There has been a tempestuous start to the new year as storms, strong winds and heavy rain battered much of the UK over the past week.
Thousands of businesses and homes have been affected, suffering power cuts and damage to property.
The Environment Agency has issued a series of flood alerts and there was widespread disruption to travel, with motorists being urged to only make essential journeys.
Sadly there have been fatalities and injuries. A 51-year-old man was killed when a tree crushed his van during storms and a woman and a ten-year-old boy were taken to hospital after a tree crashed onto their car.
And part of the Welsh National Library's roof was damaged when a sheet the "size of two tennis courts" came loose.
With many firms now facing a big clean-up operation as the bad weather eases, many of them will be asking themselves: "What could we have done differently?"
By its very nature weather is unpredictable, making it impossible to ever fully protect yourself against its vagaries. But this is all the more reason to be prepared. In times of bad weather, effective property management is essential.
Not only will it help to protect your premises and stocks, it will also help to protect your employees and members of the public.
There will be a particular onus on some companies to implement effective property management – some premises, for example, are more exposed than others and will be at greater risk. Nevertheless, it is common sense and good practice for firms of all shapes and sizes, whatever their location, to put plans in place for adverse weather.Premises
In most cases it is difficult to ever fully prevent damage from bad weather. However, inadequate building design and poor maintenance both play a part in the chance of damage being increased.
Routine, ongoing and preventative maintenance will not only help keep a property in a good state of repair but will also help make a property more resilient to potential losses when bad weather arrives.
To reduce risk, action is required. One of the most important steps companies need to take is to conduct regular building inspections to ensure that their properties are sound (and safe).
The roof will be one of the most susceptible parts of your property should extreme weather strike, making it a crucial part of your preparation.
Ideally roofs should be inspected at least twice a year. Things to look out for include anything that could be blown off the roof in high wind, such as slates and tiles.
A roof in a poor state of repair can also cause internal damage, so ensure that rooflights that are damaged or leaking are fixed.
When staff are on-site, any problems thrown up unexpectedly by bad weather can be dealt with, at least in the short term. But think about putting proper plans in place over the weekend, or when you might shut down for several days.External locations & equipment
It is important that external locations, and anything stored in these locations, are factored in to your plans.
Outhouses and shelters, for example, could be in a poor state of repair and may have been neglected as maintenance of main premises often takes priority.
Loading bays that may be partially exposed and forecourts often hold movable equipment that could be blown around and damaged in adverse conditions – such as pallets, storage bins and scaffolding.
Ensure that any external structures are as secure as possible, and take steps to manage movable kit – it could be as simple as ensuring that any susceptible bits of equipment are securely tied down.Fleet management
Adverse weather must be factored in to journey planning for your fleet drivers.
Conduct inspection checks to make sure vehicles are in good condition and ensure drivers are fully briefed on what they need to think about when driving in gales or snow.
Could routes be re-scheduled? Would allowing extra time for journeys help?
However, the most important thing to remember is that if conditions are really bad, don't send anyone out to drive.Conclusion
Much of this is simple common sense action. One effective way to manage your property maintenance is to conduct regular self–assessments or keep a log book in which you note when checks took place, the problems highlighted and the action taken. By demonstrating what you've done you will have a clear record of the efforts you've made.
Bad weather will always throw up problems. But by being pro-active and taking a common sense approach, much of the havoc it causes can be avoided.