The sunshine state happens to be one of the most hurricane-affected states in America. Since the 1900s, Florida alone has had as much hurricane related financial damage as the rest of the United States put together. For the region’s landscaping industry, hurricane season brings to mind material waste, lost working hours, devastation in nurseries, and so much more. Though we can’t control Mother Nature, we can give you some tips below that will help brace your landscaping business for impact.
Why Florida Landscaping Suffers During the Hurricanes
Florida, unfortunately, is perfectly located to take the brunt of hurricanes and tropical storms. The storms form in the Atlantic Basin thanks to the warm waters. Then they travel counterclockwise, upwards and to the west thanks to the Coriolis Effect that governs wind patterns. This brings them almost directly into Florida’s path.
Impact on the Landscaping Industry
Immediate but Short-Term Plant Material Damage
There are plenty of ways in which high winds and torrential rain from hurricanes destroy plant materials. Winds rip foliage off of a plant, break branches and trunks, and topple over trees. Nurseries sometimes lose significant inventory of plant materials after a bad storm. According to the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association, in 2017, the damage from Hurricane Irma alone cost nurseries 625 million dollars.
Long-term Soil Challenges
Figuring out how a storm has affected the soil takes some time. Torrential rains oversaturate the ground and render it unable to support the weight of plants. On a micro-scale, the rain can destabilize the oxygen levels in the soil and lead to anoxia and hypoxia in the plants. In this case, the plant’s death will take a few days to occur. Flooding from intense rain is problematic to the earth’s long-term chemical balance as well. When floods come in from the sea, they leave behind high amounts of salt. This hurts later plant growth potential. Flooding closer to urban areas means a nursery’s ground may be contaminated by whatever pesticides and fertilizers have come through the runoff from surrounding properties. It can take a few years to bring the soil back to a state of readiness depending on the magnitude of the damage.
Delays in response will amplify any problems your landscaping business is experiencing. Whether buildings are destroyed, power lines have gone down, or the electricity is cut, the longer it takes for you to reach your plants and equipment, the worse the outcomes will be for them.
Landscaping Project Planning Tips for Weather Emergencies
Hurricane planning needs to go beyond standard organization. Your landscaping business must have specific SOPs and plans in place that outline how you will approach each potential challenge.
Create a Risk Matrix
A risk matrix defines the severity of the threat and the probability of it occurring.
Minor: No loss in workdays, no notable physical injuries, minimal impact to your grounds or equipmentMarginal: Some lost workdays, minor physical injuries, some impact to your grounds or equipmentCritical: Loss of workdays, physical injuries requiring hospitalization, damage to your grounds and equipmentCatastrophic: Significant loss in workdays, extreme physical injuries resulting in death or disability, irreversible damage to your grounds and equipment
No chanceLow ChanceModerate ChanceHigh Chance
Once your matrix has been created, develop a plan for each scenario. What do you expect from your employees, from management, from your clients? What steps will be taken to secure plant inventory, equipment, or physical buildings? All of these questions need to be addressed because when disaster strikes, you won’t have the time or the mental energy to come up with solutions.
Manage Transit Expectations
Imagine if the storm hit sooner than forecasted and now you have a driver out on the road. Your driver can stop at a predetermined holding facility, return to your office, or immediately seek shelter. Set a reasonable plan for this scenario ahead of time so that your crew knows what’s expected of them and feel safe throughout.
Build a Storage Network
Build relationships with other nurseries and landscapers who can safeguard your material during a storm. You can start by looking into your regional FNGLA Chapter to see who would be a potential helper.
Then create an emergency check-list for every job taken during hurricane season. This checklist will map out storage points along the road. Whether you’re close to home, midway or almost at your destination, have drop-off points ready and available.
Don’t be shy to go a step further and build relationships with all of your neighbours — you never know who might spare some extra storage space in a pinch.
Prepare Backup Routing
Your operations staff should have backup routes arranged for every job during storm watches. This is as simple as considering alternative main arteries that could be taken in the event of road closures.
Additionally, consider other locations from which to source material in case you can’t reach your usual partners. Third parties like GoMaterials can expand your wholesale nursery network if need be.
Invest in Insurance
When disaster strikes, insurance serves to replace lost material and revenue potential. Crop insurance is a no-brainer if your landscaping business grows plants in hurricane basins.
→The deadline to apply for crop insurance in Florida for 2022 was on May 1st, 2021. Reach out to insurance agencies and see what options are available to you, or get started on next year’s policy.
Hurricane Readiness Resources for Florida Landscapers
There are a host of resources out there to guide you through hurricane season.
Government and State ResourcesReady is a government website that gives you everything from quick tip sheets to full guides on planning for the worst.The Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association lets you download an information sheet complete with relevant emergency contact information.Weather ServicesThe National Hurricane Center’s website gives detailed forecasts about ongoing and upcoming weather patterns as they relate to hurricanes.Risk management Links and eBooksThe Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provide an online risk assessment matrix to develop your landscaping business’ hurricane response plan.The University of Florida has an online section dedicated to hurricane safety. If your landscaping business needs ideas on how to safeguard your material, this is the place to look.
No man is an island, and that’s especially true during hurricane season. The landscaping industry has worked together before to overcome natural disasters, and this year is nothing different. We’ll fine-tune our communication and collaboration once again, and if nothing else, rest easy knowing we’re anticipating fewer storms than last year!
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