Is your IMT ready for hurricane season?

infographic regarding 2017 hurricane forecast for the Atlantic regionHurricane season has quietly arrived. Running from June 1st through November 30th, hurricane season in recent years has taught us that areas previously thought safe may not be so anymore. Who can forget Hurricane Sandy’s devastating effects on the northeast? According to the latest forecasts released by Colorado State University and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be more active than historical averages, calling for an above-average number of named storms.

While we are still in the slower part of hurricane season, now is a prime time to ensure your team is ready to respond if you haven’t already. It’s time to dust off those emergency response plans and re-familiarize everyone with any existing hurricane plans. In addition, be sure to share your plans with your partners. Validate contact information (email and phone numbers) of your team and your partners to ensure you can reach everyone when necessary. Additionally, if you haven’t already done so, establish an accountability process so you can verify the safety of your employees post-incident, as well as track deployed members.

As you review your plans, be sure to update them with any new or changes in response partners. If possible, conduct training, workshops, and exercises to ensure that all members are prepared for an incident. It may seem counterintuitive, but you should train to the plan. It’s not sufficient to send it out for review and hope that everyone finds time to read it and be prepared. Much like a sports coach doesn’t just hand out new plays without review and practice, IMTs need to practice how they will play to ensure success.

Start your liaison coordination among federal, state and local government partners, as well as private sector entities and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This includes all your response partners’ involvement, as the time to make friends is not when you need one. Reciprocal or mutual agreements should be made in advance to ensure an effective and efficient response and ensure that all responders understand what each organization brings to the table.

In addition to establishing IMTs in your local area, your organization may be called upon to support other affected areas. Think of the flooding in the Carolinas or the destruction in Haiti caused by Hurricane Matthew last year. In the event that local responders are overwhelmed, requests for help are sure to come. Are you deployment ready? As professional responders, we need to build a culture of preparedness for all hazards.

Reporting to the response:  Unlike some incidents, hurricanes rarely arrive unannounced. Use this time to plan your travel and check the latest weather reports to avoid the storm and known damaged areas.  Fully check and prepare your vehicle before the hurricane season begins and upkeep maintenance throughout.  Keep your gas tank near full to avoid shortages that may occur due to damage or power outages. Avoid traveling alone and don’t travel unless necessary. Notify someone of your travel timelines and your primary and alternate routes just in case you don’t arrive when scheduled and remember to call them when you do arrive. And be sure to track Jim Cantore, as you know it’ll be bad wherever he goes….

While this list is not comprehensive, deployed teams should anticipate being self-sufficient for the first couple of days until necessary supplies can be brought in. It is recommended that you carry a Hurricane Go-Kit with the following items:

  • Manuals, job aids, or reference material necessary

  • Blank ICS forms

  • Safety gear (as required)

  • Mobile phone, charger, batteries

  • NOAA weather radio/portable radio to receive emergency information

  • Blankets/sleeping bags

  • Flashlight with extra batteries

  • First-aid kit

  • Knife

  • High-calorie, non-perishable food, such as dried fruit, nuts and granola bars, and other food that does not require cooking or refrigeration

  • Extra clothing to keep dry

  • Large empty can or bucket to use as emergency toilet. Tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes

  • Small can and waterproof matches

  • Shovel

  • Tool kit

  • Tow rope

  • Battery booster cables

  • Water container, water purifier/filter, and ample amounts of water

  • Compass and road maps (don’t depend on mobile devices as antenna/cell towers may be damaged)

  • What else would you carry in your go-kit? Let everyone know in the comments!

EMSI can help build your go-kits, as well as offering a wide assortment of IMT position and team training opportunities. Contact us today to find out how we can help your organization’s response preparedness!