2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season - Prepare Your Organization

2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast & Preparation Tips

2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast & Business Preparation Checklist

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast earlier this year and has recently updated it.  The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30, which means we are currently in peak hurricane season.

NOAA & CSU Updated 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlooks

Named Storms Hurricanes Major Hurricanes
NOAA 15-21 7-10 3-5
Colorado State 18 8 4
Average 14 7 3

 

Atlantic Hurricane Season & Tropical Storm Forecast

In May, NOAA forecast that there would be 13 – 20 named storms and 6-10 hurricanes in 2021.  There is, according to the NOAA data a 65% chance of an above-average Atlantic Hurricane Season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season.  Contributing factors include La Nina conditions, enhanced West African Monsoons and warmer than average sea surface temperatures.  As of August 23, there have been eight depressions, eight total storms, three hurricanes and 1 major hurricane (Category 3+) resulting in more than 35 fatalities and damages that exceed $1.536 billion (USD).

Hurricanes and Tropical storms can cause catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Winds can exceed 155 miles per hour and can also spawn tornadoes and microbursts, create storm surges along the coast, and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall and flooding.

Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

All we have to do is to look back to Hurricane Sandy to get perspective on the catastrophic impacts of tropical storms and hurricanes.  According to the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater New York, Inc. (BOMA/NY) “Hurricane Sandy Lessons Learned Report”, noted the following:

  • Physical Damage: 44% of owner/manager survey respondents suffered physical damage to their buildings as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
  • Flooding/ Wind Damage: Of those, 47% experienced flooding, 33% wind damage and 20% other. For those who experienced flooding, 50% took 1-3 days to pump the water out and 44% took 4-7 days to pump the water out.
  • Loss of Power: 53% lost power, most between 4-7 days. 47% lost steam power, most of which were out for 4-7 days.

These results beg the question for building owners and managers if their organizations could sustain outages for multiple days?  Planning and preparing is critical in order to withstand the impacts of a hurricane.  Take time to properly evaluate your risks and prepare your facilities ahead of time.

13 Ways to Plan and Prepare Your Organization for Hurricane Season:

  1. Plan ahead: Establish a written hurricane crisis and contingency plan.
  2. Share your plan: Discuss your plan with all employees so they understand their responsibilities and expectations.
  3. Assume the possibility: Your plan should assume the possibility of not being able to access your office locations and systems for up to a month.  Some organizations impacted by Sandy were out of their facilities for more than a month.
  4. Don’t underestimate reality: Personal issues, power outages, and transportation systems closures could significantly impact the availability of your employees. Understand the parameters that will shut down or impede public transportation.
  5. Stay connected: Create a primary and alternate means of communicating with your employees, critical vendors, and business partners. Understand the emergency power options and source generator fuel via contract or as needed.
  6. Know your IT: Require IT infrastructure to review your data and digital communications resilience: include multiple internet service providers, dual fiber, cable, T1 lines, etc.
  7. Distance may be key: Validate that your technology disaster & recovery services provider is located at a suitable distance from your locations to lessen the potential of being impacted by the same event.
  8. Practice can reduce panic: Train building staff on proper shutdown procedures and practice full shutdown exercises including where to park elevators above the lobby level and what switches need to be shutdown to reduce panic during real situations.
  9. Practice can increase pick-up: Conduct resumption exercises to ensure that the operations are brought back online in a timely manner so your organization can quickly pick-up where you left off pre-hurricane.
  10. Think Critical: Move all critical basement and ground floor contents and equipment to a higher floor.
  11. Unplug: Disconnect all electrical appliances and equipment, except for refrigeration.
  12. Cover-up & Close-up: Cover merchandise, office machines, specialized equipment, file cabinets, copy machines, computer, etc. with tarpaulins or plastic sheeting and secure with sturdy tape.
  13. Know your risk: Review and evaluate your insurance policy. Understand your risk so when crisis strikes, you’re knowledgeable of your organizations loss scenarios and are better prepared to make critical recovery decisions.

Knowing Your Risk

All 13 ways mentioned are imperative and can help alleviate complications during a hurricane. However, step 13; “Knowing your risk” is a common step that many organizations wish they paid attention to in more detail after a hurricane strike.

It is critical that you know your risk and your insurance programs are tailored to best fit your company’s needs on both a pre and post loss basis.  Communicate with your broker, and make sure that they understand both operational resilience and real estate as well as that they can handle complex claims.

Help Your Workforce Prepare

One of the main lessons learned during the COVID-19 Pandemic is that we have an obligation to ensure that we take care of our employees and their extended families.  It is important to provide hurricane preparedness information and resources to the workforce.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published some good advice and resources that help people safely prepare, evacuate and shelter from severe storms.  Please see https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/covid-19/prepare-for-hurricane.html for important hurricane preparedness tips such as:

  • Preparation steps
  • Get a COVID-19 vaccine
  • Obtain emergency supplies
  • Make a plan
  • Prepare to evacuate
  • Protect older adults
  • Protect your pets

Hurricanes pose a serious threat and the worst time to prepare for a hurricane is when it is a few days away from impact.  With hurricane season among us, use these 13 steps and the CDC advice so your organization and workforce can be prepared to sustain outages for multiple days.