Hurricane Irma is now a one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic. A storm this powerful bears careful watch and planning now for its impacts. With the ongoing uncertainty of the path and impact area in the United States, it is important for organizations along the Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina coastlines to start implementing their hurricane plans immediately. Following are ten tips to consider in your preparations:
- Make hotel reservations now. Hotels are already booked with reservations for this weekend and next week, as residents and businesses from several states are planning for a potential evacuation. Know your destination, your route, and your accommodation reservations. Don’t wait any longer; make your reservations now and encourage your staff to do the same.
- Identify your evacuation zone and route. Evacuation orders could be issued several days before potential impacts from the hurricane. Use the following information to identify your evacuation zone and route. Once the evacuation order is given, you may no longer have a choice of your evacuation route, so evacuate early if you want to be sure that you can travel the route of your choice.
- Develop a Communications Plan. Talk to your staff about their plans now and make sure you know where they plan to go and how you can stay in touch with them. Develop a regular daily schedule for briefings or updates to your staff, customers, and other stakeholders. Identify conference call lines, email distribution lists, alternate methods of communication if needed.
- Identify critical items for evacuation. Make sure each staff member develops a short list of critical items that are essential to performing their job. Then develop a packing list so everyone knows what they are taking with them during an evacuation to perform their job remotely.
- Follow local emergency information. In South Carolina, our state and county emergency management use Operating Conditions, or OPCONs, to identify the current status of their emergency operations. OPCON 5 is normal (good), and OPCON 1 is full operations (bad). For a hurricane in South Carolina, OPCON 1 generally means that an evacuation order has been issued by our Governor. You can follow OPCON and other emergency announcements on Twitter from these agencies (also sign up for emergency alerts at website listed in parentheses where available):
- Confirm re-entry process. Once an evacuation order is issued, a separate process known as re-entry is implemented in phases to return residents, workers, etc. back into the evacuated area. This process varies by jurisdiction, so check with your local government on their exact process for credentials and procedures. Following are some local links:
- Ensure technology availability. Make sure your IT systems, including computers, software, data, communications, internet, etc. are all prepared for an extended evacuation. Verify that your staff knows how to access these systems and use them productively while remote for an extended time. Work with your IT partners and vendors to make sure these systems are resilient and ready with a back-up plan if needed.
- Confirm insurance claim process. Make sure you know the process to follow if an insurance claim is required. Get all the proper documentation in order now so it is ready when needed, including policy information, contact numbers, video and photographic documentation, asset lists and values, financial information, etc.
- Prepare your home and family. Don’t forget that all disasters are personal, and you need to personally prepare yourself, your home, and your family. This includes boarding up windows and protecting garage doors, gathering important insurance documents, taking video of your home and contents, filling prescriptions, making hotel reservations for family members and pets, getting emergency supplies ready, etc.
- Prepare for the worst. This isn’t hype or fear mongering, but emergency and disaster plans need to be based on the worst case scenario so that you aren’t caught by surprise when things head south quickly. So prepare for the worst in this storm, including a direct landfall near your location, extended and prolonged evacuation, utility disruptions, personal impacts to your home and family, etc.
Overwhelmed, stressed, or confused? We’re here to help. Contact us for assistance before or after the storm. We will all get through this together.
Start Planning Now for a Better Recovery
Hurricane Season is upon us, and the predictions and forecasts are generating many of the same questions in recent years:
Will we see El Niño this year, which may inhibit hurricane activity in the Atlantic?
How warm will the tropics be this year, and what will that mean for hurricane intensity?
These and many other hurricane questions are often difficult to answer accurately and confidently, even by the experts. However there is one question with a simple and certain answer.
When should you start planning for Hurricane Season? Now.
Hurricane Season begins June 1 and runs through November 30.
Although most of the powerful hurricanes generally occur between August and October, we have seen tropical systems appear earlier and sometimes even before the official June 1 start of the season. The reality is that we never know when and where these systems will form, so best practice is to have your organization’s plan ready to go by June 1.
When you consider the difficultly in completing this type of planning during the summer months with vacation schedules and other competing priorities, the best time for most organizations to complete their hurricane planning is in May or June.
We have reviewed many hurricane plans from a variety of organizations, businesses, and municipalities over the years, and have seen first-hand where most of these plans fall short. Following are three of the most common issues we see in hurricane plans that could lead to a poor or lengthy recovery from the next storm.
Does your Hurricane Plan suffer from any of the following issues?
1) Detailed preparation but vague recovery
Most hurricane plans we review fall into this trap. The plan may have 20 pages of detail covering the actions to be performed leading up to the hurricane, but only one or two pages of actions after the hurricane. The preparatory steps are important, but the recovery steps are even more important. The purpose of your plan should be a quick and effective recovery, so don’t skimp on this section of your plan.
2) Assumption of immediate return
Many hurricane plans assume that everyone will be able to return to their office, business, and homes very soon after the hurricane passes. Unfortunately, the failure to plan for lengthy evacuations can lead to disastrous results, and these stories have been told repeatedly after Katrina and Sandy. Make sure your plan anticipates the need to establish temporary office and housing inland for extended periods of time.
3) Limited or no alternate communications
Most of the plans we review do not have adequate redundancy for communication systems. After life safety, communications is the top priority for any organization following a hurricane or any other disaster. It is an all too common, but faulty assumption that standard landline, cellular, or internet access will be available following a significant regional disaster like a hurricane. Plans must account for the need for alternate communications to your employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders.
We will cover additional hurricane planning tips in future articles. Please share your questions about your hurricane plan so we can address those as well.
Now is the time to start, review, or update your Hurricane Plan. Start by taking our Readiness Assessment to benchmark your organizational readiness for hurricanes and other disasters. Then contact us for a complementary review or your Hurricane Plan by one of our certified experts.
As Hurricane Matthew pushes out to sea, it is time for businesses and organizations to start preparing for recovery after the storm. If you evacuated it is important that you await word from public officials (State, County, and/or Municipal) regarding re-entry. Even if you have pre-registered for early re-entry with a County and/or Municipality, you must await authorization for re-entry. While it can be frustrating awaiting approval to return, there are a number of important considerations and issues to consider in the meantime. Now is the time to carefully consider your recovery plans for each of the following issues:
- Damage Assessment Teams – Who is included on this team and what do they need to do upon return? Do they have proper re-entry credentials? What will they need to bring with them to be self-sufficient upon return? Where will they stay/sleep? How will they communicate if power, internet, voice lines are down?
- Communications – What messages needs to be communicated to your staff, customers, and other stakeholders? Develop a rhythm/schedule of proactive communications.
- Finance/Insurance – Contact your agent(s) now to verify the procedure for submitting a claim if necessary. What documentation will you need? What is the procedure? How long could it take to see the first check? Develop a procedure to document daily the actions and decisions you make throughout the recovery phase.
- Staffing – Consider the staff impacts on your operations when they are allowed to return. Once your staff can check on the damage to their homes, they will have a long list of personal priorities and issues that could impact their availability to work. Develop a plan for staffing back-ups and/or alternating shifts to allow staff to balance work/personal priorities.
- Technology – Confirm plans to remain connected if power, internet, and phones are not working when you return. You may need to keep key staff in an inland area where they can work until these utilities are restored.
Additionally, be wary of all sorts of scams, including the phishing scam that the South Carolina Governor described this morning in her press conference (i.e., fake emails offering power outage information). There are likely to be many types of scams in the days ahead, including email, internet, and in person. Verify the authenticity of all inbound communications and offers to help. Don’t click on anything out of curiosity – think before you click. Our friends at PhishLabs are investigating the source of these email scams from the hurricane. Click here for more info on how to report suspicious emails.
Twitter remains an excellent source of information, especially if you follow trusted accounts from government authorities, public utilities, etc. Be on guard for false rumors and inaccurate information in the days ahead.
Recovery is the critical phase of this storm and it will require your focus on the important priorities for your organization. The time and effort you spend now to plan for an effective recovery will pay off in the days and weeks ahead.
Please contact us if you need any help. We stand ready to assist you.