01 Jul How to Respond and Plan Strategically This Hurricane Season
The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is underway. Thankfully, it’s been a relatively slow start compared to what we’ve experienced in recent years.
But we should all heed the words of Ben Friedman, acting head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And remember, the hurricane season doesn’t end until November.
“Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” Friedman said.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 60% chance of an above-normal season. That could mean a summer and fall that looks like this: 15-18 named storms, 7-9 hurricanes and 2-4 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).
Even a tropical storm can bring a tremendous amount of damage. Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Claudette dumped more than 10 inches of rain in three hours on Slidell, Louisiana, just east of New Orleans. Residents who are still recovering from Hurricane Zeta last year experienced some of the worst flooding in many years.
“I haven’t seen it like that since the 1995 floods,” Slidell Mayor Greg Cromer told NOLA.com.
Sadly, as the storm pushed into Alabama, 13 people were killed from storm-related accidents, including a multi-vehicle crash that left nine children dead. Eight of the children were part of a housing program for at-risk youth.
As we look toward the rest of the hurricane season, here are some important considerations to keep in mind:
Watch for signs of disaster fatigue: Many communities have been repeatedly pummeled by natural disasters over the last few years. In a single year, the Gulf coast endured multiple hurricanes, flood events, tornadoes and winter storms. Of course, this all happened against the backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic. Social distancing rules made it harder for social agencies and volunteers to help. Non-congregate sheltering in hotels created a lot of unforeseen issues around assessing needs, communication, and knowing where people were located. Many low-income families are coming into this season on fumes, exhausted and cash-strapped.
Keep reaching out to partners: Working on partnerships across sectors (nonprofit, public, private and community) in blue-sky times is essential to disaster recovery built upon resilient response principles. We know that communities that are organized in advance fared better than others that are less prepared. During a disaster, communication is critical to an effective response. But you don’t want to be trying to forge new relationships and navigate unfamiliar protocols while trying to respond to your community’s urgent needs. Ensure you have partners who can provide accurate and up-to-date needs from the disaster field.
Pre-position funds and supplies: If you are in a corporation or a philanthropic funder, identify nonprofit organizations and charities that you know will need help in the event of a disaster and communicate to them that you will have emergency funding available immediately. This allows them to plan ahead and respond faster when disaster does strike.
If you have an inventory of relief supplies, we encourage pre-positioning them in strategic locations or with partners who can store them. (Learn more about how Good360 is pre-positioning disaster relief with nonprofit partners.) Recognize that no single organization or agency can do it all – not even the federal government. Private funders should identify areas where their unique strengths or assets can really help in a time of need, whether those are products, warehouse space, shipping, skilled or unskilled volunteers, or funding.
Plan for the long-term: The vast majority of disaster response happens in the first weeks of a catastrophe. In fact, 80 percent of giving comes within the first six weeks (per Global Giving). But communities often take months or years to fully recover. Consider the full range of critical needs throughout the life cycle of a disaster. Provide immediate relief when necessary but also plan for the long haul by making funds and in-kind support available throughout the recovery process. (Read more about how Good360 approaches disaster recovery in six distinct stages, relative to product needs.)
Think beyond disaster-specific relief: Disaster relief doesn’t need to be limited to organizations that provide direct disaster aid. If you’re working in education, health, animal welfare or the arts, for example, times of disaster are prime opportunities to think creatively about applying your organization’s capabilities to help out. If you’re a corporation looking to help, think broadly about the nonprofits and charities you might want to work with in a disaster. It could be an organization helping to solve youth homelessness, an animal shelter or a group home for foster children — all could be partners in building resilient communities.
If you are interested in working with Good360 to think more strategically about your disaster recovery effort, please reach out to us here.