The impact of hurricanes can be potentially dangerous, and as history has shown, it emphasizes the need to prepare for one. This is where Hurricane Preparedness Week comes into play.
In the U.S., there are typically six hurricanes, three categorized as “major.” Hurricanes inflict severe damage on communicates, causing significant losses to life and property. However, there are methods available to minimize such risks and prevent damage. Therefore, it is crucial to consider practical ways to prepare for and educate your community on the impending threat of a hurricane.
Scheduled for April 30-May 6, Hurricane Preparedness Week is an effort to raise awareness and provide the nation with the necessary tools and knowledge to prepare for a hurricane. Experts understand that adequate preparation and communication are critical in improving worker safety, mitigating potential damage and loss of life, ensuring quicker recovery and minimizing disruptions to businesses, government and community support services.
Hurricane season and the damage they cause
The potential danger of hurricanes lies in their ability to cause significant damage through storm surges, wind damage, rip currents and flooding. Storm surges have been the primary cause of hurricane-related fatalities in the United States. It is worth noting that hurricanes can occur along any coastline or territory in the Atlantic or Pacific oceans, amplifying their risk.
There are different seasons for hurricanes in the U.S.
- Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season: May 15-November 30
- Atlantic Hurricane Season: June 1-November 30
- Central Pacific Hurricane Season: June 1-November 30
In the fall of 2022, Hurricanes Fiona, Ian and Nicole caused the most damage to the U.S. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) concluded that hurricane Ian cost the U.S. $112.9 billion in total damage, which makes Ian one of the top three costliest hurricanes in the U.S. Most of the damage, $109.5 billion affected Florida. In addition, the surrounding states saw 4.45 million customers without power due to Ian between September 28 and October 1.
Preparing for a hurricane
The first step in preparing for a hurricane is creating a plan. For a business or organization, this may be called an emergency preparedness plan or business continuity plan and is usually a segment of an overall emergency management plan, disaster management effort or security risk management strategy.
Disaster management combines the efforts of individuals, households, organizations, local authorities and government to prepare, respond, mitigate and recover to reduce or prevent the risks and impacts of disasters like hurricanes.
In creating an effective emergency preparedness plan, identifying and assessing potential business continuity risks is essential. Hurricane preparedness may include identifying potential hazards and vulnerabilities and the timing of evacuating communities.
Once a plan has been created, a designated team should be appointed to develop guidelines, procedures, roles and responsibilities for decision-making before, during and after a disaster. Conducting drills and safety training and testing the plan is crucial for building buy-in from stakeholders and improving the plan’s efficacy when deployed. Furthermore, the plans should be reviewed annually to ensure they remain relevant to the organization or community and can be refined based on lessons learned.
During a hurricane
When a hurricane is likely to hit your area, it is critical to adequately prepare for a hurricane by tuning into storm warnings from the National Weather Service (NWS) and NOAA. The warnings for a tropical cyclone begin with a five-day outlook. Then, between two to three days, the NWS will provide a hurricane watch, and within one to two days, they will issue hurricane warnings. This information is broadcasted through public warning sirens, the NOAA Weather Radio, local radio or TV or a specific cable TV channel.
During a disaster, electricity and communication networks such as cell phones, computers, landline telephones and the internet are prone to disruption. In the U.S., 83% of reported major outages between 2000 and 2021 were attributed to weather-related events. As a result, finding a communication system that can notify many people when these landlines are down is essential.
In addition, having a communications plan in place beforehand can be crucial to ensuring that everyone knows how to connect and where to meet during an emergency. In addition, during a hurricane, people may have evacuated, making it more challenging to contact people with important information and coordinate recovery efforts.
Collaborating an emergency preparedness plan with a robust communications system, like the Regroup Mass Notification system, can improve an emergency communications plan’s response time and effectiveness.
Using one platform instead of multiple methods of communication speeds the communication process, makes messaging less confusing, is quicker and more reliable. In addition, Regroup integrates communication across multiple channels simultaneously, including digital signage, PA systems, websites and social media.
A robust mass alert system like Regroup allows government officials, public safety workers and managers to reach people with critical information about where they are during a hurricane. If a hurricane threatens the public, Regroup’s mobile app allows administrators to notify thousands of people simultaneously and quickly. Bulk SMS/text messages to reach people are also more effective during a hurricane since most people are not at home and are evacuating the area.
In addition, Regroup’s GeoFence messaging empowers administrators to send timely alerts to recipients with specific messages to recipients inside or outside specified areas on a map. Regroup is the only mass alert system to add entry and exit messages for people traveling into and out of those selected areas. This is helpful for head counts, all-clear reports, coordinating recovery efforts and insurance agents traveling to assess the damage.
Regroup’s robust communication system can also send automatic severe weather alerts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) for people to prepare for an impending hurricane.
Preparing for the future
Building resilience to natural disasters like hurricanes is necessary to protect people and property. But as global warming increases the intensity of storms, the need for hurricane preparedness measures also grows. Some considerations for preparing for hurricanes in the future include:
- Increased investment in forecasting techniques to improve accuracy and efficiency.
- Allocation of resources toward land-use planning and protective infrastructure.
- Analysis and restoration of inadequate infrastructure, including storm drains and pipes.
- Development and investment in stable and accessible alternative energy sources to supplement the current electrical grids.
- Strengthening current electrical systems through measures such as tree trimming and the undergrounding of transmission lines.
- Deploying portable solar power systems for first responders.
FEMA’s National Hurricane Program
Through the National Hurricane Program (NHP), FEMA provides data, resources and assistance in developing hurricane evacuation and response plans for communities. This program includes:
- Hurricane Evacuation Studies (HES) and evacuation planning
- The Hurricane Decision Support Tool (HURREVAC) is a free web-based platform available to government emergency managers that provides evacuation timing guidance.
- The FEMA Hurricane Liaison Team (HLT) facilitates the rapid exchange of forecast and risk information between the National Hurricane Center and the emergency management community.
- Storm Surge risk products – (Sea, Lake and Overland Surge from Hurricanes (SLOSH) products) that identify areas at risk of storm surge flooding from hurricanes. SLOSH modeling and risk products can be used for planning scenarios and operational decision-making.
- Training for Emergency Managers and Partners
- Intergovernmental Hurricane Preparedness
- Post-storm assessment
Information about the training and support materials FEMA provides and additional resources are available on their Hurricane Planning and Response website.
An effective communication infrastructure that remains functional despite unfolding events is crucial in responding to a hurricane. Transmitting essential information to the right people can make all the difference between inconvenience and catastrophe, especially when the stakes are high, and confusion can further obscure communication lines.
As crises evolve, so must our response methods, which now necessitate adaptable solutions with mass communication capabilities that are user-friendly and independent of existing infrastructure.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses an elaborate, non-dependent, decentralized communication method during a disaster. Similarly, companies such as Regroup can provide governments, first responders, health facilities, schools and businesses with a reliable communication network that offers peace of mind and operates autonomously without dependence on external infrastructure.
Responding to a hurricane requires a communication infrastructure that cannot be affected by unfolding events. Being able to relay vital information to the right people can spell the difference between inconvenience and catastrophe in any scenario, more so when the stakes are higher and when confusion can easily blur communication lines even further.
Hurricane Preparedness Week, April 30 through May 7, is an opportunity to raise awareness and prepare plans to reduce the damage and loss of life caused by hurricanes and the storm surges, floods and tornados they leave in their aftermath.
The lessons learned from past hurricanes should not be overlooked. Business continuity and community response rely on solid disaster management planning and creating an emergency preparedness plan. Additionally, institutions of all types can suffer tremendous losses without a communications plan and the ability to notify stakeholders during a crisis.
By taking proactive steps and prioritizing hurricane preparedness, we can minimize the impact of these catastrophic events and protect our communities.
To learn more about how Regroup can ensure that all members of your organization can stay in touch, no matter how deep the crisis, call us at 1-855-REGROUP or schedule a demo of the system here.
Ready to see more? You can schedule a no-obligation demo of Regroup’s powerful notification system here.