Images of Hurricane Harvey and Irma highlight the far-reaching destructive nature of a hurricane's unprecedented rains that may accompany them. Despite the historical disastrous effects to coastal communities, the misconception that a hurricane is strictly a coastal problem still prevails. Whether hurricane effects come in the form of storm surge, wind or rain, every emergency manager along the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico must prepare for the possibility of a hurricane and its lingering impacts.
"In the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, inland flooding was responsible for more than half of the deaths associated with tropical cyclones in the United States." - Ed Rappaport, National Hurricane Center
Preparedness and pre-planning is the key to success of initiating a hurricane plan. Below are key corporate hurricane preparedness concepts to consider:
- Assign and train personnel and departments to complete specific pre and post hurricane responsibilities. Many companies develop checklists by time frame; 5 days prior to landfall, 96-72 hours until landfall, 48 hours until landfall, 24 hours until landfall, 12 hours until landfall, etc. Be wary of assigning checklist by hurricane category as storms’ intensity can rapidly fluctuate.
- Highlight evacuation routes if site is in an evacuation zone.
- Identify the minimum necessary personnel to remain at the facility during the storm.
- Identify redeployment team(s) responsible to secure the site after a storm
- Identify needs for conducting necessary business processes offsite and processes for data backup and redundancy.
- Review alternate location options.
- Coordinate site-specific plans with local and county emergency management agencies’ hurricane plans.
- Inspect the site for potential mitigation measures and initiate countermeasures to minimize damage. If lumber is necessary, pre-cut pieces to proper sizes, and mark each panel/piece to identify location. If using storm shutters, identify proper installation procedures and functionality prior to storm.
- Identify, inspect and/or purchase materials required to support hurricane preparedness, including generators, battery-operated radios, flashlights, lighting, ice, additional batteries, etc. FEMA provides guidance on a basic list of needs.
- Identify and make arrangements for alternate or off-site storage of selected equipment (computers, moving equipment/inventory from potential flood areas).
- Prepare/update a list of employee home phone numbers addresses.
- Identify primary and alternate communication methods and procedures.
- Contract post-incident suppliers/contractors as to not interrupt supply chain.
- Refresh stocks of consumable hurricane supplies for use at the facility.
- Consider developing a business continuity plan to allow for continuity of essential processes in case a storm has long-lasting effects.
Every “close call” storm provides a real-time test of the effectiveness of processes and implemented procedures. No matter how far a storm veers off path, stalls, or weakens, company facilities, employees, and coordinating responders can gain planning insight by the act of initiating the hurricane plan. No preparation for an impending storm, no matter what the cost, goes wasted. Lessons learned should be applied to the hurricane plan, strengthening the plan and bolstering the safety of employees.