucasian female inspects cargo inventory.

Choose Your Roof Type

Low-slope (Flat) roof
4) Inspect and repair your low-slope commercial roof

A roof in need of maintenance or repair is more vulnerable to high winds and can be further weakened in severe weather. Long-term standing water can accelerate aging and degradation that causes a roof membrane to become brittle. Standing water can also cause mold growth.Improperly secured roof-mounted equipment can slide or become airborne in high wind. A damaged roof can allow water into the building and begin a cascade of damage impacting ceilings, walls, floors, and even your equipment and inventoryultimately causing business downtime.  

  • Conduct a roof inspection at the beginning of each season and after severe storms. 
  • Remove all debris (vegetation, trash, and/or loose equipment) on the roof and under roof-mounted equipment.  
  • After any service is performed on the roof, re-inspect equipment to make sure all screws, cables, and straps are tightened and back in place, and no debris is left behind. 
  • Inspect the roofcover 
    • Age of roof: All roof covers age but at different rates depending on the material used, quality of the roofing, routine maintenance, site specific conditions (e.g., environment, salt water/chemical exposure), and weather it has endured. 
    • Single-ply membrane: Inspect the membrane for tears or punctures, gaps, worn seams or seam failure, fasteners backing out, and brittleness along with these unique issues:  
      • A fully adhered membrane is glued directly to the insulation boards, which are secured to the metal deck below. Look for unadhered portions of the membrane and blisters. 
      • A mechanically attached membrane is rolled onto the insulation and screwed into the metal deck below. The seams are then either taped or fused using a heat welder or bonding adhesive. Check the seams for failure and ensure the fasteners are not backing out.  
      • A ballasted membrane is not anchored to the decking material but uses a thick layer of heavy stone ballast and/or paver systems. Check for uneven distribution of rocks and any exposed portions of roof membrane. 
        • Note for do-it-yourself repairs: Be careful not to damage the roof membrane when replacing the stones. 
      • Built-up and modified bitumen: Look for bubbles/blisters, cracks, excessive wear around connections, tears, punctures, and missing protective coatings for built-up roofs with embedded gravel or smooth surface.    
      • Sprayed polyurethane foam: Assess the foam for excessive weathering, tears, or punctures,which cause a loss of the acrylic coating and brittleness.
      • Metal panels: Examine panels for signs of rusting, dents/divots, loose screws, deteriorated rubber washers, and discolored or worn-off paint (which acts as an anti-rust layer). 
  • Secure metal-edge flashing 
    • Visually inspect flashing for: 
      • Signs of deterioration like rust. 
      • Bending fascia (waviness). 
      • Unattached fascia. 
    • Physically inspect flashing to ensure: 
      • The watertight roof cover membrane transitions from the top flange of the flashing to the roof cover. 
      • The bottom edge is not loose by physically pulling the bottom flange of the fascia. 
    • Check the securement of perimeter flashing to the building. 
    • If needed, hire a licensed contractor to properly secure or replace flashing.
  • Secure and inspect roof-mounted equipment 
    • Check mechanical units for rust on metal panels and screws. Ensure all fasteners on service panels are in place so panels do not become dislodged.   
    • Inspect all roof-mounted equipment at the curb for loose connection to the curb, rusted flashing, curb leaks, or curbing rot from water damage. 
    • Ensure air conditioning condensers and similar equipment are secured with straps fastened to the stand, curb, or roof deck.  
      • Ensure secure cables and straps. When pulled, there should be little to no slack. Check manufacturer guidelines for more specific information. 
    • Check PV panels for rust on the framing and screws. Ensure all panels are properly attached to the racking system. 
    • Ensure PV panels are securely attached to the structure and properly waterproofed.  
    • For ballasted systems with both mechanical units and PV: Ensure the blocks are securely anchored to the tray andstrapped or bolted together. Note: Ballasted systems are NOT recommended in hurricane-prone regions.   
  • Check roof hatch and skylights 
    • Check roof hatches for: 
      • Loose hardware (like bolts, nuts, or screws). 
      • Cracks, gaps, holes or other damage to flashing that could cause leaks need to be fixed or sealed. 
      • Curb securement. 
    • Inspect skylights for: 
      • Securement to the curb and curb securement to the roof. 
      • Cracks in the seal, leaks, and any rotting wood.   
      • Signs of hail damage. 
  • Inspect lightning protection 
    • Check for loose rods and cables by gently pulling on the securements and conductor poles; there should be little to no slack. 
    • If a new cable connector is required, install a closed loop connector rather than a conventional 3-prong connector. If the metal conductor cable becomes loose from its securement, the wind can drag or slam it against a roof membrane. 
  • Inspect roof drainage systems, gutters, and downspouts 
    • Remove tree debris and vegetation that may restrict proper flow from all roof drains, gutters, and downspouts. 
    • Check for long-term standing water that is not due to a blockage. Ensure the gutter is properly sloped to the downspout.Hire a licensed contractor if the gutter is not properly sloped.  
    • Inspect gutters and ensure they’re secured to the building with gutter straps that prevent uplift. 
    • Check downspouts to ensure they divert water at least 3 feet away from the foundation.  
Fragment of the roof of a commercial building with an external unit of the commercial air conditioning and ventilation systems.

Steep-slope roof
4) Inspect and repair your steep-slope commercial roof

A roof in need of repair is more vulnerable to high winds and can worsen in severe weather. Water leaking into your building can cause a cascade of damage to your roof, ceilings, walls, floors and even equipment and inventory, ultimately causing business downtime. 

  • Have your roof inspected by a trusted and licensed roofing company at least once a year and after any severe storms, high winds, or heavy rain. 

Inspections should cover: 

  • Roof cover condition 
    • For an asphalt shingle roof: look for curling, loose (unsealed), missing, and/or torn shingles.   
    • For clay, concrete, and slate tiles: look for cracked, missing, and/or unattached tiles.   
    • For a metal panel roof: look for signs of rusting, dents/divots, loose screws, deteriorated rubber washers, sealants/caulks, and discolored or worn off paint (which acts as an anti-rust layer). 
  • Vents, skylights, and chimneys  
    • Vents: look for loose seals, rusted, or deteriorated parts.  
    • Skylights: Look for signs of water intrusion, loose, or wavy flashing around skylights and cracks or damage to the window itself. 
    • Chimneys: Check for leaking around flashing and/or missing mortar. 
  • Roof valleys/seams 
    • Check for leaks from roof valleys or the seams from the bottom of your roof deck.   
    • Remove debris such as leaves and dirt that build up in valleys and against dormers.  
Windsor, United States - May 21, 2013; Four  construction workers strip the roof on a red  tobacco drying barn.

5) Check and clear your gutters, downspouts, and drains.

Water that does not properly drain off the roof and away from the structure can leak into  building, causing costly interior water and structural damage.  

  • Ensure gutters are secured to the building with gutter straps.  
  • Remove tree debris and vegetation  from all gutters, downspouts, and drains.  
  • Ensure downspouts divert water at least 3 feet away from the foundation.  
The man on ladder cleans the gutters on the roof. Spring and autumn problem with leaves in gutter.

6) Seal the building envelope.

Thunderstorms produce wind-driven rain. Any unsealed opening in a building can allow water and wind to enter the structure.

  • Caulk and seal any cracks or gaps around wall penetrations, windows, and door frames on the building exterior using silicone caulk. 
  • Add weatherstripping as needed to seal around operable doors and windows, making sure you cannot see any daylight from inside the building. 
  • Seal any cracks or gaps around inoperable windows and use sealants compatible with adjacent building materials. Note: In some cladding and/or storefront systems there are weeps intended to stay open that should not be caulked.
master window installer, seals the cracks with silicone from a professional gun

7) Conduct preventative maintenance on commercial doors.

During severe weather, large commercial doorsincluding overhead, roll-up, and sectional doorsare susceptible to high winds that can push them in and allow pressure to push up on the roof. When these doors fail, they can begin a cascade of damage, leading to water intrusion, damage of building contents, and increased pressures on the roof.  

Know your commercial door(s) 

  • Look for a label on the door that shows its rating for wind pressures in PSF (pounds per square foot) values. Wind-rated doors labeled with PSF values have been tested to withstand wind pressures. Research the wind load requirements for your geographic region and make sure your commercial door(s) meet them.  
  • If there is no label or the label is missing this information, it may not be wind-rated. Contact the manufacturer to see if there are any additional ways to determine the wind rating such as a serial number.  
  • If the door is not wind rated, replace it with a door that meets the minimum site-specific wind pressures.  
    • Check out the Building Upgrades page to know what to look for when purchasing a new wind-rated commercial door. 

Conduct a visual inspection regularly

    • Is all the hardware tight? 
    • Inspect the track assembly to be sure it is properly attached to the wall. Ensure it is not damaged and all bolts are in place with no breakage, damage, or rust.
    • Inspect door tracks. Tracks are considered weak if you can rotate them in a twisting motion. Look at the tires on the rollers; ensure they are straight and tight on the axle.
    • Inspect the spring counterbalance assembly. It should look lubricated, and all springs should appear unbroken. Ensure the cables are not frayed or worn. 

Conduct an operational test 

  • Open the door and close it all the way.  
    • Make sure there are no major dents, damage, warping, and/or rusting.  
    • Does the door system run smoothly? When the door opens fully, does it drift back into the opening? 
    • When the door is closed, does it close firmly without any gaps? 
    • Inspect weather-stripping for wear and damage.  
  • Ensure the reversing is working properly by starting the close cycle: 
    • Reverse bottom edge: bump the bottom with your hand as it’s shutting; it should reverse back up.
    • Photo eyes: place a box or object in front of the eye beam as it’s shutting; it should reverse back up. 
  • Contact a licensed contractor to make repairs and improvements as necessary. 
Hangar exterior with rolling gates. 3d illustration

8) Maintain landscaping and secure outdoor items.

During high winds, trees with branches near or overhanging your building can damage the roof cover, wall cladding, and windows. Unsecured awnings, large planters, wooden pallets, inventory, and other large items can become flying debris.

  • Keep all tree limbs trimmed and away from your building. Hire an arborist to remove branches that overhang the structure and remove any dead, dying, or diseased trees. 
  • Pay particular attention to trees within falling distance of overhead power lines leading to the property.  
  • Ensure building signage and awnings are securely fastened to the building and all bolts or screws are intact and free from rust. 
  • Keep large items not typically used every day anchored or in a shed or indoor storage area. 


Cargo pallets stacked in the park.

Annual Business Prep

These annual maintenance activities will help to prepare your business before severe weather strikes and reduce the potential for damage 

Building Upgrades

We can’t stop severe thunderstorms, but we can strengthen building components to better prepare for them. Upgrade now and be Thunderstorm Ready! 

Before Severe Event

If severe weather is forecast for your area, follow these last-minute steps before the thunder rolls and the wind blows to help reduce damage to your business.

After Severe Event

Once you are able to safely return to your building, note damage that must be repaired by a professional and tasks that can easily be completed as ado-it-yourself project.