Post-tropical storm Dorian, while not as devastating as its predecessor Hurricane Juan, took quite a toll on Atlantic Canadians after pummeling the Bahamas as a tropical cyclone and the eastern United States as a hurricane in late summer of 2019. The Bahamas and many states declared states of emergencies ahead of the storm’s arrival and Atlantic Canadians living on the eastern shores of Nova Scotia were asked to evacuate the area in anticipation of high winds and flooding.
Dorian has proved to be one of the most intense storms in recent memory, with damages estimated to be in the billions of dollars range for some of the hardest hit locations.
Throughout this storm, as with any weather event of this magnitude, communication is absolutely vital. Communication between governments and citizens; between emergency organizations and disaster recovery teams; and all the connections in between need to be aware of the ongoing situation and updated as conditions worsen or improve.
To aid with all these necessary communications, a communication automation tool is the way to go to ensure that everyone who needs to be contacted is, and all organizations who are managing the storm are able to collaborate and share information as they receive it.
The following post details how to prepare for a hurricane with the help of such an automation platform with references to Atlantic Canada's experience with Dorian.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane: Pre-storm
Atlantic Canadians had to wait a while to experience Dorian’s (somewhat diminished) wrath and were able to watch the storm progress up the coast before it made landfall on Canada’s shores. Since we knew the storm was barreling toward us, we were able to go out and stock up on the essentials (storm chips, anybody?) before the wind and rain hit.
Emergency management offices were keeping a close eye on the storm and were already preparing for the cleanup. This preparation could have been assisted and streamlined by an online solution that allows for the creation of communication plans and templates that can be launched whenever the need arises.
Emergency managers could have created a step-by-step communication plan well in advance of the tropical storm that they could execute and complete as needed. For example, a templated plan could include the following tasks:
- Monitor Environment Canada updates
- Issue an initial public warning alert
- Ensure extra resources are on standby
- Poll for damages
- Recruit additional resources
- Monitor status of critical infrastructure
- Send a public information update
- Confer with stakeholders as to the next steps
Some of the above tasks are notification tasks where the content could be easily templated with general information that could then be expanded on when the plan needs to be launched. An example of a general public warning alert could be as follows:
“[STORM NAME] is expected to touch down in Atlantic Canada at [TIME] on [DATE]. The [STORM TYPE] will hit [AREA] and travel [DIRECTION], affecting [PROVINCE NAME(S)]. Residents are advised to prepare for [CONDITIONS] and stock up on essential items. More information will be provided at a later time.”
The necessary content can be filled in before the alert is launched ahead of an oncoming storm.
Pre-creating these steps and tasks ahead of time will save emergency managers a lot of time and effort they can better spend ensuring that critical infrastructure is sound, citizens are safe, and try to mitigate any potential disasters before they occur.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane: During the Storm
Once emergency managers have their step-by-step communication plan in place, it can now be launched once a strong storm of Dorian’s caliber threatens the area, with specific details pertaining to the current weather event.
Throughout the storm, tasks can be checked off one at a time as they are completed. Incoming reporting for any of the notifications sent out can be displayed on a common operating dashboard and shared with appropriate personnel or organizations on an as-needed basis. This reporting data can include information about how many notifications were sent, who they were sent to, as well as how many recipients confirmed receipt – giving managers an idea whether or not they need to send a follow-up notification.
Once a notification is sent, the task associated with it in the communication template is checked off automatically, informing emergency managers that the step has been completed and they can move onto the next task.
In addition, as we all know, no two storms are exactly alike, which means that some steps in a templated communication plan may not apply in certain cases or other steps may need to be added throughout the course of the storm. Emergency managers are easily able to skip unnecessary tasks as well as add new ones to the launched instance of the communication template. These skips and additions will be recorded and stored in the report for the completed communication plan and reviewable post-storm.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane: Post-storm
Once the storm has passed and everyone is out surveying the damage left behind, emergency managers are able to mark the communication plan complete and begin reviewing the reports that were generated from the various tasks. One of the key benefits of managing communication plans in an automated communication platform is the ability to keep detailed and comprehensive reports regarding all the communications that were and were not sent out during the execution of the plan. Emergency managers can review all actions taken and determine whether the communication plan was effective or whether updates and refinement are needed.
After the reports have been reviewed, the emergency managers can use the communication automation platform to schedule a teleconference with all the key disaster recovery players – the EMO, local law enforcement, the military, etc. – for a postmortem update and to discuss the next steps that need to be taken.
In some cases, the damage to critical infrastructure will be significant. Emergency managers may be required to launch additional communication plan templates to manage any necessary evacuations and safety alerts.
For example, in Halifax, a crane collapsed onto a building during Post Tropical Storm Dorian, which required the evacuation of a number of people from surrounding residences and businesses. An automated communication platform could have helped facilitate the evacuation process by sending these evacuation notices to contacts residing or operating businesses in any of the affected buildings; polling evacuees, asking them whether they had other lodgings or whether they needed assistance from the Red Cross; and then notifying them again once it was safe to return.
How to Prepare for a Hurricane: How SimplyCast Can Help!
You may have been wondering where to find a communication automation platform that can allow emergency managers to do all the things noted above. Well, lucky for everyone, SimplyCast has the answer!
Complete with mass notification, polling, mapping, and common operating picture capabilities, SimplyCast provides a comprehensive emergency management platform that can be used by a local government or an emergency management organization to manage all kinds of weather and non-weather-related emergency operations.
For a free demo of SimplyCast’s emergency communication suite of tools, sign up using the button below!