Hurricane Michael - Tropical Cyclone Preparedness
By Chris Lawton, 1st Option Head of High Risk Services

Hurricane Michael became a category 4 storm on Wednesday making landfall on Wednesday at Panama City Beach, Florida.  It's the third strongest storm to hit the US mainland. On landfall windspeeds of 155 mph were recorded. Three people, including a child, were killed by falling trees.  The storm has moved inland, is de-powering over Georgia as it heads towards the Carolinas.

A hurricane can be one of the most devastating natural events on the planet. The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. Wind from a hurricane can gust over 200 mph. The key risks from tropical cyclones (which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) are the massive winds, tornadoes, surf and rip currents, inland flooding from heavy rains and storm surge flooding.

A significant factor in the loss of life is underestimating the full force of a hurricane and the effects. For example, storm surges are the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the US. Not only will a storm surge have a huge impact upon the coast, but it can also travel several miles inland, particularly where these is a river, estuary or delta. It is in these area, of course, that much of the population has settled. A persistent flooding threat extends away from the coast from the accompanying heavy, heavy rain which can go on for several days after the initial hurricane has subsided. In the US, this is the second biggest killer. The high winds create lethal risks from loose and unsecured material, as well as that ripped free which is then hurled at high speed by the wind. The waves and rip currents caused by a storm can cause havoc along the coast, and power of currents is consistently underestimated. Water running at speed, below knee height, can floor a grown, fit adult and pull them along helplessly. Where fast moving water hits an obstacle, it can entangle and drive down under the water a boat or person creating a significant drowning risk. Hidden from view beneath the water can be trip and spike hazards, including broken glass and debris.

To help prepare, try and understand the risk to you and your team as thoroughly as you are able. Use resources such as local news, social media and any local disaster response agencies and NGO’s. Research if you will be in an area that is likely to be evacuated, and if so, take the time to understand any pre-existing plans put in place by local or state government. |

For example, this link shows the mapping of evacuation areas in the US: US HURRICANE EVACUATION ZONES (pdf)

Take the time to make sure that you and your team will be insured for operating in these areas, as well as your kit, equipment and vehicles.

You will need a grab bag and emergency equipment. The extent of this depends on you, your task and your circumstances. In our equipment stores we have the gear ready to go and can provide an off the shelf solution. This will include items such as emergency light, food, medical kit, power for mobile devices and other communication and tracking devices as well as clothing and shelter. Items such as mapping and an emergency communication device and trackers are also recommended. Our adviser Steve and his team are all communicating and tracking using the Garmin InReach, running off a satellite signal, with mapping downloaded, on hire from our equipment team. They also have satellite phones ready as a further back up.

An evacuation plan is essential if you are in an area that is likely to be hit. You may not need to go far - just out of the area that is at threat. Make sure your plan is appropriate and effective rather than overly dramatic! Once you have a primary route available, check that it is resourced. If you need to drive for example, do you have appropriate vehicles for the likely terrain, fuelled up and ready to go? When you are happy that your first choice route will work, make a backup plan for if the roads and routes you want to travel are blocked - you must never attempt to cross a flooding area unless you have absolutely no choice. When the time comes to leave, just go. Do not wait. Storm surges and flooding will not wait for you. Making sure your plan is communicated with someone away from the path of the storm will mean that your movement can be tracked.

My team and I will be here should you want to talk anything over. For any equipment queries please get in touch via stores@1stoptionsafety.com.