Using Weather Warnings in Business

Unplanned events, by their nature, often occur with little or no warning.  Weather is one of the notable exceptions.  The Met Office issues warnings, free of charge and up to five days in advance.  But, the warnings come in almost every week in the winter months.  So, how can you ensure that your business response is proportionate?  The answer lies in decoding the information that the Met Office provides.

Getting Weather Warnings

The Met Office posts weather warning on their website and circulates them to the media.  You will hear these as the red, amber and yellow warnings in TV and radio bulletins.  You can also have the warnings sent to you via email or as a notification on your mobile device via the weather app.  TV and radio warnings usually give only the basic information.  The full warning has much more detail.  As a subscriber to the email or application notifications, you will get the full detail and notifications whenever it is updated.

Is this for me?

First, look at the specific area covered.  The regions that you can subscribe to are vast and can easily have different weather conditions from one side to the other.  The Met Office provides both a map and a list of local authority areas covered.   This allows you to quickly filter out those warnings the do not apply where you are.

The report itself consists of three sections: the warning, the chief forecaster’s assessment and the weather impact matrix.  It is easy to overlook this matrix but it actually provides the critical information at a glance.

Enter the MatrixA weather impact matrix

The matrix displays the impact and likelihood of the adverse weather in a format that will be immediately familiar to business people used to evaluating risk.  This means that you can use this information directly;  apply it to your own business risk appetite; and decide whether you need to act to mitigate the risk and likely impact.

The Met Office has very detailed explanations of what the impact statements are for each level.  You can find that detail here.  This means that you can actually plan in advance which weather types are likely to affect your business and what each impact level on the warning is likely to mean for you.

How big is the impact?

How can the weather affect your business?  Clearly, every business will answer this question differently.  Some of the general impacts to think about are:

  • Ease of travel – can staff get to work (and back home afterwards)? Is it prudent to postpone non-essential meetings or move to remote working? What about deliveries?
  • Health and safety of those working outside.
  • Disruption to utilities and communications
  • Damage to premises and/or assets stored outside.

All of these items are covered by the impact statements.  For instance, a low impact event may include localised power disruptions but a high impact event says that widespread and prolonged power outages are expected.

Is it worth it?

When all is said and done, we do expect to get adverse weather in this country, especially in winter.  Much of our plan for dealing with the weather should be business as usual.  Yes, we don’t need to take action for the majority of weather warnings.  We already know we can cope with the weather.  An informed glance at the impact matrix is how to quickly identify the warnings that you do need to sit up and take notice of.