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Hurricane Season is Here

Paul Brannigan, VA Regional Emergency Manager, Guest Contributor

So what can we expect this year?  And what should we be doing to get ready?

According to NOAA, we’re looking at a slightly below “average” hurricane season, which – statistically speaking – will be a reduction in the number of named storms compared to the last several years.  However, remember that it doesn’t really matter if there are 53 named storms if none make landfall.  And that it 정말 matters if there are only a handful of storms, but major hurricanes make landfall into populated areas – only 6 named storms in 1992 (starting with Andrew); 11 in 1989 (Hugo); 6 in 1960 (Donna, and Ethel which was also a Cat 5 hurricane that weakened dramatically before landfall in MS); and so on.

It has been a while since we last had a major hurricane make landfall in the US.  As a matter of fact, we’re currently enjoying a 기록 number of days since the last Cat 3+.  The bad news is that, eventually, the timer resets.  Some might say we’re due.  Did you realize that a hurricane hasn’t made landfall in the state of Florida since 2005?  So now we have to factor in complacency amongst the general population as well as some of our decision makers.  You’ve got some work to do.

Since it’s been a while – what should we be doing, to make sure that we’re ready – other than making sure that people are paying attention?  Coastal communities naturally continue to focus on surge zones and the hazards associated with their locations (warnings, evacuation routes, identification of at-risk populations, and so on), but do you know what the #1 cause of fatalities (even more than surge) is for hurricanes?  Something that ALL of us should be preparing for?

Inland freshwater flooding.

Storm surge (and the large waves associated with it) remains the greatest threat to life and property along the coastline, but the widespread, torrential rains that occur for days and days along the path of the storm are BY FAR the single largest factor in the loss of life related to hurricanes.  This includes flash flooding as well as river and urban flooding.  And recognize that rainfall amounts can be exacerbated by the speed (slower is more dangerous) and size of the storm, in addition to the geographical terrain over which the storm passes.

Add in the power outages and downed lines, tornados, debris, debris clearance injuries, and the associated hazards and you can easily see how this all adds up.  Hurricanes and tropical systems don’t only affect the coast – know the hazards and risks associated with these storms for YOUR community, your business, and your home.  Take action now – be proactive so you’re not scrambling trying to figure out what to do when it’s already too late.

Pay close attention to the forecast and the current situation, and plan and act in accordance with what is happening now.  Get to know your local weather service forecasters and emergency managers.  Sign up and subscribe to their websites, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages.  Know how they plan to get the word out, so you hear it when you need to know what is going on.

Emergency response to disasters doesn’t start with FEMA; it doesn’t even start with first responders (like law enforcement and fire/rescue).  It starts with family and neighbors lending a hand.  It grows to include first responders, faith-based organizations (like churches), private sector businesses, non-profit agencies, and all the various and integrated parts of your community.  Are they all a part of your plan?  Did you include them or listen to what they have to offer?  Are you considering what needs they may be able to address?

Never under-estimate or under-value the importance of preparedness.  Do you and your family have a personal plan?  Do your employees and co-workers?  Disasters don’t always happen to other people – they thought that way once, too.

Be safe.  Be ready.  Do good.