This Year's Hurricanes Already Have Names. How Prepared is Your Business to Deal with Them?

Picture of Andrea Lebron By Andrea Lebron

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Hurricane SeasonThe most recent forecasts for this year's hurricane season predict an above-average number of major storms with higher-than-average intensity. Yet research shows the majority of businesses are unprepared for severe weather events - increasing concerns businesses will experience significant disruption to operations.

Each year, the National Hurricane Center assigns twenty-one names for tropical storms with wind speeds of 34 knots (39 mph) or more. The names have an alphabetical order from A to W - skipping Q and U - and alternate between traditionally male and female names. Usually the names are rotated in six year cycles, unless a tropical storm turns into a significantly destructive hurricane (i.e. Hurricane Katrina) - in which case the name is retired. This year's tropical storms and hurricanes will be called:

Order of Names for North Atlantic Tropical Storms and Hurricanes 2019

Andrea

Humberto

Olga

Barry

Imelda

Pablo

Chantal

Jerry

Rebekah

Dorian

Karen

Sebastien

Erin

Lorenzo

Tanya

Fernand

Melissa

Van

Gabrielle

Nestor

Wendy

 

Usually twenty-five names is sufficient for the hurricane season. Only once since accurate records have been kept were there more than twenty-one tropical storms and hurricanes in a single season (in 2005); and, since 1981, there has been an average of twelve named storms per year - with six developing into hurricanes, and two of these developing into major hurricanes. However, the number of tropical storms and hurricanes for this coming season is predicted to be higher than average.

Related Case Study: How Fluor Petroleum is Using WebEOC and Mass Notification  for Employee Accountability

More Storms Predicted with Greater Intensity than Usual

Throughout the year, weather organizations release their outlooks for the hurricane season. This year's predictions started by suggesting lower than average storm activity in the North Atlantic; but, due to a decrease in the impact of El Niño on mean sea level pressure, the number of storms predicted for between June and November has been increasing steadily. The most recent outlook (PDF) forecasts sixteen named storms with eight hurricanes - three of which will be major hurricanes.

Of greater concern than the increasing number of forecast storms, is their predicted intensity. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) scale calculates tropical storm intensity based on estimated wind speeds. Any season in which the ACE calculation is forecast to be above 111 is considered to be an above-average season for tropical storm intensity. The most recent outlook predicts an ACE value of 150 - which, if correct, puts this year´s hurricane season on the verge of being hyperactive.

To put the significance of the high ACE value into context, there have been two occasions since Hurricane Katrina when ACE has been calculated at higher than 150 - in 2010, when twelve of that year´s nineteen tropical storms developed into hurricanes (of which five were classified as major hurricanes); and in 2017, when Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose ripped through the Gulf States and up the Eastern Seaboard in quick succession. 2012 - the year of Hurricane Sandy - achieved an ACE value of 132.

Related Blog: How GE Appliances Performed Employee Wellness Checks During Major  Hurricanes

Most Businesses “Not Completely Prepared” for Hurricane Season

New call-to-actionIn 2018, the insurance company FM Global conducted a survey into the hurricane preparedness of businesses located in the areas most significantly affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Jose. The key takeaway from the survey was that nearly two-thirds of respondents reported suffering an adverse impact on operations due to being “not completely prepared” for the hurricane season - despite forecasts predicting a higher-than-average storm season and a greater storm intensity than usual.

The lack of hurricane preparedness was attributed to three reasons by Dr. Louis Gritzo - Vice President and Manager of Research at FM Global. He claimed not only was there a level of denial about the risk from hurricanes, but because the likelihood of three successive, intense hurricanes was a “once-in-a-hundred-years-event”, some businesses felt they had ninety-nine years to prepare for it. Gritzo warned that a “once-in-a-hundred-years-event” means there is a 1% chance of the event happening every year.

The third reason for a lack of hurricane preparedness - according to Gritzo - was an over-reliance on insurance. He noted that although insurance can cover the costs of replacing damaged infrastructure, it cannot restore market share, brand equity or shareholder value. He added:  “These candid admissions drive home a fundamental truth about catastrophe. People routinely fail to understand or acknowledge the magnitude of risk until they've experienced a fateful event.”

A Communications System is Key to Effective Hurricane Preparedness

In response to the worrying lack of hurricane preparedness uncovered by FM Global´s survey, the company compiled a comprehensive emergency checklist (PDF) which provides advice on how businesses should prepare for a hurricane, and the actions they should take during and after an adverse weather event. The key to the checklist being executed effectively is a communications system that is not exclusively reliant one channel of communication (i.e. the Internet or a cellular phone service). 

It is also important the solution implemented to execute the hurricane preparedness plan is capable of database segmentation. At various stages of an emergency event, different personnel may need to be notified of changes to their roles, evacuation procedures, or when it is safe to return to work. Notifying all personnel of every stage in the execution of an emergency management plan can cause confusion and risk more disruption to a business's operations.

Other factors businesses should take into account when evaluating emergency communication systems is the ability to plan ahead with emergency notification templates, integration with existing personnel databases to ensure data freshness, and an opt in/opt out capability so that casual workers, sub-contractors, and visiting personnel can also be notified of the correct course of action during an emergency event. Ideally, the system should also support two-way multi-modal communication.

How Prepared is Your Business for This Year's Hurricane Season?

With an above-average number of storms predicted, and an almost hyperactive level of intensity forecast, it is likely many businesses will experience “once-in-a-hundred-years” adverse weather events this year. Make sure your business is prepared against significant disruptions to operations by developing a hurricane preparedness plan and supporting it with an effective emergency communications system.

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Written by Andrea Lebron

Andrea is Rave's Director of Digital Marketing, a master brainstormer and avid coffee drinker. Andrea joined Rave in August 2017, after 10 years of proposal and corporate marketing at an environmental engineering firm. You'll find her working with her amazing team in writing and producing blogs like this one, improving your journey to and through our website, and serving you up the best email content. When she's not in front of a keyboard, she's chasing after her three daughters or indulging in her husband's latest recipe. Andrea has a Bachelor's degree in Marketing/Management from Northeastern University and an MBA from Curry College.

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