Hurricanes
September 22, 2017

This hurricane season has been quite active and historical with two Category 5 hurricanes in the same season. With over a decade passing without any activity of this degree, many organizations have allowed complacency to creep into their planning process. Below are some reminders and suggestions for organizations that are ‘dusting off’ their old plans or those creating ones. The purpose of planning is to establish an efficient means of providing continuity of operations during a hurricane or a severe storm causing generalized flooding or structural damage as part of the overall Business Continuity Plan.

Objectives of Your Plan

  • To provide an effective plan for continuing operations during storm conditions, which will likely leave the business without normal utility service and means of obtaining outside assistance
  • To outline each department’s responsibilities for storm preparation and continuing services during and after a storm
  • To provide a logical and flexible chain of command to allow the maximum use of resources during a hurricane
  • To minimize injury or illness to people, damage or loss of property and records
  • To provide maximum safety and protection for employees and visitors present during a hurricane

General Hurricane Preparations

All business owners and managers should develop basic hurricane awareness. You are responsible for protecting your facilities and employees.

Employee Preparation

  • Determine which members of your staff you will need to carry out hurricane preparations and whom you can reasonably expect to be available
  • Develop a simple written plan which incorporates a set of Hurricane Task Assignments for your staff
  • Receive solicited input from all of the various work centers at your facility
  • Outline the specific tasks which must be performed to protect your facility during a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, how they will be accomplished, and who will perform them
  • It is desirable to develop teams for various tasks – a team to board up, a team to secure exterior equipment, and so forth
  • Outline your hurricane response plan and task assignments at a training session

Facility Preparation

  • If your facility is in a storm surge inundation zone or appears to be unsafe for occupancy during high winds, you may have to evacuate it completely
  • Review your list of major equipment and furnishings to determine which items need to be protected or removed and record how you plan to do it
  • Protect your equipment and furnishings in-place or move them out of the area which is at risk
  • Identify outside equipment and furnishings which could be blown loose and may become deadly missiles in hurricane winds
  • Determine where they will be stored or how they will be secured in-place
  • Strongly anchor any portable storage buildings
  • Ensure rooftop equipment such as exhaust fans, wind turbines, and air conditioning units are securely fastened or strapped down to the roof deck
  • If the roof is a composition roof with a gravel covering, remove loose gravel to preclude damage to unprotected windows
  • Ensure that members of your staff know how to turn off the electrical power, water, gas, and other utility services within your building at the main switches
  • Obtain several battery-operated radios and spare batteries to ensure you can receive emergency information
  • It is desirable to have at least one radio on site which can receive National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio frequencies
  • Procure sufficient flashlights and other battery powered lights to allow essential work to be conducted in the event of power outage
  • Compile a disaster supply kit and have this ready for emergencies
  • If you do not have storm shutters, ensure you have the necessary tools to board up windows and brace doors
  • The first priority in protecting your facility will be to keep the wind out
  • Plywood (preferably 5/8 inch thick exterior type) to cover large windows and glass doors which can be blown in by hurricane force winds
  • Wind pressure and windblown debris can break windows and blow in doors
  • Have an ample supply of brooms, squeegees, mops, and absorbents to remove water
  • Ensure you have a small emergency generator, as the power may go out for an extended period before a hurricane comes ashore
  • An emergency generator can maintain lighting, recharge battery-powered equipment, and power pumps and tools which may be needed for expedient repairs after the hurricane passes
  • If possible, obtain plywood before hurricane season begins and precut it to size, mark each panel to identify where it goes, and store it until needed

During a Hurricane

  • Use interior rooms and corridors
  • In multi-story buildings, shelter people on the lower floors and avoid corner rooms
  • Avoid areas near exterior windows and glass doors
  • Periodically conduct an internal check of the buildings
  • Ensure that those being sheltered remain indoors during the hurricane

After a Hurricane

  • If you evacuated your facility, you might have difficulty returning quickly
  • Access to storm-damaged areas may be limited by local law enforcement personnel
  • Initially, entry to storm-damaged areas may be restricted to search and rescue personnel, law enforcement, firefighters, utility crews, and road clearing teams
  • Look for obvious structural damage to your building and its foundations
  • Check for downed or dangling electrical power lines and broken sewer or water pipes on your property

Conclusion

  • Contact your local emergency management office to learn about evacuation routes and emergency plans
  • Get additional information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (www.fema.gov), Ready Campaign (www.Ready.gov), Citizen’s Corps (citizencorps.gov), American Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov)
  • Inquire about emergency plans and procedures at your child’s school and your workplace
  • Make a disaster plan that includes employees, guests, contacts and locations to reunite if you become separated
  • Assemble a disaster supply kit
  • Gather important documents

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