30 May How Companies Can Prepare for the 2019 Hurricane Season
As the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season looms, the good news is that climate experts predict a “near-normal” number of storms to develop this year. The bad news is that this is merely a prediction and, even if it’s accurate, that still means we can expect up to 15 named storms.
“So even though we are expecting a near-normal season, regardless, that’s a lot of activity,” said Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane season forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), speaking to the Miami Herald.
According to Bell and other NOAA forecasters, the season that begins June 1 and runs through November 30 could see nine to 15 named storms with sustained winds of at least 39 mph. Of these, 4-8 could strengthen into hurricanes of 74 mph or greater, and 2-4 of these storms could turn into a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm.
Meanwhile, meteorologists at Colorado State University issued their own, slightly less severe forecast, predicting 13 named storms. Five of those could turn into full-blown hurricanes.
In 2018, experts predicted 15 named storms and eight hurricanes in 2018. Unfortunately for millions of residents, two of those weather events included Hurricanes Florence and Michael, which brought billions of dollars in damage.
The severe storms of 2018 — not to mention the historic hurricanes of 2017 — are a sobering reminder that every business in the Atlantic region should head into the season prepared to face devastating levels of chaos and destruction.
When thinking about facing a large-scale disaster, companies should have a plan to protect their internal assets and a plan for external disaster response.
In the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster, businesses need to think ahead to protect their people, their assets, and their location(s). Of course, each company will have a unique combination of personnel and assets that could be in harm’s way, but here are some factors to consider:
- Where is each employee located? Not just what office they’re based in, but in real-time accounting for travel and where they live.
- Do you have a system for communicating with employees en masse and individually?
- Do you have a decision tree to determine who should be in charge and deciding what gets done when?
- Do you have emergency response teams organized with clear roles and responsibilities?
- Where are your mission-critical business assets located and what kind of risks do they face? Can these assets be replicated in less vulnerable locations or stored in the digital cloud? Is your data backed up?
- Is there an evacuation plan for every facility and are emergency supplies stored and ready to use? Does every employee know the emergency plan and are they trained to respond accordingly?
Along with considering what needs to be done before, during and in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, companies also need to think about the long-term recovery needs of their employees and business. For example, employees with destroyed or heavily damaged homes may need assistance for many months. Displaced workers may not be able to return to work for some time. Families may need long-term childcare. Your office may be uninhabitable for a sustained period.
All of these factors should be considered in a comprehensive emergency response plan. Ready.gov has put together a handy emergency preparedness guide. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy also has a number of excellent resources.
As we have advocated in our Resilient Response campaign, companies set themselves up for success — and can often make a bigger impact — when they take a proactive rather than a reactive approach to disaster response.
This means having a plan in place for why, when, where and how you will aid a community impacted by disaster, which allows you to be more thoughtful and strategic about applying your resources to help out. Consider your unique strengths as a company and how you might be able to leverage these assets in a disaster.
For example, Ecolab, one of our key corporate partners, focuses its disaster response in areas where its employees live and work, and where it has business operations. The worldwide provider of water, hygiene and energy technologies has products that are especially useful after a disaster hits.
“We work closely with nonprofit partners, like Good360, year-round to donate our product when it comes available so that when a disaster does strike, our products are available when those communities get to the clean-up phase post-disaster,” said Kris Taylor, Ecolab’s vice president of community relations.
Think about how you can donate in-kind products or the skills and time of your personnel. Just as important, have a protocol in place for how you will engage both employees and customers post-disaster — because they will inevitably expect the company to respond in some way, especially if the disaster gets wide media coverage. Consider your donation strategy, including how you will collect and distribute cash, and what your plan will be to address well-meaning requests to undertake drives for products that are neither needed nor solicited (Read: Avoiding the Second Disaster: How Not to Donate During a Crisis). Also think about the nonprofit partners and agencies you would like to work with, and establish those relationships before a disaster strikes.
As we outlined in the Resilient Response pledge, consider these key factors as you develop your strategy:
- Proactive: Have plans in place before disaster strikes so you can respond effectively
- Needs-based: Find out what a community needs as the key driver of your support, collaborating and learning from others who are also responding
- Immediate & Long-term: Address immediate and long-term needs, staying in communities well after the cameras leave
- Resilience-focused: Leave communities stronger than before disaster struck, helping them to better withstand future disasters
- Transparent: Be transparent about your actions and hold yourself accountable to deliver on promises
- Educational: Educate your associates, colleagues, consumers and the public on how they can better respond to disasters
A large-scale natural disaster such as a hurricane requires plenty of upfront planning and preparedness to make sure you safeguard your employees, your assets and your infrastructure, as well as respond thoughtfully to aid your community.
If your company needs help developing its disaster response strategy and would like to partner with Good360 to distribute product donations, please get in touch with Jim Alvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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