Living in Florida leaves no doubt as to how important storm preparation is to the well-being of our communities. Developing a plan that encompasses all facets of the “before, during and after” elements of a storm is essential.
Several city managers were interviewed following Hurricane Harvey in the greater Houston area. Here are 10 insights and lessons learned from their experience:
- Expect the unexpected: The hurricane you are expecting could stall and create an unprecedented flood event. Have a diverse team with members who may see things differently.
- Communicate aggressively: Use all communication tools. The information must flow quickly.
- Prepare early: Activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) early and maintain close situational awareness.
- Activate staff needed: During the event, staff may need to remain in place for 24 to 72 hours, prepare for that.
- Check resilience of water/sewer systems.
- Pre-position assets.
- Pre-plan shelters: Locate shelters in areas not subject to flooding and on transportation routes that should be accessible.
- Be FEMA ready.
- Begin recovery immediately: Have a designated team to focus on recovery plans and priorities.
- Be safe: Take care of everyone. Work reasonable shifts and do not push yourself or others to the point of ineffectiveness that could endanger others.
Establish a safety committee
That is a lot to do! In a previous newsletter we addressed safety committees and how valuable they can be to your overall safety efforts. Safety committees can be of ideal assistance in storm preparation. The committee can assist procedurally and provide updates with:
- Risk assessment: Every entity has different vulnerabilities and weaknesses. People should always be your first consideration. Additionally evaluating exposure to physical assets and how to return operations in the quickest time possible is particularly important as well.
- Develop or review existing plans: Address immediate priorities including escape routes, first aid and shelters. Ensure emergency equipment staging and reliability. Focus on recovery and be able to operate during the event. Determine individual roles and responsibilities.
- Provide training: Set a practice drill to execute the plan together to ensure readiness.
- Communicate: In the event of a hurricane, organizations need to quickly identify the right audience for messaging. Send hurricane communications to appropriate people or groups, including remote and lone workers, based on their proximity to the affected areas.
Preparing for and dealing with the effects of a storm poses many challenges for Florida public entities. Prioritize how best to protect people and assets. Assess and use all resources at your disposal. Safety committees are a great place to discuss and evaluate storm preparedness. If you do not have a safety committee, form a Disaster Preparedness Committee specifically to address all that is necessary.
As a member of Preferred, you have access to many resources that can help you to better prepare for a storm and its aftermath, like our 2023 Preparedness Guide. Download it here: FREE 2023 Preferred Preparedness Guide. For more information on what is available to you, always free, please contact your Preferred Loss Control Consultant.