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Severe Weather Preparedness: New Solutions to A Growing Problem

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A look at last some of the major severe weather incidents from last year show that no location in the United States was immune. In 2017:

  • The worst drought in decades affected the Northern Plains states.
  • 66” of snow was dropped on Eerie PA in 2 days, potentially a record.
  • A record-breaking flood event impacted the mid-Mississippi Valley.
  • 71% of Hawaii was under drought at the end of the summer.
  • California experienced the most destructive wildfire season on record, with 9,133 fires burning 1,381,405 acres, killing 43 people, and costing $18 billion dollars (triple the previous record).
  • The Atlantic Hurricane Season broke several records, including the record for length of time that a storm maintained the same intensity (Irma, 37 hours), most rainfall from a tropical cyclone in the US (Harvey, more than 60 inches in Southeast Texas), the first known year that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the continental US (Irma and Harvey).
  • Overall, 2017 was the most expensive year for weather disasters in history, totaling an estimated $306 billion in damages.

Clearly, severe weather is a serious threat to public safety with indications suggesting that the number of disruptive weather events is on the rise.

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Everbridge believes the Critical Event Management framework is the most comprehensive system for incident response, and here are some ways organizations can be better prepared to respond when impacted by a severe weather incident:

Critical Event Management for Severe Weather

Step 1
Assess – Detect and gain situational clarity about a threat and its potential impact.

This includes gathering threat data and contextual information needed to assess the magnitude of a risk from a range of sources including threat intelligence feeds, IT system intelligence, public safety information, weather status and forecast, social media information, and in the case of a physical threat, data from the location of the threat.

This step is critical changing situational intelligence around severe weather. Tornados offer little warning before they endanger lives. The path of a wildfire can change rapidly depending on changing winds. Even hurricanes, of which there is typically advanced warning, can still vary greatly along the Cone of Uncertainty. Real-time, accurate situational intelligence is the initial step that all other response steps flow from. Without this, your response may end up doing more harm than good, with a nightmare scenario of evacuating people into danger areas rather than out of them.

Step 2
Locate – Locate key stakeholders to rally, instruct, and inform.

This includes not only those who could be in harm’s way, but also preassigned employees who can help resolve the particular event at hand and any key stakeholders affected by that event.

During severe weather emergencies, you will need to identify and communicate effectively with your at risk populations, search and rescue responders, transportation resources, and medical supplies.

Stage 3
Act – Take quick and decisive action to mitigate or eliminate the impact of a threat.

This process optimizes and automates the appropriate incident response, including: standard operating procedures, escalation policies, best practices, and response team and device activations.

Severe weather emergencies can add stress to communication infrastructure when it is needed most, so ensure that your providers have redundant systems and that you take a multi-modal communication approach. Use this as a chance to automate your specialty team (e.g. swift water rescue) callout and streamline SitRep distribution.

Stage 4
Analyze – Evaluate actions taken and understand patterns to improve risk resiliency.

The next severe weather season never more than a year away. Every severe weather emergency response generates valuable data that can be used in the continuous improvement process. To discover areas that can be improved during the next emergency, ensure that you have data on resident response rates, responder response rates, and message deliverability.

For more information on best practices in severe weather response, take advantage of:

Webinar – Extreme Hurricanes: 1 Year Later

Wildfire Preparedness Kit