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Weathering the Storm: How to Prepare for Tropical Storms and Minimize Recovery Time

Extreme Loads and Structural Risk

Weathering the Storm: Preparing for Tropical Storms to Minimize Recovery Time

Depending on where you are located in the world, a tropical storm measuring wind speeds of over 74mph is either known as a Hurricane, Cyclone or Typhoon. For this discussion, we will refer to them as Hurricanes, but the information and guidance remain relevant.

From wind damage and flooding to power outages and supply chain disruption, the hazards posed by hurricanes are vast. In response, it's important to have a robust Disaster Management Plan in place to minimize the impact on operations and provide business continuity.

Disaster Management Plan

What Does a Robust Disaster Management Plan Look Like?

An effective disaster management plan consists of 4 key stages: Prepare, Response, Recover and Mitigate.

1. Prepare

Preparedness is an ongoing process. Businesses need to be consistently updating plans and resources to ensure the safety of not only their staff but the continuity of operations. This may also involve coordinating with community plans. These plans need to be analyzed and tested regularly to ensure all staff is up to date and that current operational needs are being addressed.

2. Response

Response involves both short and long-term measures. Typically, the emergency operations leader will coordinate the use of resources (including personnel, supplies and equipment) to help restore personal and environmental safety, as well as to minimize the risk of property damage. Additional information regarding the post-storm assessment of buildings can be found in the Applied Technology Council guide (ATC-45).

3. Recover

Recovery from hurricanes can take years, especially for facilities with complex equipment subjected to severe inundation. During this stage, building repairs will take place and business continuity plans will be actioned. Repercussions often go beyond the scope of the business. Water supplies, community infrastructure and transportation can all be impacted, posing an additional threat to restarting operations.

4. Mitigate

Modifications to building systems can be very effective in mitigating property loss and business interruption during future events. Relocation of operations to facilities with a higher base elevation or installation of protective barriers can reduce the significant losses associated with flooding during a hurricane. Strengthening structural systems to improve resistance to high winds can reduce exposure to the environment following a hurricane. Lessons learned during prior events should be incorporated into mitigation plans.

Minimizing the Recovery Phase Through Preparedness 

As described in the Recover phase, the impact of a hurricane can have devastating effects wider than the business itself. Organizations need to be fully aware of potential threats from outside hazards that can severely impede their road to recovery. Historically, it has taken some organizations nearly two years to recover from the impact of a hurricane, resulting in huge financial losses. So how do you prevent this from happening? Preparedness.

Understanding Exposure and Vulnerability

Understanding your exposure and vulnerability to hurricanes are the first steps in recovering from them. 

Step 1: Hazard Exposure Identification

Hazard Exposure Identification involves utilizing hazard mapping tools and Catastrophe (CAT) Modeling to provide financial loss estimates for property damage and business interruption for single-site and aggregate losses. The hazard mapping provides a categorization of the hazard risk in an easy-to-understand high, moderate or low-risk format. It can include multiple natural hazards to help you understand the full extent of your facility's exposure. 

Step 2: Facility Vulnerability

Facility Vulnerability helps you to understand the vulnerabilities of your facility. From supply chain reviews to facility vulnerability audits, understanding how your organization is vulnerable to natural hazards will be critical when establishing your risk mitigation strategies. A cost/benefit analysis can also help you understand how certain changes to your facility could provide significant cost savings in the case of an event.

Structural Solutions

Once you understand your exposure and vulnerability, you can begin to evaluate your critical assets and plan mitigation measures. In some cases, these can be structural solutions, such as flood defenses, drainage solutions and retrofitting building supports. On the road to recovery, if you’ve invested money at this stage, it can vastly reduce costs and future business disruptions. Cost-effective solutions should be evaluated throughout the preparedness stage to help make sure your organization’s critical assets are protected so you can seamlessly return to normal operating conditions.

Supply Chain Risk Management

If a hurricane hits your supplier’s warehouse, are you prepared? And do you fully understand the level of business interruption this may cause your business? Preparedness for your supply chain does not simply mean getting goods onto your site through floodwaters (or off-site from damaged buildings). Supply Chain Risk Management is essential to mitigating potential financial losses due to issues with supply and demand. As global trade has increased over the last few decades, this has become even more important for maintaining business continuity.

How Can ABS Group Support You?

ABS Group has over 50 years of experience helping clients achieve their Natural Hazard Risk Management goals. Our dedicated team works with clients globally to find bespoke, cost-effective solutions to their unique problems. Our specialized Risk Reduction Program is customized for our client's needs and has provided a clear pathway to achieving their safety objectives. From Supply Chain Assessments and PML Studies to Retrofit Designs and Assessments, our experts have the skills to support your organization.

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