A Flood of Responsibilities: Hurricane Preparedness in the Age of COVID-19

Sean Shtofman, Security Specialist, Philadelphia

2020 has been a year of exponential increases in risk, with people and organisations contending with wildfires, protests and a global pandemic, as well as other security challenges worldwide. As a Security Specialist in one of our regional security centres, a significant part of my role is to monitor these changes in risk and security dynamics, issue alerts cautioning their impacts and prepare for potential outcomes. For the Americas, one key issue now and in the months ahead is the possible impact of hurricanes and tropical storms. 

 

HURRICANE SEASON

The US National Weather Service, the National Hurricane Center, and many other weather and emergency aid organisations have made it extremely clear; this year will be an extremely active hurricane season, especially in the Atlantic. Hurricane season typically begins in June and may last until the end of November. According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the number of predicted hurricanes has increased by almost 25% in just three months from May to August’s outlook for the season. This sudden increase may be an early warning of the destructive and high-risk nature to come in the future. Prepping for a Hurricane Reduces Risk.

 


My colleagues and I have participated in the planning for our fair share of hurricanes and, we all come to the same conclusion prior to every storm. “How do we minimise the risk of the weather system on our clients?” Here is a list of some essential tips to keep in mind prior to, during, and after natural disasters. 

 

Before/Prep

  1. MAKE A PLAN: I cannot stress enough how having a plan reduces your risk for disaster. This plan should include where to go, what to have, and what to do. One should keep in mind that restrictions, such as following social distancing, linked to the ongoing pandemic may result in limited availability of space in usually viable “standfast” options such as hotels or storm shelters. Identify a safe location at higher elevation or a residence or facility with multiple floors at least 12 feet above sea level.
  2. Purchase needed groceries (non-perishable foods are practical) and emergency supplies (water, canned goods, first aid kit, and other essentials).
  3. Ensure that there are enough flashlights, batteries, candles, and that all your electronics are fully charged and available for an emergency. Consider securing a hotspot device or functionality of your cellphone to ensure internet connectivity.
  4. Ensure that all your personal and important documents are in a safe place and easily accessible.

 

During

  1. Follow guidelines and warnings from local authorities.
  2. Avoid windows or vulnerable areas of the house that can cause extreme damage to people near it. 
  3. If you are caught driving during a hurricane, try to get to higher ground and remember to never attempt to cross flooded roads. 
  4. In case of an emergency, contact your local authorities or International SOS.

 

After

  1. Account for all persons and their health in relation to when the disaster began.
  2. Do not try to walk or drive through flooded or damaged areas. Downed power lines and branches could still be unstable and cause harm.
  3. In severely affected areas, do not drink the tap water until authorities say it is safe. Wells and water treatment plants may become damaged during storms. 

 

THE AGE OF TECHNOLOGY

The world is changing, and advances in technology keep us connected and informed. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, The National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and International SOS provide timely information and/or emergency notifications to the general public and their members. We can also help train your workforce to be resilient using our natural disaster digital learning courses. Click here to watch a preview.

 

 

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