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Hurricane Communications

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010
Prepare for Hurricanes by Following Forecasts

Prepare for Hurricanes by Following Forecasts

Final Post in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready. This week, in our final post in a series about preparing and recovering from tropical storms and hurricanes, we’ll examine where to turn to stay on top of forecasts and local emergency plans.

Since the best way to deal with a hurricane is to prepare for one, you should acquaint yourself with websites and notification centers as well as the terminology used to distinguish between different storm warnings. This is crucial for all those who live and/or work in a high-risk area. Monitor weather patterns and warnings so you will know when to take evasive action. Here are a few helpful resources, offering easily-accessible weather-related information in real time:

AccuWeather.com

American Red Cross

The Disaster Center

FEMA Storm Watch

FindLocalWeather

Intellicast.com

Local Weather Forecast Center

National Hurricane Center

National Weather Service

NOAA

NOLA

Weather Bug

The Weather Channel

WeatherForYou.com

Many of the above sites offer RSS feeds and desktop notifications and email alerts. Another free weather notification system is available via the Emergency Email and Wireless Network, which provides breaking weather alerts and an information-packed National Weather Situation Page.

Once you are set up to receive weather updates, the next step in hurricane preparedness is to be able to distinguish between the terminologies used to describe various storm systems. Where hurricanes and tropical storms are concerned, the following definitions are critical.

WATCH vs. WARNING: THE DIFFERENCE

TROPICAL STORM WATCH

Tropical storm conditions (defined by sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within a specified coastal area within 48 hours.

TROPICAL STORM WARNING

Tropical storm conditions (defined by sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within a specified coastal area within 36 hours.

HURRICANE WATCH

Hurricane conditions (defined by sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within a specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

HURRICANE WARNING

An announcement that hurricane conditions (defined by sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within a specified coastal area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical-storm-force winds.

Once you determine that a hurricane or tropical storm watch or warning is in effect, take the following steps:

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for hurricane progress reports.
  • Check emergency supplies.
  • Fuel car.
  • Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden tools and anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
  • Secure buildings by closing and boarding up windows. Remove outside antennas.
  • Turn refrigerator and freezer to coldest settings. Open only when absolutely necessary and close quickly.
  • Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles, and cooking utensils.
  • Review your evacuation plan.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

Hurricane Communications

Monday, August 23rd, 2010
Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Communication is Key in Any Emergency

Second in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  This week, in our continuing series about hurricanes, we’ll look at one of the best ways to prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes—developing a comprehensive Communications Plan.

Although there is no easy answer—or “silver bullet”—to solve every problem that can hamper the efforts of law enforcement, firefighting, rescue and emergency medical personnel before, during and after natural disasters, the surest way to reduce confusion and quickly restore order is to establish a Communications Plan before you need one.

But what exactly is a Communications Plan?

An Emergency Communications’ Plan outlines formal decision-making structures and clearly defined leadership roles necessary for coordinating emergency communications’ capabilities. In other words, make sure you plan in advance to manage any and every emergency situation. Assess the situation and use common sense and available resources to take care of yourself and your co-workers or family members and to manage the recovery of your family or organization.

To help you with the process, FEMA has put together free resources including a Family Emergency Plan as well as a Business Continuity and Disaster Preparedness Plan, which is posted online for easy-access to clients of the Allied Universal, Inc. Training System. The business plan is designed to encourage you to gather emergency information and formalize plans for staying in business following a disaster, and includes information critical for coordinating with neighboring businesses, cooperating with emergency personnel and considering critical operations, staff and procedures.

Other organizations also provide free emergency resources. For example, The American Red Cross has a Safe and Well Website to help families keep in touch after a disaster. If you have been affected by a disaster, this website provides a way for you to register yourself as “safe and well.” From a list of standard messages, you can select those that you want to communicate to your family members, letting them know of your well-being. Other communication services available on the Safe and Well website:

  • USPS, which provides continuing mail service for those displaced by disasters through change of address forms.
  • National Next of Kin Registry, an organization where the public can archive emergency point of contact information. Emergency agencies access the system when there is a need to locate next of kin in urgent situations.
  • Community Voice Mail, which offers free personalized phone numbers with voicemail to people in crisis and transition for job search, housing, healthcare and family contact.
  • Contact Loved Ones, which is a free voice message service, accessible from any phone, to reestablish contact between those affected by a disaster and their loved ones and friends.

Also, at the state and local level, you should be able to access additional information specific to your geographical location. One such resource is put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). And weather advisories are put out by the National Hurricane Center.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.

ACTIVE HURRICANE SEASON PREDICTED

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Hurricanes can be devastating. Be sure to prepare!

First in a Series about Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery

In their latest forecast, the National Weather Service reaffirmed their May forecast of a heavy Atlantic hurricane season. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encouraged Americans living in coastal states to take steps to ensure their families are prepared for hurricanes. And the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center recently announced that all the factors are coming together for a stormy season.

What does all of this mean? If you live on the coast, get ready for a rough ride.

Since before hurricane season started, FEMA personnel have been actively engaged with state and local officials in coastal states to ensure they have the support and resources necessary to prepare for and respond to a tropical storm or hurricane. This season has been particularly taxing for emergency management professionals who have to weigh the potential effects of the BP oil spill on response capabilities and recovery scenarios.

“FEMA continues to work across the administration and with our state and local partners to ensure they’re ready should a hurricane make landfall,” said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate. “But we can only be as prepared as the public, so it’s important that families and businesses take steps now to be ready.”

Hurricanes are unique emergencies in that they are predictable. So there is no excuse for failing to prepare to respond with decisive action. Although you can’t control when a hurricane or other emergency may happen, it’s imperative that you take personal responsibility to make sure you are ready.  In the coming weeks, we’ll look at the various ways you can prepare for and recover after tropical storms and hurricanes, including:

But first, let’s examine the nature and history of hurricanes so we know what to prepare for. A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone, which is a generic term for a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics. According to the National Hurricane Center, the ingredients for a hurricane include:

  1. A pre-existing weather disturbance
  2. Warm tropical oceans
  3. Moisture
  4. Relatively light winds aloft

If the right conditions persist long enough, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods we associate with this phenomenon. Each year, approximately 11 tropical storms develop over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Many of these remain over the ocean and never impact the U.S. coastline. An average six of these storms become hurricanes each year.

Hurricane Hit Parade (Hurricane Trivia)

The deadliest hurricane on record (prior to the practice of naming tropical storms in 1953) is reported to have slammed into Galveston, Texas in 1900, killing 8,000 people. A Category 4 hurricane, it struck the island with sustained winds of 140 miles per hour.

The costliest hurricane on record, as most of Florida will remember, was Hurricane Andrew, which struck in 1992 and cost an estimated $26.5 billion.

The most intense hurricane to strike the U.S. hit the Florida Keys on Labor Day weekend in 1935. The Labor Day Hurricane sustained winds are estimated to have reached almost 200 miles per hour. Although it hit a tiny, low-populated area, 390 died in the event.

The busiest month in the U.S. for major hurricane hits is September, with an average 36 of 64 annual such storms. August is the second busiest month, with an average of 15 out of 64 annual strikes.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal, Inc. Check back next week, when we will continue our series about hurricane safety and preparation. In the meantime, BE SAFE.