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Blog 23 July, 2021 Back

Hurricanes can shatter lives as well as damage property.

Becky Malcolm

Hurricane-outlook-2021

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. The areas affected are Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

The 2021 hurricane season is predicted to be another year of above average storms, following an above average 2020 hurricane season, which broke two records. Firstly, for having the highest number of named storms (30), and secondly that 11 of those made landfall; the most ever.

The definition of a hurricane is a tropical cyclone with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher, and the focus tends to be on the category of the storm. However, it’s important to remember that these are based on wind speed, whereas it is actually water that causes most of the damage, and flooding can occur hundreds of miles inland, not just along the coastline.

When a hurricane is poised to make landfall and the authorities issue an evacuation order, you may not have much time before you leave to protect your business, home and your family from the storm — and from flooding. So, it’s important to be prepared.

Take steps to protect your business

Hurricanes take a toll on businesses and in the wake of COVID-19, many employees may still be working from home. Some could also be new residents in hurricane prone states, such as Texas and Florida.

Nearly half of all employed adults currently work from home. So, businesses keeping track of their employees’ movements is getting more complicated. Not all homes are set up with the appropriate technology or infrastructure to stay up and running during a hurricane. For example, IT failures become much more frequent and harder to fix.

Businesses need to keep accurate contact information for employees and suppliers, to enable checking on wellbeing, as well as communicating the next steps for resuming business operations. A company communication system is vital to ensure notifications can be sent to employees with instructions to respond to messages as required.

If your employees will be working in at-risk areas, make sure they know what the processes are. This is down to the detail of where the first aid kit is located and cover pre-planning preparations, such as instructing staff to take home any personal belongings. You may also want to consider stocking up on non-perishable food items and water bottles and think about who is responsible for turning off gas and water.

Create an emergency business response and continuity plan. In the event of a hurricane, this will help your business quickly recover

You can’t protect what you don’t know exists. You need to assess who and what will be impacted. This includes your people and physical locations, as well as your suppliers and other assets.

Review your business insurance policies to understand exactly what is covered. Keep data backed up, stored remotely or in the cloud to ensure nothing is lost.

Review your contingency plans and systems for threat analysis. Weather channels and local news will update you of the storm’s progress, but you may need to map these to multiple locations, people and assets. This level of intelligence can be provided by software and risk management solutions, for up to the minute data, and can be pushed to employees who may be in the path of an approaching storm.

Do all the members of the team know what to do and who to contact in event of disaster?

A checklist of things to do before, during and after a storm should be circulated to all members of the response team. This would include inspecting the office and your equipment—everything from your data centres, bottled water stocks, to the physical building - roofs and gutters. It should cover closing your office, turning on backup generators, even providing employees with a suggested evacuation route.

Communication continues after the storm. Keeping people informed immediately following a hurricane is just as important. This could be regular notifications or an online resource or event page for employees to get updates on when the office will reopen, individual working plans, and how operations may be impacted.

Storm damage can impact other organisations that you rely on, leading to supply chain or business continuity disruption, so ensure your plan includes how you’ll communicate with suppliers in the event of an emergency.

Your plan should include a system for identifying the threat. Resilience technology is available, at Anvil, our Riskmatics® highly-evolved risk management system delivers 360 degree threat awareness and dynamic intelligence on volatile incidents, mapped against your critical assets, so you can take informed action.

Access to threat intelligence can also help you track the severity of the storm. Before a storm officially becomes a hurricane, it starts as a tropical depression—often far from shore. But a tropical depression can quickly turn into a tropical storm with heavy rain, resulting in flooding and water damage. Knowing when that transformation occurs will help you brace for impact. And if the tropical storm intensifies, you’ll know you need to prepare for possible structural damage as well.

Your emergency response plan should address how to secure your facilities, both indoors and out. Beyond your physical facilities, you also have a duty of care—a moral and legal obligation to protect your people from unnecessary risk of harm. Hurricanes aren’t quick incidents and forecasts can change rapidly which, as a result, may impact your response plan. To keep your business running and your people safe, you have to stay in constant communication with employees as the hurricane unfolds.

Who is included in your emergency response team? Make sure all the relevant departments are involved - HR, Security, PR and comms as well as C-Suite, and ensure each has access to the emergency response plan and knows their individual role and responsibilities.

Once response plans are in place, inform all employees on how to act including the importance of being able to communicate with them in real time. During a disaster, people can be slow to respond to email, so make sure you have multiple channels available for communication, including phone, text, and mobile push notifications.

Anvil’s Group Managing Director, Matthew Judge, advises all managers to have an emergency response plan in place before a major incident, rather than trying to develop one as it happens. “It needs to be set up properly, and I would suggest running drills with all of the appropriate stakeholders throughout the year. It needs to involve the entire supply chain – your travel management company, your risk management supplier, your suppliers, as well as internal people from travel, HR, security, risk or insurance and legal departments.”

Hurricane-damage

Hurricane preparations for homeowners

An emergency kit should include cash, prescription medicines and three days’ worth of food and water (for people and pets).

Make digital copies of documents. Photograph or scan important documents like driver’s licenses, social security cards, passports, prescriptions, tax statements and other legal papers. Upload the images online for safekeeping. Store documents in a fireproof, watertight container, or take them with you.

If you live in a coastal area or mobile home, it’s important to become familiar with community evacuation plans, evacuation zones and evacuation routes. Create your evacuation plan and remember to include pets.

Creating a home inventory can speed up claims and substantiate losses. Make sure you have the inventory with you. Review insurance policies to check cover for both hurricane damage and flood damage.

Keep your mobile phone charged when you know a hurricane is in the forecast and purchase backup charging devices to power electronics, but remember that network issues mean mobile phones may not work, so plan a meeting location for family members.

Listen to local news for the most up-to-date reports and information, especially for when to evacuate. Alberto Moscoso, a former Communications Director for the Florida Division of Emergency Management says, “The biggest issue I see people running into is that they just wait too long.”

As the storm approaches prepare your home. Turn fridges and freezers to the coldest settings and put fridge items in the freezer – in a power cut a tightly packed freezer can stay cold for 48 hours – add ice containers to fill space. We recommend keeping a thermometer in the fridge/freezer to check food on your return (anything that has remained at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder is safe to eat). Move other items and bottled water to high secure shelves safest from floodwater.

Check household chemicals are tightly sealed and moved to high shelves, move electronics and small appliances to higher levels, keep generators away from moisture.

Clear yards of loose objects. Hurricane force winds can turn objects into missiles that can break windows and doors, and much of the property damage associated with hurricanes occurs after the windstorm when rain enters structures through broken windows, doors and openings in the roof. Outdoor furniture, bikes, trash cans, grills and building materials can either be tied down or moved inside. Prepare to board windows and/or secure doors with storm shutters.

Personal safety

If you must evacuate, if possible, bring with you items that can help protect you and others in the shelter from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer, cleaning materials, and two clean, well-fitted masks that have two or more layers for each person.

Do not walk, swim, or drive through flood waters. Just six inches of fast-moving water can knock you down, and one foot of moving water can sweep your vehicle away. Power lines, sewage and debris can make floodwater hazardous.

After the storm, do not enter your house until officials say it’s safe to do so, turn off electricity at the mains and enter with caution.

Only bottled water, canned and well packaged items are safe to eat after contact with floodwater – remove labels and wash in a bleach solution.

Clean up properly

Hazardous chemicals, mould, asbestos and lead paint are all potential dangers in the aftermath of a flood, so follow official recommendations and wear gloves, eye protection and face masks on any flood-damaged property.

Before beginning clean up and debris removal, take photographs of your home and contact your insurance company, then air out and remove all water-damaged items. This is the most important step toward minimizing mould, which can cause asthma attacks, eye and skin irritation and allergic reactions.

And finally

In case you’ve ever wondered how hurricanes are named, names are pulled from six rotating lists maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization. Storm names are retired only when those storms are particularly deadly or costly.