More Lessons from Harvey


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Hurricane, downed power lines

 

And now from Irma and Maria . . .

[Note: Please consider using this Advisory as the agenda for a meeting of your neighborhood emergency response team, and include this information in a neighborhood or church newsletter. Share it online. This is information we ALL need to consider!]

The last couple of weeks have been so full of stories about and from hurricane victims that I hesitate to add to the outpouring. But I feel I can’t just sit back and wait for things to settle down. So, here is a continuation of my earlier Advisory on Lessons from Harvey – The First Week.

This Advisory adds observations from Irma and Maria, too.

1. Still the most likely emergency: no power

Texas update: A week after Harvey, I checked the Entergy Texas website. The recurring language (my italics!):

“Power has been restored to all customers in the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey except for customers served by flood damaged equipment, areas that are still flooded, and areas impacted by [specific] substation outages.”

Even as late as last week – nearly 4 weeks after the storm struck —  4,000 were still without power.

Florida update: The outages in Florida from Hurricane Irma were even more widespread. At its height, the power outages affected “62% of the state’s 10.5 million households.”  News reports from five days ago (9-17-2017) say that about 20,000 homes are still dark.

Puerto Rico update: “Puerto Rico’s entire power grid was knocked offline during the storm and the island is facing months without power.”

You have got to be asking yourself,  “How would we fare without power?”

First, it’s important to realize that as an ordinary resident, even after the rain is gone YOU CAN’T FIX YOUR OWN POWER PROBLEMS. That’s why utility teams came to Florida from as far as California to help! These teams have to . . .

  • De-energize dangerous fallen power lines, remove trees from lines, put up new poles, etc. The image above is typical of the mess to be cleared up.
  • Inspect and repair or replace meters that have been flooded.
  • Wait for YOU to get repairs made to your house – repairs that pass inspections — before they can turn the power back on.

All this takes days and days, if not weeks.

Last week, we looked at how to choose battery-operated lanterns for emergency lighting. If you haven’t got your emergency lighting in place yet, head there now. Shelves will be empty if you wait until something happens.

Turning to a generator for longer-term power needs is a completely different decision. We’ve studied this option a number of times, and our neighborhood emergency team purchased a generator some years ago. Questions we had to answer:

  • What would be the limited PURPOSE of the generator? It can’t run everything in a home or office.
  • What size is best? Where would a generator be kept? (Remember in Texas that the back-up generators for the chemical plant were themselves destroyed by the flood.)
  • How much fuel would it need, and where would fuel be stored?

Get professional assistance before making this decision. Here’s an Advisory from earlier this year, with more background information. http://emergencyplanguide.org/portable-generator-safety-update/

And another Advisory focusing on preparing for a power outage in a business setting. http://emergencyplanguide.org/power-outage-at-work/

2. Hidden water problems?

Whenever a disaster involves water, there are additional concerns besides simply having enough water for survivors to drink.

Health care professionals are watching in the aftermath of Harvey and Irma for longer-term health issues including . . .

  • Pollution from sewage. Every image we see of people wading through flood water should make you cringe! These people may be coming directly into contact with sewage. Even the entire water system may have been contaminated. Diseases from sewage pollution can result in death.
  • Chemical pollution. In Texas we all got a powerful lesson about the dangers associated with oil and chemical pollution of water supplies. These dangers are usually not immediate, but could emerge as cancer years after the incident.
  • Mold. Again, when flood water finally withdraws, mold can grow. It’s the danger of mold that prompts people to throw out not just furniture but entire floors and walls, or to abandon their home altogether.
  • Mosquitoes. Standing water after the flood is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus increases the chance of viruses like Zika and West Nile and fevers like dengue and chikungunya. Patrol your property and neighborhood and get rid of standing water.

Emergency preparations thus include not just supplies of clean water but also knowledge to help you identify a potential health problem related to polluted water.

3. What about rebuilding after the power comes back on?

Do you have enough money to rebuild your home if it is destroyed by floods? Probably not. That’s where insurance comes in.

Check out this lengthy Advisory about flood insurance. http://emergencyplanguide.org/flood-damage-not-covered-by-insurance/

If there is any chance that you could be hit by heavy rains, flooding or storm surge, you should be asking:

  • What does my Homeowner’s Insurance cover?
  • Do I have to live in a flood plain to get flood insurance?
  • Where do I get flood insurance?
  • Does the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have maximum limits? (Hint: YES)
  • What is covered by NFIP?
  • What isn’t covered?

Whether or not your flood insurance is adequate, given what we’ve seen lately, or whether you should even get insurance, depends on YOUR answers to the questions above.

Note: There’s a lot in the news lately about the flood insurance program being CUT BACK. I’ll try to keep you up to date.

If you have questions about flood insurance for your home, start with the Advisory mentioned above and then talk to your insurance agent.

4. How will businesses fare?

Even if you’re not a business owner, the impact of a huge storm on the local economy will impact you, too.

According to Scott Teel, Senior Director of Communications for Agility Recover Solutions, in most cases it takes a business about 14 days to recover from a natural disaster. FEMA ads some more, and very sobering, statistics: about 40 percent of small businesses will never reopen after a disaster.

It’s not hard to imagine why. Fourteen days is a long time . . .

First, there’s the flood or the rain that causes the business to shut down, sometimes even a couple of days before the storm actually hits. Then the storm hits; over the three-five days of these recent hurricanes we’ve seen restaurants flooded, fishing boats tossed and destroyed, hotels torn apart.

Even if the building itself isn’t damaged, any business that requires electricity to operate or accepts payment via credit card – like that restaurant, a bank, a gas station, you name it! – will lose revenue during a power outage.

During the shut-down, the business will likely lose employees unless it has funds to pay them for this down time. It will likely lose customers, who are forced to look elsewhere for suppliers to keep their own enterprises going.

What can a business do to protect itself?

  1. Some businesses have a disaster plan that gives owners and employees an understanding of what it will take to carry on essential functions. Naturally, these folks have a better chance of making it through.
  2. Other companies’ plans go so far as to maintain arrangements for the company to move to an alternate location to carry on these essential functions. (As you can imagine, these plans can become pricey.)
  3. Some businesses carry special Business Continuation Insurance that will help, although too great a delay in getting payments can still mean the demise of the business.

If your company doesn’t yet have a disaster plan, you can get started building one using our Guide to a Simple Business Continuation Plan. Request your free copy here. http://emergencyplanguide.org/no-business-continuation-plan-is-a-threat-in-itself/

OK, that’s enough for now.

Our first look at recent disasters talked about immediate issues – having enough water, supplies, and an evacuation kit. This second look brings up some of the longer-term issues that may arise: power outages, health concerns, insurances.

It all goes to reinforce what we have learned at Emergency Plan Guide – when the emergency hits, it’s too late to do any planning or preparing!

Do what you can now to prepare. Whatever you do will serve you better than having done nothing.

Virginia
Your Emergency Plan Guide team

P.S. Again, thanks for sharing.

 

 

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