Lessons learnt from the 2018 Hurricane Season

Hurricane season 2018: lessons learnt

Georgina Wright

Global Threat Analyst – Americas

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was the third consecutive year of above-average tropical activity, and more than USD $50.2 billion in damages were inflicted throughout the Atlantic basin due to these tropical events.

Hurricanes often cause significant residual damage that can last up to weeks, months or, in some cases, even years. This makes it increasingly difficult to determine the cost of an event in terms of damages and life. Residual events include flooding which continue to pose a risk to life and recovery attempts despite the storm having passed. In 2018, residual flooding caused significant disruption to local transport, businesses and utilities, while recovery efforts were stalled as roads and low-level areas remained flooded and impassable.

At Healix, we post real-time alerts on breaking news and incidents across the world through our Travel Oracle platform. Our alerts are designed to brief the traveller of developments, provide an assessment on the situation, and advise on how to mitigate risk of exposure. Throughout the 2018 hurricane season, our security experts published a total of 22 alerts on tropical storms, cyclones and hurricanes. Of the 15 named systems that developed across the season, eight became hurricanes, and two were considered major hurricanes.

Hurricane Florence

7 alerts pushed out

18 day duration from formation to disipation

140mph top wind speed

USD $24 billon worth of damage

Hurricane Florence was the first major hurricane of the 2018 season, and rapidly intensified to a Category 4 Hurricane within a 13-hour time span. This rapid intensification was unprecedented for the United States coastal region and hadn’t occurred in the area for over a decade. Mandatory evacuation orders were enforced across eastern coastal areas and the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia declared a state of emergency ahead of Florence’s expected passage.

Prior to making landfall, Hurricane Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane from its original Category 4 rating. Despite Florence no longer being classed as a major hurricane when it made landfall, the storm surges, flooding and residual hurricane strength winds posed a significant risk to life and property. Approximately 53 people were killed during Florence in hurricane related incidents.

Hurricane Michael

7 alerts pushed out

9 day duration from formation to disipation

155mph top wind speed

USD $25.1 billon worth of damage

From 7th October, 2018 to 16th October, 2018, Hurricane Michael took shape. Michael was the second major hurricane to form, making landfall as a Category 5 Hurricane on 10th October near Mexico Beach in Florida, after tracking across Central America.

Hurricane Michael was the strongest storm of the season. A state of emergency was implemented in 35 counties in Florida and Alabama prior to the storm’s landfall, along with the issuance of mandatory evacuations. Michael also caused significant damage during its passage over Central America; around 2,000 houses in Nicaragua suffered damage and over 1,000 people were evacuated. More than 430 houses were also damaged in El Salvador and Honduras. At least 22,000 people were impacted by Michael with over 60 fatalities recorded.

Lessons learnt from the hurricane season in 2018: advice for employers

  • Review evacuation plans

The risks associated with seasonal weather patterns justify the authoring of an evacuation plan, advisable for organisations that maintain a permanent in-country presence in typically affected areas. The plan should include considerations for scaling down staff and establishing business continuity plans for the hurricane season that allows the organisation to continue operations during this period.

  • Identify clear triggers to inform your evacuation escalation process

Companies should establish their organisation’s risk tolerance and shape the evacuation escalation process accordingly. The best plans are scalable and phased to ensure a balance between duty of care and business continuity. Triggers should include both security and operational factors, the latter of which would include medical conditions, the availability of communications, transport and supplies. These triggers should not only consider conditions prior to the hurricane making landfall, but also the environment in the aftermath of a storm. If you require assistance authoring evacuation plans, please contact GSOC@healix.com for more information.

  • Review Crisis Management and Business Continuity plans

Crisis Management and Business Continuity Plans should be consulted and any necessary listed actions taken. Check with third parties or providers who form part of your Business Continuity Plan, such as back up site locations and data protection services, and ensure that they are still operational.

  • Consider whether office sites need additional protection

If you have office sites in locations likely to experience disruption you may wish to review your existing security arrangements and consider whether additional security should be deployed to the site to protect assets or employees. This is especially true in the event that local security forces are limited in their ability to respond to any non-emergency calls. High-value assets should be moved to secure storage if a building has been damaged or its security has already been compromised. Contact Healix for consultation on the removal and safe storage of assets, or the deployment of armed or unarmed security.

  • Expect disruption over the hurricane season

Operations are likely to be disrupted due to adverse weather conditions at various points over the season, even if major damage is not recorded. Travel should be planned in advance and alternative routes identified. Long-distance journeys are best conducted in a 4wd vehicle, with a trusted local driver. Ensure the vehicle is equipped with a medical kit, bottled water, spare tyre and reliable communications.

  • Monitor local weather warnings ahead of 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

The relevant authorities will issue warnings if bad weather or disruption is forecast. Local media and government sources should be monitored along with the Healix Travel Oracle App. If a hurricane warning is issued, it is advisable to check the forecast hourly and communicate updates and instructions to your staff.

Some recommended sources include the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) who monitor tropical storms and hurricanes within the region and will give approximately 48 hours’ notice on a major category hurricane making landfall (https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/cyclones/); or the Hurricane Watch Net which has free alerts to subscribe to with the ability to choose locations specific to your travels and needs (https://www.hwn.org/weather/subscriptions.html).

  • Identify a preferred ‘safe haven’ for use in future storms

Contact the local authorities for information on official emergency shelters and conduct a security audit on a preferred safe haven for personnel to stand fast in the event of future storms. Improve the chances of gaining access to the facilities at short notice by setting up a retainer arrangement with a local ground support provider during the hurricane season if possible.

 Encourage staff to maintain a ‘grab bag’

Staff should pack a grab bag of essential supplies that will allow them to depart at short notice and be self-sufficient for a period of 72 hours. This should include a change of clothes, toiletries, personal medication and basic first aid kit, a secondary source of communication, pocket recharging devices, a torch with spare batteries and copies of personal documentation.

  • Remind staff about emergency response protocols

Security managers should ensure that staff know emergency procedures; ensure employees are aware of internal communications channels for use in emergency situations as well as their local state’s emergency numbers.

Hurricane forecast for 2019

This year’s hurricane season officially begins on 1st June, 2019 and ends on 30th November, 2019. While hurricanes, tropical storms or depressions can occur at any time of the year, the most significant weather systems develop during these months.

The average hurricane season over the past 30 years has included 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Numerous meteorological agencies have issued forecasts for this season including Colorado State University (CSU) and the Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) Consortium of the University College London.

NOAA released its prediction late in May stating there is a 40% chance of a near-average season, a 30% chance of an above-average season and a 30% chance of a below-average season.

NOAA based their final forecasts on the premise that the current environment is not conducive for hurricane development and intensification. Furthermore, current sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are cooler than normal which provides less energy for tropical cyclone development.

This is in line with the majority of meteorologists estimating a near-average season for the year.

A number of meteorologists agree that there is a 28% chance of a major hurricane making landfall along the continental US coastline, 3% lower than the average probability for the last century. There is around a 39% probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean which is lower than the usual average.

It should also be noted that forecasting becomes more accurate as the season continues, meaning more emphasis should be placed on updated forecasts.

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