Snoopy Grounded?

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For 87 years, millions of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade enthusiasts flock to the heart of Manhattan to watch one of the holiday’s best kept traditions. This past Thanksgiving did not disappoint, with live dance performances, Broadway musical numbers, floats, celebrities and of course, Santa. However, one tradition that might have been snuffed was seeing our favorite, lovable cartoon characters take flight, including the likes of Snoopy, Garfield and SpongeBob.

Parade floats by John Minchillo of AP

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon handlers prepare to start marching. (Photo Credit: John Minchillo / AP)

What is a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade without seeing gravity-defying balloons float above the heads of thousands of squealing children? We almost found out. Due to high winds, a few snow storms and a strong cold front that grounded planes in much of the Northeast, parade executives were hesitant to send these parade stars aloft. According to parade officials, for the balloons to participate, no section of the route should have winds in excess of 23 mph, or gusts exceeding 34 mph. This is due in large part to safety concerns for parade-goers.

In 1997, 43 mph winds blew the Cat in the Hat balloon into a lamppost, causing many injuries, including a woman who was in a coma for nearly a month. The problem arises when the balloons turn corners or cross through intersections between towering skyscrapers, where an updraft can catch a balloon and its handlers off guard.

Santa Claus at Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Image Credit by Tweber1

Santa Clause greets Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade onlookers. (Photo Credit: Tweber1)

This year, New York City Police Officers monitored the winds using gauges along the route, and the balloons ended up taking flight just minutes before the start of the parade. Parade enthusiasts were not disappointed, but the irony of the weather watching “technology” employed by New York’s finest cannot be ignored. Having police officers monitor the weather is akin to meteorologists handing out speeding tickets. High winds and gusts can be tricky to monitor with a wind gauge, especially if the people operating them are not well-versed in meteorology.

Macy’s could have alleviated the stress and tension of this last minute decision had they incorporated a site-specific weather alerting service into their parade plans. Since all of ImpactWeather’s services are designed for each client’s needs, Macy’s could have benefitted from high wind and gust alerts from a team of highly-trained meteorologists who can monitor the winds from state-of-the-art technology located in our 24/7 operations department.

Not only can these meteorologists be available by phone or email to the on-site officials, but they can monitor winds down to the latitude and longitude of the parade route. With these types of services, parade officials could have made their decision hours in advance, and focused on more pressing issues, like where they should stand to catch a glimpse of Santa.

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When Mother Nature shows no mercy

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Typhoon Haiyan. A name now synonymous in history books with the Great Bhola Cyclone, Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy. The Category 5 storm set the world record for the most powerful typhoon or hurricane ever to make landfall with wind speeds of 195 mph, and was more than 300 miles wide. This super typhoon, as many are calling it, slammed into the Philippines early Friday morning leaving a path of death and destruction that the country hadn’t seen since the Great Tsunami of 2004, which killed approximately 150,000 people in 11 countries.

2004 Tsunami aftermath

Aftermath of the Great Tsunami of 2004 that ravaged 11 countries.

Even though President Benigno Aquino III and the Philippines government prepared for the super typhoon by moving 800,000 citizens out of the storm’s path to evacuation centers, the death toll is still estimated to climb to 10,000 people. Why were so many lives lost? Unfortunately, there are many reasons why the Philippines will take not just weeks to recover, but months and possibly years.

The Philippines is considered a developing country even though it’s ranked 40th in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). The country suffers from an unbelievably high poverty and unemployment rate, which could potentially get worse as recovery efforts continue to reveal more losses for their already struggling economy.

During the storm, buildings, homes and businesses were flattened. While many factors produced this effect, in most developing countries building codes are either not enforced or nonexistent. Storms like Haiyan, with winds of nearly 200 mph, can demolish structures of all shapes and sizes if they are not reinforced.

Storm surge can have even more damaging effects than wind. Super Typhoon Haiyan had storm surges as high as 20 feet in some areas, which many officials in the country had not anticipated. According to the Washington Post, citizens of Tacloban, the hardest hit community, said that they were ready for the wind, but not the water.

FEMA recovery signage

Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, FEMA and other government-run agencies banded together to support citizens and the recovery efforts.

Could a storm as powerful as Super Typhoon Haiyan cause the same amount of damage if it landed on U.S. soil? We hope not. Developed countries, like the United States, are more likely to bounce back following a mega storm similar to Haiyan, but that doesn’t mean businesses and citizens alike are free from preparing for even the smallest of tropical storms.

Today, the U.S. is prepared to handle both preparation for and recovery from a major storm. Better forecasting is available, which provides people with more time to evacuate. Founded in 1979, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) exists to aid with recovery efforts, while it and other government agencies offers extensive emergency preparedness education to businesses and citizens. Building codes across the country are also designed to withstand very high winds and flooding, depending on the weather history of the region in question. We may not be 100 percent prepared 100 percent of the time, but through our country’s diligence, we may be able to save more lives.

If you would like to help with the recovery efforts in the Philippines, the American Red Cross is accepting donations online.

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One Year Later: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Superstorm Sandy

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Sign from Superstorm Sandy - We will be back and better than ever.

This sign captures the attitude of many citizens in New England following Superstorm Sandy.

This time last year, millions of people along the East Coast were recovering from the destructive effects of one of the costliest storms in United States history – “Superstorm” Sandy. Considered the deadliest storm of the 2012 hurricane season, Sandy showed our country and economy just how susceptible we were to flooding, power outages and holes in our emergency response systems. Whether locals suffered from the “alert fatigue” of 2011’s Hurricane Irene or had the “it won’t happen to me” mentality, Sandy provided a rude awakening to even the most prepared of businesses. While we did learn quite a bit about our resiliency to these mega storms, businesses still have much to do to prepare for the next Sandy or Katrina.

The Good:  The old saying rings true following Superstorm Sandy – hindsight is 20/20. Many cities, including New York are more prepared today than they were one year ago. From the subway systems to redrawn flood maps and better meals for evacuees, New York City is elevating its emergency response and is more prepared for the next big storm.

The Bad:  Two major areas that revealed troubling weaknesses in the wake of Sandy were utility providers and hospitals. As we mentioned in a previous blog entry, millions of people and businesses were without power for weeks following Sandy. However, utility providers still believe the cost of reinforcing power lines is more expensive than the cost of recovery. This terrifying reality doesn’t take into effect how businesses, the community and economy could suffer from these power outages, which may in turn delay recovery efforts.

Hospitals, such as Bellevue and NYU Langone Medical Center, were forced to evacuate during Sandy, moving all patients, even those who were deemed critical. It was hardly the ideal situation for any hospital, but the storm revealed major weaknesses in those hospitals’ emergency response plans. Since then, many New York area hospitals have moved generators and electrical switchboards from the basements to higher floors.

Lower Manhattan is left in the dark following Superstorm Sandy.

Lower Manhattan suffered tremendous power outages following Superstorm Sandy.

The Ugly:  Regardless of what side of the fence you occupy in the climate change debate, sea levels are rising.  According to a recent report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, sea levels are expected to rise more than three feet by 2100. Major metropolitan cities like Houston, Miami and New York City have buildings that predate the understanding of climate change. Adapting to these changes is on the horizon, but can be quite costly to implement.

The current presidential administration recently assembled a task force on climate change to prepare governments from the federal to the local levels, while New York City invested $648 million in its Build it Back program, providing aid to those homeowners who prefer to move away from the coastline rather than rebuild. New York City’s (former) Mayor Bloomberg even proposed a $20 billion plan to fortify the city against storm surge and flooding with levees, flood walls and bulkheads.

The challenge faced by many coastal governments is balancing the cost of preparing for the next major storm with the popularity of living near the water. As major metropolitan areas attract homeowners, they also attract businesses, which are even more susceptible to these storms if they do not have an emergency response plan. A significant and detrimental impact on businesses is storm surge, which can cause just as much damage, if not more, than high winds and heavy rain. If your business plans to stay located near a port, coastline or river and flooding isn’t already a part of your emergency response plan, it should be.

What we learned: Prepare, prepare, prepare. History has a way of repeating itself, but if there is one thing we can all take away from Superstorm Sandy, it is how to avoid the mistakes made by others, and fortify your business, government or local community before the next billion dollar storm rumbles in.

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Jack Frost Could Be Halloween’s New Villain

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Haunted House and Pumpkin for HalloweenHalloween in America is a time to share our scariest, nail-biting tales or celebrate our favorite villains, such as the headless horseman, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and “Jason”.

A new villain may also be among us this Halloween. He blows into town uninvited, freezing pipes, disrupting supply chains and wreaking havoc on everyone’s immune systems. He may be known by many names, but none as recognizable as Jack Frost. Just like a typical Halloween bad guy, Jack surprised us with his early arrival across much of the United States last week, but will he continue to lurk around every corner through the rest of the winter season?

Winter Weather Forecast for Oct. 30 - Nov. 5

ImpactWeather’s Fred Schmude shares his forecast for the upcoming week.

According to ImpactWeather’s long-range forecast expert, Fred Schmude, these early cold temperatures will linger for a while. During our recent winter outlook webinar, Fred stated that a large section of the United States, from the Rockies to the East Coast, will experience below normal temperatures with wetter weather forecasted for much of the Southeast. This translates into a higher than normal risk for wintry weather in the South, higher than normal snowfall and freezing rain from the Midwest to New England, and extreme cold warnings for much of Canada and the Northern United States.

Jack Frost may not wield a machete, wear a mask or hide under the bed, but his menacing ways can cause unnecessary downtime for your business if you’re not prepared. Icy roads, freezing rain and extreme snowfall result in power outages, employee absence, transportation delays, travel cancellations and more.

There is a way, however, to combat Jack Frost’s tyranny with a well-thought-out winter weather response plan. Below are a couple of simple steps you can utilize this season:

  • Develop and/or update your emergency response plan – Ensure that your severe weather response plan includes steps to be taken during such weather conditions as blizzards, snowfall and ice. Will two inches of icy rain affect your business or will it take 20 inches of snow before you shut down operations? Knowing the answer to these questions ahead of time will improve your response to severe weather.
  • Utilize a mass notification tool – Blizzards and ice may make it hard for employees to safely travel to work. In the event of a severe snow storm, stay connected with your employees by sending updates, travel advisories and more through an established mass notification tool.
  • Establish a telecommute policy – If icy roads keep your employees from traveling to work, telecommuting is a safe alternative to encourage continuous work flow.  Traffic Jam in Winter
  • Winterize your supply chain – Nothing is more susceptible to the winter weather than pipes, chemicals and vehicles. Maintaining a list of contractors and parts suppliers for your facility will mitigate downtime associated with freezing weather. Prior to the first freeze, your business should also inspect and test power sources such as generators and heating systems.
  • Remind personnel to use any portable heaters safely – Even though many buildings ban portable heaters, we all know that one employee who gets a chill when the temperature drops below 80 degrees. Improperly stored heaters are a fire hazard. Make sure your employees are aware of the risks.
  • Provide moisture absorbent mats at building entrances – This will reduce injuries from employees slipping and falling on slick surfaces.

Even though the first day of winter doesn’t technically arrive until Dec. 21, many states have already seen a glimpse of what’s to come this season with snowfall in the Rockies and bitter temperatures across New England. It’s not too late, though, to combat the holiday blues by preparing your business today for Jack and his arsenal of winter weather woes.

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Storms at sea – rising waves and worries for offshore operators

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After churning in the Gulf of Mexico last week, Tropical Storm Karen dissipated into the quiet of the night without so much as a blip on the radar screen in her final hours. Even before this storm created any kind of disturbance, many offshore operators, including several ImpactWeather clients, were paying close attention to weather reports and started to evacuate non-essential personnel.

Now, as companies like BP, Marathon and Chevron work to restore their platforms to full operation status, many wonder if it was worth halting nearly two-thirds of oil output in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to remove personnel from a threat that eventually did not materialize to full force. Based on our study of how severe weather affects an offshore oil operation, those questioning the decisions of the oil operators might reconsider.

Rescue boat near offshore oil rigIt’s the mother of worst-case-scenarios: a “pop-up” hurricane that develops in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, without warning or lead time, affecting rigs thousands of miles from the nearest shore line. These weather events can result in oil rigs being beaten and bent by heavy winds, piercing rain pelting their structure, and lightning rivaled by what Hollywood producers create for movies like The Perfect Storm. When a disturbance starts churning ever so slowly into a mega storm, the ImpactWeather operations department pays attention intensively because it can take anywhere from a few days to a full week for clients to evacuate rigs. Logistics for evacuations are so multi-faceted, that waiting until the final hours is never an option.

So, what happens to an offshore rig when a 157 mph hurricane comes barreling toward it? First, we must look at the three different types of drilling equipment that oil operators’ use, including shallow water elevated rigs, deepwater floating platforms and drill ships. The shallow water jack-up rigs can operate in up to 200 feet of water, and are typically raised 50 feet above the ocean’s surface. The deepwater floating platforms are the mega rigs in the middle of the ocean with 12 to 16 giant cables connecting the platform to the sea floor. The third, and most vulnerable, is drill ships, which are often located in deep water and attached to the sea floor via “risers.”

Each of these structures is at the mercy of a hurricane’s high winds and deadly waves. High winds can damage a rig’s cranes, communications antennae and lighter pieces of equipment that are not secured to the platform. They can also knock drill ships off-site if they do not disconnect from a riser in time. A drill ship that becomes dislocated from its moorings can create some considerable damage to nearby pipes on the sea bed, or worse, cause an oil spill.

Waves, however, are what do the most damage to the oil operators’ locations both above the ocean’s surface and deep below. Large hurricanes can generate waves tall enough to reach the shallow water rigs. Hurricanes Ike, Katrina, Rita and Ivan produced waves up to 100 feet tall. Jack-up rigs hovering only 50 feet above sea level barely stand a chance against a force that mighty. Waves can capsize drill ships, bend a shallow water rig’s metal posts, or submerge a platform. They can also cause extensive damage to underwater pipelines by causing landslides that shift the sea floor.

Operators discuss evacuation on helicopter landing pad offshoreIn 2008, Hurricanes Ike and Gustav destroyed 60 platforms with 31 of them needing three to six months of repair time. Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ivan did similar damage, with Katrina and Rita causing even more of a headache with the destruction of 101 pipelines.

Now, imagine if people had to shelter in place on these rigs because they couldn’t evacuate in time – clearly not an ideal situation for any offshore operator. People are the number one reason for the implementation of these safety precautions. When the deadline arrived for the decision to evacuate or not, operators will choose the safest route and evacuate without question to keep employees out of harm’s way. As destructive as recent hurricanes have been to offshore operators, they have also provided a wealth of learning experiences that contribute to the continual improvement of safety protocols.

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The new definition of “emergency”: when hospitals are impacted by severe weather

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The quiet town of Estes Park faced historic flooding recently, and is working to attract tourists back.
Source: BigStockPhotos

Like a scene from a blockbuster horror movie or sci-fi thriller, the quiet town of Estes Park, Colorado, is facing the daunting reality of being cut off from the rest of the world with limited roadways available to and from the rural hamlet. Following the recent historic flooding in the state, a majority of the roads leading in and out of Estes Park were washed away, except for one, leaving this picturesque, tourist-filled town at the foot of Rocky Mountain National Park eerily more quiet than usual.

In the wake of this new reality, the Estes Park Medical Center, a small 25-bed hospital, is now dealing with the possibility of not being able to transfer critical patients to larger hospitals, or receive vital supplies to keep its facility operational. According to a recent NPR report, a normal commute to the closest critical care or trauma hospital was originally 60 minutes by ambulance. Now, it can take up to three or four hours depending on weather conditions and traffic. On top of that, many of the hospital’s personnel commute to work, which restricts the number of employees who are available to fill shifts or even have access to the hospital at all. With winter quickly approaching and the road restoration project not scheduled to be complete until December, the hospital is facing its worst nightmare: uncertainty in patient care, lack of supplies and hospital staff, longer waiting times and more extreme life or death situations.

Unfortunately, in small, rural communities like Estes Park, many hospital networks face this same dilemma. The situation is worsened by severe weather, such as flooding, blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes. Even though hospitals are fully-stocked with generators and adequate emergency response plans, weather is wildly unpredictable and can put additional stress on an already chaotic environment.

bigstock-Fall-at-Rocky-Mountain-Nationa-small

Tourists from across the country visit Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall to see the colorful foliage.
Source: BigStockPhoto

This worst-case-scenario faced presently by Estes Park Medical Center demonstrates just how vital accurate and timely weather forecasting is to the healthcare industry. If a medical director is alerted of a weather threat coming towards their facility, town or supply chain region, extra steps and precautions can be made to safeguard both patients and staff. Staffing schedules can be adjusted, emergency routes can be mapped, extra supplies can be ordered and patient care can be addressed without delay. These minor steps, when taken by a small or large hospital prior to a storm’s arrival, can drastically change the hospital’s outcome and recovery period following the storm.

Estes Park may take some time to fully recover, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. According to Denver ABC-affiliate 7 News, many local business owners are working hard to re-open their doors this fall, which is one of the busiest times of the year for the tourist town. The influx of visitors could potentially put more pressure on the state and local governments to speed up the process of restoring viable roads. If not, additional travelers could mean additional problems for the hospital. Only time will tell how quickly Estes Park will wake up from its nightmare.

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Mexico’s tourism is ready to say “No Más” to more tropical weather systems

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Mexico seems to be attracting more than just tourists this fall. Tropical storms, including Hurricane Manuel along the Pacific coast and Tropical Storm Ingrid from the Gulf of Mexico, stirred up trouble for the Mexican government, its citizens, and visitors over the last ten days. After these two systems served up a double whammy to Mexico within a one week time period, many citizens are now facing death, destruction and chaos, including those living or visiting the tourist hot spot of Acapulco located in the state of Guerrero.   

Tropical Storm Ingrid making landfall according to ImpactWeather.

One of many forecasts provided by ImpactWeather of Tropical Storm Ingrid’s path.

According to USA Today, this is Mexico’s worst weather crisis since 1958. With tourism accounting for the nation’s fifth largest source of revenue as mentioned by Bloomberg Businessweek, Mexico takes its economic sweet spot quite seriously. Between 40,000 and 60,000 tourists were evacuated out of Acapulco Alvarez International Airport by commercial flights and from Pie de la Cuesta Air Force Base by the Mexican government, following the storms’ rampage. Stranded tourists were offered complimentary rooms, and a special hotline to assist with travel plans was established by the Mexican Tourism Department.

While many international tourists are looking forward to holiday travel plans this November and December, could the effects of these tropical systems cause some to travel elsewhere? This recent weather disruption could put a damper on tourism the next couple of weeks while resorts are challenged with cleaning up the mess. The question now posed to the hospitality industry is one of preparedness.

These weather events demonstrate how quickly resorts and hotels must act when wild weather arrives at their doorsteps. The rapidity with which a resort acts to safeguard its location and guests when severe weather is forecasted has a direct correlation to their ease of recovery and return to full operation. As we have mentioned in a previous blog, a hotel’s emergency response plan needs to address every safety concern, from evacuating guests to providing enough food and water, installing generators, and making the necessary arrangements to be fully staffed. The Mexican government was quick to react with the evacuation of guests from affected areas, illustrating that they have learned from previous severe weather episodes.

While we have a little more than two months left in the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, resorts along the Gulf of Mexico are still facing tropical threats. According to ImpactWeather’s Lead Hurricane Forecaster Chris Hebert, we still need to keep an eye on the Northwest Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for possible development through October. Before you pack your bathing suits and flip flops this fall, check the forecast, confirm a back-up plan with your family, and always err on the side of caution.

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(Un)Fashionably Late

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Last June, Mother Nature threw open the doors to her hurricane season only to find guests would have arrival times diverging so far off traditional paths as to rival the most ardent cocktail party-attending Hollywood diva. With nine named storms already on the books, including the most recent, Tropical Storm Ingrid moving into Mexico and Hurricane Humberto (now Tropical Storm Humberto) in the Atlantic, you would think we’re on track to have an above average season. However, many of us are still pondering the absence of major hurricanes making landfall.

Tropical Storm Humberto's projected patch. Source: ImpactWeather

Tropical Storm Humberto’s projected patch.
Source: ImpactWeather

Just shy of setting a new record for the latest hurricane development in a season (the record holder is Hurricane Gustav which formed at 7 a.m. CDT on Sept. 11, 2002), Hurricane Humberto will miss the United States completely as it turns toward the northern Atlantic Ocean. It has since been downgraded to Tropical Storm status. Even on the heels of Tropical Storm Humberto, we are still asking the question: why haven’t we seen more hurricanes?

According to ImpactWeather’s recent State of the Tropics webinar from our Lead Hurricane Forecaster Chris Hebert, the Atlantic season was on track to being above normal with a slightly cooler Pacific Ocean, warmer water in the deep tropics and lower air pressure in the main development region, which are all ingredients to create the perfect recipe for an active hurricane season.

Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Credit: NOAA

Hurricane Andrew in 1992
Credit: NOAA

So, what happened? Hebert says that very dry and dusty air across the tropics could be the culprit. Early in the season, the Saharan Air Layer (SAL), which originates in the Sahara Desert in North Africa, pushed above-normal levels of dry air out over the ocean, dampening the possibility of any major tropical storm developments. This summer, the Northern Hemisphere also experienced a band of very dry air in the mid-levels of the atmosphere. Both of these dry air developments combined and created a fool-proof plan to slow down our hurricane season.

Despite the late arrival of hurricanes this year, it’s not time to pack away your hurricane preparedness kit just yet. The amount of dusty, dry air has declined in the past two weeks, meaning development in the second half of hurricane season could kick up and return to normal with additional hurricane formations.

That said, it just takes one storm to put business operations in jeopardy. As we mentioned previously, in 1992, meteorologists foreshadowed a relatively calm season. That year, the first hurricane of the season, Hurricane Andrew, hit in August and caused massive levels of death and destruction throughout the Gulf Coast and Southern Florida.

While history gives us reasons why this season is abnormal, it also gives us a warning to not let our guard down just yet.

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September is National Preparedness Month!

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Of course it’s no surprise that the team at ImpactWeather greets National Preparedness Month this September enthusiastically. With a group of safety experts, risk management specialists and meteorologists, it’s safe to say we live and breathe emergency response plans. In recognition of National Preparedness Month, we are highlighting cost-effective, easy, and stress-free ways in which businesses can participate. ImpactWeather’s “Be Prepared. Be Ready. Be Safe.” campaign offers six steps your company can implement this month that will add to your overall safety and emergency preparedness goals:

Be Prepared

Emergency Preparedness Checklist1.      Corporate Awareness Event. Regardless of the size of the company, hosting a corporate awareness event for employees encourages personnel to prepare their families and community. Companies can invite experts, vendors and emergency response personnel to speak with employees on topics that range from weather to medical safety.

 2.      Contact Emergency Vendors. Now is the time to establish ongoing relationships with remediation, co-location and crisis accommodation vendors. If all parties who are involved in the emergency response planning are on the same page, this reduces communication errors and planning failures that can cause even more headaches following an event.   

Be Ready

3.      Review Emergency Response Plans. Every corporation should have an emergency or severe weather response plan, which includes steps that each department will take if a crisis or natural disaster were to happen. These response plans should be checked yearly to make sure the correct contact information, technology and vendors are up-to-date, and personnel are ready to handle any situation.

 4.      Safety Drills. Fire, evacuation, earthquake, severe weather and communication drills are all matters that companies should re-visit each year. If employees know what to do in a crisis, confusion will be minimized. Mass notification tools should be regularly tested. These tools will send a text or phone call to employees to alert them of emergencies, and advise when it is safe to return to work. If a company does not have a similar system, we recommended looking into this type of software.

Be Safe

5.      Safety Collateral. Handouts, flashlights and safety gear are resources that employers can provide to employees to remind them of National Preparedness Month. In addition, wallet cards with the company’s contact information and other emergency numbers (local, state and federal governments) are very useful.

 6.      Employee Preparedness and Safety Classes. Inviting medical workers or emergency response experts to offer a quick class on safety and response tips can often mean the difference between life and death in any emergency.

We’re not only talking the talk this month, we’re also walking the walk by implementing a few of these steps ourselves. ImpactWeather is offering its employees a CPR training course, and we’ll conduct an evacuation drill at our Houston office

We want to hear what your business is doing for National Preparedness Month. Send us an image of your company’s preparedness activity and we’ll share it on our Facebook page. Images and descriptions, including the company name, can be emailed to jgroff@impactweather.com.

Have a happy and safe National Preparedness Month!

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The Day We Stopped Thinking of Hurricanes the Same Way: Eight Years Later

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Satellite image of Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico.Katrina. A name so infamous it need not be preceded by the word hurricane. A name that conjures images of people rowing boats past destroyed neighborhoods, seeking shelter in a rapidly disintegrating sports stadium and desperate hospital staff scrambling to arrange patient rescue. Presently immortalized as the costliest United States storm to date, we cringe at the thought of another Katrina making landfall near any of our bustling cities. For eight years, companies have had time to adapt to the mega storms that have shaken our confidence in government response and preparedness in general, but the question still stands – are we any more prepared today than we were eight years ago?

The answer is yes. Overall, more companies have taken steps to safeguard employees, assets and their bottom line, especially in the face of our evolving climate. An article published by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) pointed out areas in which businesses faced operational challenges following Hurricane Katrina, including electrical and telecom outages and damages to infrastructures. Based on these items, we created our own list of the top business lessons learned post Katrina:

  • Hope for the best, but plan for the worst – Most companies were not expecting such long recovery periods following that storm. It’s always better to plan for a Category 5 storm, even if a Category 1 or 2 is predicted.
  • Employees are significant in your recovery. Take care of them – Many people lost everything when Katrina came through their neighborhood. Businesses did not plan for the lack of person power they needed to become fully operational, which in turn had negative effects on the community’s recovery.Sign in backyard following Hurricane Katrina
  • How quickly your business recovers is how quickly your community will recover – Those industries that are consumer-oriented play a significant part in the recovery of a community. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, retail stores can provide food and water, while banks provide cash that people need to purchase these items, and hotels are re-location spots for displaced families. If these facilities can’t operate, neither can your community.
  • Plan AND rehearse – You many have an emergency response plan, but if it has spider webs growing on it, chances are it’s no good any more. Practice makes perfect, and those companies who implement fire, communication, evacuation and emergency drills are several steps closer to fast recovery post-storm.
  • Communicate with key stakeholders – As we mentioned in our recent IndustryWeek article, a stakeholder is anyone locally or nationally that will be affected by the operations of the company.  These can be employees, board members, vendors, operators or suppliers. If they know how your business plans to respond to a severe weather threat, they can plan their deliveries, routes and responses more safely and efficiently.

Of course hindsight is 20/20, but learning from the past is the key to your company’s future success. The heart of hurricane season is here. It’s not too late to implement these tools into your company’s emergency response plan. Plan today. Don’t wait until the next Katrina is headed your way.

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