3 ways state and local governments can prepare for hurricane season
It’s hurricane season again, meaning everyone is gearing up for potential storms and the inevitable aftermath … right?
Unfortunately, those who have the most to lose to unpredictable weather (homeowners, businesses, state and local governments, and organizations) often only think about recovery after the fact. A robust disaster recovery plan is not just a loosely touted emergency scheme—it requires just as much attention to the preparation and recovery post-storm.
We’ve listed three actions below that state and local governments can take to secure the right support systems in case an ugly storm with a first name comes knocking. These action items cover priority areas that affect the day-to-day operations of any organization’s agenda.
1. Review your immediate action plan
First, let’s revisit procedures that may have gotten buried over the course of the last year—and that may require updating considering the unprecedented emergencies of 2020.
Your immediate disaster response process should be updated (annually) with best practices; it should also account for any recently hired staff who might have missed training. For example, rehearsing an evacuation plan goes a long way toward making sure your most valuable assets are secured and infrastructure remains intact. This begins and ends with strong communication with your team—at every level of the management chain.
Reacquaint yourself with your community's disaster response plan. Chambers of Commerce and business associations should play a role in the development of the community disaster response and recovery program—and clearly defining that role can dramatically expedite recovery.
Small check-ins go a long way as well. Stock and inventory emergency supplies such as first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, flashlights, personal protective equipment, batteries, and non-perishables.
Finally, get your staff on-board and in compliance (yes, including family) with basic policies. This alignment can make a world of difference when a natural disaster knocks on your door.
2. Establish a post-disaster business continuity plan
Following the immediate disaster response, state and local governments have a responsibility to gear straight into damage control. What does that entail?
Your continuity plan outlines how you’ll get operations up and running as quickly as possible. Following an emergency—whether it’s a weather event, power outage, pandemic, or terrorism attack—you will deploy a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) that is tailored to your specific conditions:
- The critical functions staff must perform, regardless of the emergency
- The personnel and resources required to perform those functions
- How to contact personnel and resources in the event of an emergency
- What to do if the staff is unable to operate
- How to get up and running again after the emergency
Communicate directly with your staff to identify their specific challenges, including personal/medical limitations and difficulties returning to work. Are your records, documents, and personal data secured, protected, backed up, and stored in an off-site location? Research shows that state and local governments that suffer significant data loss experience longer recovery times and are less able to leverage available federal funds post-storm.
These are just a few of the many questions you’ll need to address internally to ensure your organization’s agility and efficiency in rebounding from an emergency.
3. Develop a long-term contingency plan
State and local governments can avoid becoming consumed in the confusion and shock following a natural disaster by building an extended sustainable plan into their overall priorities.
This is more focused on going the extra mile—positioning your community to maximize its recovery if and when an emergency occurs. Here are a few helpful actions and questions that managers can implement over time:
- Review your hazard insurance and keep all insurance policies up to date. Verify that you have adequate coverage for wind and flood events. Ensure that you will have immediate access to these policies post-disaster.
- Where are your suppliers and vendors (if local, have you identified alternatives outside the region, and have they been procured in accordance with federal requirements in the case of a federally declared disaster)?
- Work with an IT vendor to develop a preparedness and recovery plan for equipment and data.
- Actively build partnerships in the community.
- Test your immediate action plans and COOP regularly through drills and training sessions.