This historically cold winter has resulted in some problems for businesses across America. What can you do to protect your business in these times?

Statistics on how recent winter storms are affecting businesses are pretty alarming: the storm cost businesses across the United States $500 million dollars in sales and have resulted in at least another $500 million in property damage.

Severe winter weather can have a major impact on the economy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to shutter productivity for your business. With proper planning, business owners can minimize the damage that winter storms may cause. Here are ways that entrepreneurs can prevent winter damage, and what to do if it does:

Prevent Winter Damage

In areas that deal with harsh weather conditions regularly, business owners must regularly take steps to prevent property damage. Frozen pipes may burst, leading to costly repairs. Pipes that run along the exterior of the business are especially susceptible to freezing. These should be insulated with foam covers which can be found at any home improvement store.

If your business keeps equipment outdoors throughout the year, it is important to keep these items adequately covered. A simple tarp might not do the trick; be sure to store essential equipment under a roof or shelter that can withstand the weight of snow and ice. If equipment such as motors or water pumps are damaged, it may be necessary to contact trained professionals for repairs.

With preparation, even company vehicles can be protected from the elements. Since icy roads can damage the undercarriage of an automobile, it may be prudent to replace stock plastic skids with aluminum or steel skids. All vehicles should be stocked with windshield wiper fluid that contains antifreeze, and all should be stocked with an ice scraper and a first-aid kit.

Regularly Inspect and Maintain the Property

In preparation for rough weather conditions, many business owners opt to invest in a preventive maintenance system. These systems help owners keep track of the condition of equipment, plan regular inspections, and prevent unplanned downtime due to equipment failures. While severe weather conditions may warrant extra measures, using a preventive maintenance system is a good practice for any business.

Basic maintenance, like shoveling and salting walkways around your business, is necessary for two major reasons. For one, keeping ice off your property can help prevent property damage. It can also prevent personal injury lawsuits, since ice can lead to slips and falls for customers or employees

Next, debris should be cleared from the building itself. Obstructions can prevent melted snow from draining properly, causing serious water damage. For this reason, gutters and downspouts need to be cleared. Even roofs should be cleared, if possible, since they can contribute to the formation of ice dams. Finally, basement flooding is a common issue after icy weather, so these areas should be inspected frequently.

Be sure to Report Any Damage

First, it is essential to keep employees in the loop regarding winter conditions that may make it impractical to have everyone come to the office. Having a telework policy in place can prevent a total halt in productivity. If the business is inaccessible, important meetings can still be carried out with the help of temporary building solutions that are suitable for any weather condition, and can greatly help businesses in times of need.

Owners can also find relief by making a claim with their commercial property insurance provider. These policies often cover damage caused by extreme winter weather. You could be reimbursed for damages to your building, furniture, equipment, and landscaping, among other things — depending on your specific policy.

Given that tax season is now upon us, entrepreneurs should remember that they can claim tax deductions for weather damage. If the damage meets the definition of a casualty loss (meaning the damage occurred suddenly and could not be reasonably prepared for) it can be claimed as a deduction. Repairs can be costly; fortunately these deductions can take a bit of sting out of the proceedings.

The burdens caused by winter weather can be a bummer, but prepared business owners can prevent the snow from seriously affecting their workplace. Taking precautionary steps before conditions get too frosty can keep business running smoothly. Regular inspection and maintenance can prevent unexpected closures. And, of course, reporting damage to the federal government and your insurance company can help pay for repairs. With this information in mind, entrepreneurs can look forward to a warmer season ahead.