2020 was no doubt a year for the crisis record books. So, what can crisis leaders expect in the year ahead? Not Nostradamus-level prognostication, here, but the safe bet is on the acceleration of severe weather events.
While the pandemic commandeered most of our crisis-fighting resources, a steady drum beat of severe weather events, including bushfires in eastern Australia, wildfires in the western United States, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, droughts, floods, and tornadoes, also interrupted what were left of normal business operations. In the U.S., alone, a record-breaking 17 weather disasters caused at least USD 1 billion in damages.
Continued increase in severe weather events forecasted
Nor does 2020 promise to be anomalous in this respect. Globally, the number of disasters has increased ten-fold since the 1960, according to the 2020 Ecological Threat Register. Costs have also gone up.
The Asia-Pacific region has been particularly hard hit, logging some 2,800-plus major disasters in the last 30 years. Not to be outdone, the U.S. has averaged around 24 major disasters a year in the same time period.
Forecasts of the future are likewise grim, wherever you turn. On the heels of its historic bushfire season, Australia should expect subsequent bushfire seasons to be even more extreme and less predictable, found the Royal Commission on Bushfires. Cyclone activity might decline in number, according to the same Royal Commission report, but individual cyclones will only get more complex. Cold comfort.
How to plan for severe weather events
What can be done? Like for pandemics, preparedness for severe weather events means developing and implementing severe weather plans based on likely emergencies, including winter storms and extreme cold, wildfires, thunderstorms and lightning, extreme heat, flooding, hurricanes/cyclones, tornadoes, etc.
Before putting pen to paper on your severe weather emergency plan, though, it’s critical to consider two factors: the plan’s purpose and its scope. In other words, lay out what you are trying to accomplish with the plan, and what material will be covered in it.
Try to be as clear and concise as possible in distilling your points. Goals and objectives will, of course, vary depending on the design of your organisation’s facilities, available resources at your disposal, as well as the weather threats likeliest to affect your area.
A tip for tailoring the plan to your site’s specific design: consult a structural engineer or architect. That person will have the necessary know-how to help you identify safety zones within the structure.
What to include when planning for severe weather events
Don’t neglect appropriate meteorological terminology, either. Sure, memorising the precise definitions of a bunch of meteorological terms might seem unproductive. But terminology matters when you’re getting relevant information from a recommended source.
For instance, a severe weather incident is a meteorological phenomenon that could endanger people or cause damage to your site. The relevant incident plan, digitised in your crisis management software platform, will then be activated when the relevant weather agency issues a weather Warning, Watch, Advisory, or comparable terminology.
In addition, outline roles, responsibilities, and duties for site supervisors and other staff members involved in managing the emergency. The resulting plan will likely cover the following:
- Protocols to follow during severe weather incidents
- A definition of teams assigned to the incident
- Roles, responsibilities, and expectations for all team members
- High-level considerations to follow
- Clear action plans to execute
- An evacuation strategy
Filling in those areas will take time and effort. Add to that, once the plan has been developed, don’t neglect to test it regularly, refining it (if possible) alongside local first responder agencies.
Finally, severe weather is here to stay. And 2021 promises to bring more not fewer major disasters of this kind. Need more help developing a severe weather plan for your business?
Download our best practice Guide to Developing a Severe Weather Response Plan for Your Business: