It may seem like yesterday that the pictures of whipping palm trees, debris-riddled streets, and boats tossed like toys were broadcast across our news channels during 2017’s massive Atlantic hurricanes. Yet June 1st marked the official start of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, meaning that it is already time to begin emergency preparedness procedures. Ensuring that families, communities, and emergency responders are all prepared for natural disasters is priority number one.
As a testament to the large-scale destruction left last season by Hurricanes Harvey, Maria, Irma, and Nate, their names have since been retired from the naming lists. To avoid similar destruction of those terrible 2017 storms, and with the goal of enhancing situational awareness and fostering better emergency preparedness, we offered our risk management expertise in the area of disaster situations in our first ever TigerSwan Talks.
Although these recommendations are offered specifically with the Atlantic hurricane season in mind, disaster preparedness procedures are readily adaptable to many emergency situations. In this blog post, we elaborate on some of the points made by Shawn Sweeney in his TigerSwan Talk video. First, some background:
‘Weather-Ready Nation’: NOAA offers hurricane season predictions
On May 24th, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center offered their forecasting of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season. The NOAA has deployed an impressive suite of next-generation satellites and modeling to produce a season outlook that will “enable decision makers and the general public to take action before, during, and after hurricanes, helping to build a more ‘Weather-Ready Nation’.”
Near-average water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and the possibility of a weak El Niño are cited as the two factors driving this year’s hurricane predictions. NOAA’s forecasters say there is a 70% likelihood that 2018’s hurricane season consists of:
- 10 to 16 storm systems that become Tropical Storms (winds of 39 mph or higher)
- 5 to 9 storms that become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher)
- 1 to 4 “major hurricanes” that reach Category 3, 4, or 5 (winds of 111 mph or higher)
Given the risk factors associated with hurricanes, such as storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, and even landslides, it is critical you approach the season with a good working knowledge of hurricane preparedness strategies, as well as a specific plan of your own.
TigerSwan's Shawn Sweeney offers preparedness tips for this year's Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Emergency preparedness: creating a plan
Natural disasters can strike at any time, so it is critical that you maintain an Emergency Plan with your family/household in the event that you are not together during an emergency situation. Ready.gov provides a useful checklist for developing an emergency plan:
- How will I receive emergency alerts and warnings?
- What is my shelter plan?
- What is my evacuation route?
- What is my family/household communication plan?
But emergency preparedness is not merely creating a plan and pinning it to the refrigerator. The best family emergency plans are those that are put together as a family or household, rehearsed, and reviewed as warnings of an impending natural disaster are broadcast.
PACE Methodology for disaster preparedness
When drafting your emergency plan, follow the PACE Methodology to ensure that you and your family members are prepared all potential scenarios. For example, what if an emergency begins while everyone is separated? What steps will each family member take to reunify? A simple emergency plan will prepare each family member with one response to that scenario.
The best emergency plans will employ the PACE Methodology, creating a Primary, Alternate, Contingency, and Emergency plan of action:
Your Plan A method of responding to an emergency situation. You’ll use your Primary plan for generic emergencies with the assumption that all means of communication and transport are still functioning properly.
For example, if Louis hasn’t heard from Amanda when the town’s severe weather sirens begin to sound, Louis will call Amanda on her cell phone at 123-456-7890. Likewise, Amanda will call Louis if she hears the severe weather sirens and hasn’t heard from him.
Your Alternate plan is your Plan B — it should be just as viable as your Primary plan and can be readily employed in the event of an emergency. A good Alternate plan will look at the most likely problems that could cause your Primary plan to falter in order to create workarounds to those issues. For example, say Amanda’s cell phone is out of battery. Amanda’s alternate plan is to ask someone to use their phone to dial Louis. Ditto for Louis.
A Contingency plan is not an ideal plan of action under normal circumstances but can be initiated if Primary and Alternate plans are not actionable. A good Contingency plan would respond to situations like if all communications systems were down. For example, assuming that a family is dispersed, a Contingency plan would designate a central point of reunion, such as the family’s home. If no communications can be established through the Primary and Alternate methods, family members would get themselves to the central point of reunion as quickly as possible. A secondary reunion point, like a neighbor’s home, can be designated if getting home is not viable. Say Amanda arrives home first but needs to run across the street to check on an elderly neighbor, a Contingency plan would also stipulate that Amanda should leave a note on the refrigerator explaining that she has arrived home safely and will return shortly.
An Emergency plan is an all-else-has-failed plan. As a last resort measure, it needs to be flexible to ensure that it can be useful in any emergency situation. Let’s say conditions are so bad that all modes communications are down and traveling outside is totally unsafe. Your Emergency plan will designate family members to shelter-in-place until communications can be re-established.
Effective risk management, especially in the case of a natural disaster, relies on preparing for a variety of contingencies, even unlikely ones and worst-case scenarios. With the threat of the 2018 hurricane season now fresh in mind, the PACE Methodology provides a valuable framework to establish multiple methods of communication with your family in advance to ensure an efficient group response to whatever complications you might encounter.
Subscribe to The Weekly BLUF
Everything you need to know…in 5 minutes.
The Weekly BLUF is a collection of news and insights from around the travel, safety, and security industries delivered to your inbox every Friday. Stay up to date with the stories that caught our attention throughout the week, from the State Department’s travel advisory updates to the events that affect travel around the world.
Set up emergency alerts now
Emergency preparedness is made easier today thanks to the fact that everyone walks around with a smartphone in their pocket. Failing to use your cell phone as a safety preparedness tool would be a grave mistake. Sign up your entire family for emergency push notifications from GuardianAngel to ensure that you all stay-to-date on the latest disaster information for your area. The best way to maintain situational awareness during an emergency will be to act from the same set of information.
Downloading the GuardianAngel App to your phone will also grant you access to TigerSwan’s Global Security Operations Center (GSOC). The GSOC maintains on-duty Watch Officers, who are trained in crisis management and emergency response, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you or a family member feel that they are in distress, they can simply push the SOS Panic button in the GuardianAngel App to be connected immediately to the GSOC. A Watch Officer will have access to their precise location, be able to dispatch emergency responders to them, or simply offer a reassuring contact for exchanging messages about the latest emergency information or formulate a plan for alleviating any safety concerns.
Emergency measures to consider: Go Bags
Especially in the case of hurricanes, where you will know for days or weeks about an impending storm, you should prepare other emergency measures ahead of time. Prepare a ready kit or “Go-Bag” for each member of the family in case you will need to evacuate your home on short notice.
Your ready kit should be able to sustain your family for 72 hours with potable water, non-perishable food, cash, and important administrative and financial documents. Other basic disaster supplies include things like a flashlight, a first-aid kit, plastic ties, moist towelettes, and garbage bags for sanitation, local maps, and a cell phone with chargers and a backup battery. It is also important to consider whether your family has any unique needs such as medication or supplies for chronic health conditions as well as any necessities for pets or elderly relatives.
Protect your home while you’re away
If you have to evacuate your neighborhood, preparing your residence is another important component of hurricane emergency preparedness. This involves an assortment of different measures. You should bring lightweight objects that could be blown away in high winds inside and cover all your home’s windows by boarding them up by with plywood or by using storm shutters. Also, ensure that you lock all doors and, if necessary, move furniture and/or rugs from your basement to upper levels to avoid potential flood damage.
If you take one thing away from this post, it is that you need to have a plan. Preparing a comprehensive disaster plan now is essential to maximizing the safety of you, your loved ones, and your home in the event of an emergency.
Additional resources for disaster preparedness: