Hurricanes are violent storms which can bring intense winds, heavy rain, a storm surge, floods, coastal erosion, landslides, and tornadoes. In the United States, peak hurricane threats exist from mid-August to late October, although the official hurricane season extends through November. Hurricane preparedness is key and this guide outlines methods property management can take to reduce the impact of these severe storms.
Plan Ahead for the Hurricane Season
Develop or Review an Emergency Action Plan
- Consider prevention, emergency response, evacuation criterion, disaster recovery, and key personnel.
- Designate an Emergency Coordinator and Emergency Action Team.
- Train employees on the plan and schedule drills to ensure members know their roles and responsibilities.
- Review your Emergency Action Plan with the local authorities and know your communities' safety plan.
- Confirm that you can receive the local NOAA radio frequency. The National Weather Service uses NOAA Weather Radio to deliver critical information and storm updates.
- Detail communication procedures for staff, vendors, and clients. Maintain a current list of key contacts with telephone numbers and addresses. Keep a copy accessible offsite.
- Provide cellular or satellite phones to essential personnel.
Inspect Resources and Equipment
- Review condition and quantity of emergency supplies.
- Inventory vehicle fleet and ensure that vehicles are filled with gas or charged fully. Move vehicles to safe area, outside of the flood plain.
- Trim trees and shrubbery with safety in mind. Avoid electrical lines and excessive heights. Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts. Check drain pumps.
- Secure or brace outside storage tanks, sheds, and other structures.
- Maintain a supply of plastic or tarpaulin to cover water-sensitive equipment.
- Ensure a supply of plywood (min. 1/2 inch) or shutters to protect doors and windows.
- Ensure proper working condition for emergency equipment, such as generators, flashlights, and battery-powered radios, drills, and saws.
- Stock non-perishable food, first-aid supplies, and drinking water.
- Purchase N-95, NIOSH-approved disposable respirators for working with moldy or damp materials.
- Create an emergency evacuation kit for employees and their families including: first-aid, baby food and diapers, cards, games, books, toiletries, battery powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, blankets or sleeping bags, identification and valuable papers.
Steps to Take When a Hurricane Watch is Issued
- Activate your facility’s Emergency Action Plan and ensure that copies are accessible off site.
- Listen frequently to radio, TV or NOAA Weather Radio for official bulletins on the storm’s progress.
- Evacuate non-essential personnel.
- Move fuel and service emergency vehicles and generators inside the building or to a safe location.
- Inspect storm, roof, and floor drains to ensure they are free of debris and fully functional.
- Prepare to cover all windows and doors with shutters or other shielding materials.
- Anchor all equipment stored outside.
- Brace all signs, tanks and roof equipment.
- Remove all awnings and lightweight outdoor coverings.
- Protect vital records against flooding and wind. Elevate all possible valuables off the floor onto furniture and shelving.
- Secure back-up records off site, away from the targeted hurricane area.
- Ensure an adequate stock of non-perishable food, first-aid supplies, drinking water and other supplies for staff and emergency crews.
- Check batteries in flashlights and radios.
Steps to Take When a Hurricane Warning is Issued
- Listen closely to radio, TV, or NOAA Weather Radio for official bulletins.
- Complete preparation activities, such as putting up storm shutters and storing loose objects.
- Patrol the facility, as long as it is safe to do so.
- Check for leaks and fire protection system impairment.
- Shut off valves when pipes have broken.
- Complete emergency repairs that are safe to perform.
- Move to a safe area before you are cut off by floodwater. Use sandbags if necessary.
- Follow instructions issued by local officials
Steps to Take After the Storm
- Account for all employees who stayed at the facility during the emergency. If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help.
- Do not attempt to drive across flowing water.
- Stay away from standing water. It may be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
- Conduct a preliminary inspection to verify stability before entering a flooded, formerly flooded or wind-damaged building. If there is extensive damage, have a professional engineer or architect certify that the building is safe for work.
- Have professionals check gas, water, and electrical lines and appliances for damage.
- Assess damage to buildings and equipment. Photograph and document all damage. Notify your insurance agent as soon as possible.
- Make temporary repairs to protect the building and contents.
- Use a flashlight for emergency lighting. Never use candles and other open flames indoors. Only use tap water for drinking and cooking after local officials have reported that it is safe to do so.
- When using a generator, be sure that the main circuit breaker is off and locked out prior to starting the generator. This will prevent inadvertent energizing of power lines and help protect utility line workers from possible electrocution.
- Avoid breathing dust (potential fungal spores) generated by wet building materials.
- Complete the Disaster Recovery Self-Assessment Checklist
The intensity of a hurricane is measured by the Saffir-Simpson Scale. The scale is based on sustained wind speeds and potential property damage. Hurricanes reaching Category 3 and above are classified as major hurricanes because of their potential for loss of life and property damage.