My State:
Bookmark and Share
May 28, 2014
It's National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Do you have a plan?
By Emily Scace, Senior Editor, Safety

May 25 through May 31, 2014, is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Organized by the National Weather Service, the observance seeks to raise awareness of the hazards of hurricanes and the steps people should take to protect their homes and businesses. Keep reading for essential information on hurricane hazards and tips to prepare your business and protect your workers.

Each day of the week focuses on a theme, and each theme has a corresponding YouTube public service announcement (PSA) to raise awareness of the associated issues. The seven themes are as follows:

  • Day 1 (May 25): Overview of a hurricane
  • Day 2 (May 26): Storm surge
  • Day 3 (May 27): Wind
  • Day 4 (May 28): Inland flooding
  • Day 5 (May 29): The forecast process
  • Day 6 (May 30): Get a plan
  • Day 7 (May 31): Taking action

Hurricane hazards

In the PSA for Day 1, National Hurricane Center (NHC) Hurricane Specialist Unit Branch Chief James Franklin reminds viewers that any coastal region can be vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. Although the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) publishes an annual hurricane outlook forecast, it only takes one storm to cause significant damage. In other words, a low hurricane activity forecast doesn’t mean businesses located in hurricane-prone areas shouldn’t take steps to make sure they’re prepared for the following hazards:

  • Storm surge. Storm surge is a rise in the sea level produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds within a storm. According to NHC Warning Coordination Meteorologist Daniel Brown, storm surge is the deadliest hazard associated with hurricanes. Storm surge is not strictly a coastal event; in some cases, seawater can travel well inland. Storm surge is strongly influenced by a hurricane’s track, forward motion, intensity, and size, so businesses that may be vulnerable should closely monitor weather forecasts as a storm approaches to assess the risk and take necessary precautions.
  • Wind. For many, wind is the hurricane hazard that most often comes to mind, and with good reason: hurricane-force winds range from 74 to over 180 miles per hour (mph), with the potential for major structural damage to buildings, fallen trees and power lines, and more. Hurricanes and tropical storms can also produce tornadoes, adding to the hazard. Hurricanes are assigned a rating on a 1–5 scale based on their strongest winds. Each category is associated with potential impacts and damage, ranging from Category 1 (some damage) to Category 5 (catastrophic damage). Tropical storm winds are weaker, ranging from 39–73 mph, but can still be hazardous, and businesses located in a tropical storm’s path should take steps to prepare for power outages and other hazards.
  • Inland flooding. According to John Cangialosi, NHC Hurricane Specialist, a quarter of hurricane fatalities during the past 50 years were a direct result of inland flooding. Inland flooding can threaten communities located hundreds of miles from the coast, and the intense rainfall that produces inland flooding is not directly related to wind speed. In fact, some of the worst flooding events result from weaker storms that drift slowly or stall over an area.

Business planning essentials

June 1 marks the start of the hurricane season, so if your business is located in a hurricane-prone area, it’s a good time to review your emergency action plan. Make sure you’re familiar with the hazards of hurricanes and your facility’s vulnerability to storm damage from flooding, wind, and storm surge, in addition to any specific hazards at your facility that could be triggered by a powerful storm (e.g., chemical releases, fire hazards).

It’s also important to prepare for the possibility of an evacuation order. If you and your employees must evacuate the area, how will you safely secure your facility and shut down operations? Who will be responsible for performing critical tasks prior to evacuation? And if an evacuation order is issued on a weekend or when your facility is closed, how will you communicate the plan to your workers?

Hurricane evacuation often differs from evacuation for other types of emergencies, such as explosions and fires, because of the length of time during which evacuation may be necessary and the area affected. While planning for a fire or other immediate emergency requires removing workers from a facility quickly and safely, in a hurricane, you and your workers may need to spend several days at a considerable distance away from your business.

Finally, in some cases, sheltering in place may be the safest course of action. To prepare for this possibility, make sure you have a disaster supply kit ready containing nonperishable food, bottled water, battery-powered radios, batteries, first-aid supplies, flashlights, and other essentials your workers may need if they shelter at your facility.

Whether your employees evacuate or shelter in place, managing the transition after a storm is crucial. Protect workers by instructing them to remain in a safe place until after the storm and not to attempt travel until conditions are safe. Downed power lines, fallen trees, and damaged roadways may pose a hazard for some time after a storm leaves an area, so make sure to account for these conditions before asking workers to travel.

For more information on hurricane preparedness and planning, visit BLR’s newly redesigned Disaster Planning and Response resource center.

RELATED CONTENT
Is your emergency action plan workable? 11 tips for safe storm cleanup
Are you ready for an emergency?
OSHA emphasizes safety in Colorado flood cleanup
Twitter  Facebook  Linked In
Follow Us
Copyright © 2021 Business & Legal Resources. All rights reserved. 800-727-5257
This document was published on https://Safety.BLR.com
Document URL: https://safety.blr.com/workplace-safety-news/emergency-planning-and-response/emergency-preparedness/Its-National-Hurricane-Preparedness-Week.-Do-you-h/