Hurricane Preparedness: Revisiting Your Emergency Plan in 2021

headshot of a manBy Operations Manager Johnathan Peavy

Hurricane season started June 1 and Elsa’s track from southern Florida to New England was a reminder that taking the time to create a hurricane preparedness plan can mean the difference between protecting property or leaving it to chance.

Last year’s challenges are impacting preparedness planning for businesses and homeowners alike. When evaluating your preparedness, factor in supply chain challenges, high demand for materials, long lead times, and higher prices.

Supply chain abnormalities loom large

A named storm typically creates high demand for supplies, but this year, availability may be even more of an issue as factors from the last year affected many commodities. In fact, several storms impacted production. February’s Texas ice storm—a once-in-a-hundred-year event—temporarily immobilized the state and damaged many factories. This impacted production of polymers and chemical products. In addition, two strong hurricanes barreled through Lake Charles, Louisiana, an important industrial town that produces similar products and provides many resources to the material supply industry for construction. Because of these supply chain issues, a more proactive approach is necessary when acquiring materials needed to prepare for a storm.

Demand for materials is high

On top of the supply challenges, building is coming back at full capacity, with two years’ worth of pent-up demand. Many construction projects will be ramping up in the second half of the year—projects that went on hold last year as well as new projects are getting underway. As a result, demand for construction supplies is high, so individuals and small businesses need to plan for their needs well in advance. Those who wait until the last minute will find it even harder to get what they need.

High-demand commodities require more time

Although storm-impacted factories are ramping up capacity, ongoing workforce shortages from COVID-19 and other factors are slowing the process, creating greater supply challenges. Lead times are long, affecting supplies such as plywood, strapping, and tarps, making it all the more important to plan ahead appropriately.

Pricing reflects supply chain challenges

Since supply chain issues directly affect commodity prices, retail supply and material costs are higher – which is another factor to work into preparedness planning. Plywood, for example, which is usually in high demand as storms approach, is already priced high. A drop in the commodity markets means prices may level out somewhat over the next few months, but they are not likely to go back to pre-escalation levels during this hurricane season.

Proactive equals prepared

What is the best way to handle these conditions and their resulting challenges? Plan for them.

Of the many steps for hurricane preparedness planning, the most important is having a plan in place. The likelihood of named storms and storms of greater intensity increase later in the summer, so for individuals and businesses that do not yet have a plan, now is the time to create one.

Look around and take stock of the materials on hand and determine what might be needed. For example, hurricanes often result in wind damage and power outages, so it is important to consider how to mitigate power outages in addition protecting against wind damage.

Factoring in lead times is crucial in developing a plan that can be implemented successfully when the time comes. This is especially important for anything commodity-based, including items such as gas, wood, metals, and plastic. It is always better to have supplies on hand rather than waiting until a storm is approaching.

Remember to include the human element

Materials are only part of successful hurricane preparedness planning. For businesses, considering the workforce needs—including who is managing what aspect of securing your property—is an invaluable element for assuring your plan goes off without a hitch.

Remember to compile a list of contacts. This information will serve as a quick and easy reference when time is of the essence. Specify everyone’s responsibilities in the plan’s execution alongside their contact information.

For example, when storms are on the horizon in Miami, Florida, Robins & Morton creates an emergency response contacts list for its clients in case they have a need after their building is secured. If a hospital or other facility sustains damage, it will need to get back up to speed as quickly as possible, so the contact list offers a way for these clients to rely on Robins & Morton’s resources and logistics to secure the items necessary to complete repairs.

Have a contingency plan

Plan for the unexpected as well as the expected, with contingencies for anything that could have a significant impact on your preparations and recovery.

Also, consider preparing for all types of extreme weather events. As the past year has shown, extreme cold or other unexpected weather may show up at atypical times or in atypical geographic areas. Staples include flashlights, batteries, emergency blankets, an emergency radio, and bottled water, among others.

Think beyond the event

In addition to being prepared for the storm or other weather event, account for the conditions afterward. Take the time to think through what will be necessary to return to fully functional and include those items that must be purchased in advance.

Be mindful that last year’s plan may not be adequate for this year and take the time each year to revisit the plan and update it. The 30 minutes it takes to go through the plan prior to inclement conditions could end up saving days, money, or lives when the time comes to implement it.