The first day of winter 2013 was not one to begin quietly, a massive ice storm struck Southern Ontario causing power outages to over 250,000 residents and businesses. 9 days later 2,500 homes were still without power. Luckily our Toronto call centre and our Hamilton Call Centre were prepared. In our line business being prepared is more then a Camp Scout rule, it’s a way of thinking.

We want to share with you some tips that we have learned over the years on how to winterize your business.

1. Accept that winter is coming. As this year has shown there is no way to predict how severe it will be and when it will hit. Not yet anyways. The historical average temperature for Toronto on January 3rd is -15 degrees but it feels like it is -32. We recommend that you begin the winterization process at the same time you put on your winter tires, for those in Southern Ontario it would be November 1st.

2. Create an office survival kit. This one is more of a year round rule, remember the flood in Alberta? Mother Nature isn’t season specific. Every business should have a emergency survival kit in place which includes: first aid supplies, water, blankets, flashlights, a battery operated radio and extra batteries. Our call centres go one step further and have back up generators installed. However, we recommend that if you are considering this option that you have it professionally installed and above all never run it in an enclosed space which includes garages, as they give off carbon monoxide fumes.

This is one of the plug in flashlights we have. When the power goes off it automatically lights up so you can find it. Best feature is because it's always plugged in the batteries are always fully charged.

This is one of the plug in flashlights we have. When the power goes off it automatically lights up so you can find it. My favourite feature is the constantly 100% charged battery, just plug it in and forget. Very handy in an office where batteries are a hot commodity.

3. Consider an after hours call centre. When the storms hit going into the office is not always an option as many do not live within walking distance of the office or as the ice storm demonstrated, power. During winter storms many business must remain closed, having an answering service at the ready to take your lines means you can focus on what is important. At Answerplus many customers will call in and advise special instructions for emergency calls, ensuring that our customers are able to give their clients the best service possible even when Mother Nature decides to throw a ‘curve snowball’. If you currently have an answering service find out what their disaster preparedness plan is and who you should call in such cases.

4. Correctly back up all your data. Winter storms can cause significant damage, sometimes computers and other electronic devices become compromised. This can deal a significant blow to small businesses if client and billing information is lost. The rule of thumb is the backup 3-2-1 rule. At least three copies, in two different formats with one of those copies off site. Following this rules gives your the best chance that at least one of your copies will survive.

5. Winterize outside your business. Always have at least two bags of salt ready to de-ice slippery concrete. Why two? We recommend two because the first one always seems to run out without anyone knowing and when an ice storm hits suddenly salt is sold out everywhere. Make sure you have a shovel as well, especially handy when it snows during the weekday and cars are likely to get snowed in, in some cases by snow plows clearing the roads. It’s happened to me before, not fun.

6. Make sure your insurance covers natural disasters. Some plans are better then others. Before winter hits it is always good to make sure you know what you are covered for and that you have updated your policy. This is especially important if you have recently bought any new electronics or office furniture. Certain policies only cover a specific value in damages, you will want to make sure that your new investments are protected.

Now if only we could speak to Jack Frost about this winter we’re having, I think someone deserves a stern lecture.