Tag Archives: disaster

Communication & Technology Preparedness

According to The American Red Cross, the Internet—including online news sites and social media platforms—is the third-most popular way for Americans to gather emergency information and let their loved ones know they are safe. Through the use of everyday technology, individuals, families, responders and organizations can successfully prepare for, adapt to and recover from disruptions brought on by emergencies and/or disasters. With effective planning, it is possible to take advantage of technology before, during and after a crisis to communicate with loved ones and manage your financial affairs.

Stay Connected

Keep your contacts updated across all of your channels, including phone, email and social media. This will make it easy to reach out to the right people quickly to get information and supply updates. Consider creating a group list of your top contacts.

  • Learn how to send updates via text and Internet from your mobile phone to your contacts and social channels in case voice communications are not available. Text messages and the Internet often work during a phone service disruption.
  • Keep extra batteries for your phone in a safe place, or purchase a solar-powered or hand crank charger. These chargers are good emergency tools to keep your laptop and other small electronics working in the event of a power outage. If you own a car, purchase a car phone charger so you can charge your phone if you lose power at your home.
  • In your cellphone, program some of your contacts as emergency contacts so that if you are unable to use your phone, emergency personnel can contact those people for you. Let your emergency contacts know that they are programmed into your phone, and inform them of any medical issues or other special needs you may have.
  • If you have a traditional landline (non-broadband or Voice over Internet Protocol) phone, keep at least one non-cordless receiver in your home because it will work even if you lose power.
  • If you are evacuated and have call forwarding on your home phone, forward your home phone number to your cellphone number.
  • If you do not have a cellphone, keep a prepaid phone card to use if needed during or after a disaster.
  • Prepare a family contact sheet. This should include at least one out-of-town contact who may be better able to reach family members in an emergency.
  • Have a battery-powered or hand-cranked radio or television available (with spare batteries).

The following are additional tips for making phone calls and using your smartphone during or after a disaster:

  • Keep all phone calls brief. If you need to use a phone, try to convey only vital information to emergency personnel and/or family.
  • If you are unsuccessful in completing a call using your cellphone, wait ten seconds before redialing to help reduce network congestion.
  • Conserve your cellphone battery by reducing the brightness of your screen, placing your phone in airplane mode and closing apps you are not using that draw power, unless you need to use the phone.
  • If you lose power, you can charge your cellphone in your car. Just be sure your car is in a well-ventilated place (that is, remove it from the garage) and do not go to your car until any danger has passed. You can also listen to your car radio for important news alerts.
  • If you do not have a hands-free device in your car, stop driving or pull over to the side of the road before making a call. Do not text on a cellphone, talk or “tweet” without a hands-free device while driving.
  • Immediately following a disaster, resist using your mobile device to stream videos, download music or videos or play video games, all of which can add to network congestion. Limiting use of these services can help potentially life-saving emergency calls get through to 911.
  • For non-emergency communications, use text messaging, email or social media instead of making voice calls on your cellphone to avoid tying up voice networks. Data-based services like texts and emails are less likely to experience network congestion. You can also use social media to post your status to let family and friends know you are okay. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you can use resources such as the American Red Cross’s Safe and Well program.

Get Organized

Store your important documents such as personal and financial records in a password-protected area in the Cloud or on a secure flash or jump drive that you can keep readily available. This flash drive can be kept on a key ring so it can be accessed from any computer, anytime, anywhere. Remember important documents, such as:

  • Personal and property insurance
  • Identification such as driver’s license or passport (for family members, as well)
  • Banking information

Don’t forget your pets!

  • Store your pet’s veterinary medical records documents online.
  • Consider an information digital implant.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet in your online kit to aid in identification if you are separated.

Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to plan in advance. Create an Emergency Information document or Family Communications plan to record how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in different situations.

  • Make sure to share this document with family members, friends and co-workers who will also need to access it in an emergency or crisis.
  • When handling personal and sensitive information, always keep your data private and share it only with those who will need access in case of emergency.

Sign up for direct deposit and electronic banking through your financial institution so you can access your payroll funds and make electronic payments regardless of location.

Emergency Resources

Include these sites in your Emergency Information document to ensure that you can quickly access them from any computer or smartphone.

  • Download the FEMA App to access disaster preparedness tips, build your personal emergency kit and look for open Disaster Recovery Centers along with open shelters (if you’re a disaster survivor). Also, stay informed with the FEMA blog.
  • Local emergency management officials often have notification systems. Opt in to a distribution for your community. To find out if your community offers such services, contact your local office of Emergency Management.
  • Signup to receive a monthly preparedness tip from FEMA’s text messages program.
  • Bookmark important mobile sites:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://m.cdc.gov
  • American Red Cross: www.redcross.org/mobile
  • FEMA/Ready: http://m.fema.gov
  • National Hurricane Center: www.nhc.noaa.gov/mobile

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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Establishing a Successful Disaster Management Communication Plan

The recent explosion at the Blue Rhino propane plant in Tavares, Florida was the second major chemical plant explosion of 2013, following April’s Fertilizer plant Explosion in West, Texas which left 15 dead and over 160 injured. The need for inspection of Risk Management Strategyand Health and Safety procedure within the booming Chemicals Industry is greater than ever, following yet another disaster which, thankfully, did not incur any loss of life. But it is up to the company to ensure Health and Safety procedure is up to date and that accidents like yesterday’s explosion can be properly prepared for. Here are some of the key areas that make up an effective Disaster Management plan.

Communication

Communication is a vital component of any risk management strategy. But the reality of a disaster is chaos is almost certain to follow. An effective communication strategy, however, can minimise confusion and contribute greatly towards a remedy.

Departmental communication within a company is important so that members of staff, on every level, are fully informed of a situation and briefed/instructed on what they can or cannot do. Similarly, communication with those who are affected by the disaster can help prevent rumour and panic. Any effective Disaster Management Strategy should prioritise communication with those affected by the situation, as the protection of public interest is important for the sustainability of the company. Communication with the media is also important in terms of getting the truth out there and controlling the situation. Even if uncertainty is rife following a disaster, giving a ‘no information’ answer is better than making no comment at all.

Organization

Of course disasters are totally unforeseen, but preparation for a worst case scenario can be helped by a solid organizational structure. Designating positions and establishing a centre for crisis control can go a long way in keeping a company on its toes in anticipation of a crisis. Organizational structure also involves ensuring adequate tools and equipment are put in place. An alternate power source, emergency supplies and press statements are just a few of the precautionary measures a company can take in preparing its Disaster Management Plan.

Media Relations Officer

Part of the Organization structure involves designating a representative to speak on the company’s behalf in the wake of a crisis. The Public/Media Information Officer should liaise with the incident control officer to assess the situation so he/she can inform the media and general public of the severity of the situation and the measures being taken to remedy it. The Public Information Officer will become the main contact point between those assessing the Disaster and everyone else outside the company.

Measuring the strategy

One of the most important elements of Risk Management is learning from your mistakes. Once the dust has settled, it is important to take a step back and assess the Disaster Management Strategy and its proficiency, as well as the company’s overall Risk Management Process. While it may not appear like an appropriate hallmark following a disaster, every cloud has a silver lining and learning from what went wrong can greatly help a company prevent things going wrong in future.

This is an introduction to creating a risk management plan, for more information you can ask us for help.

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Are You Prepared…for a Hurricane?

Hurricanes are capable of producing winds in excess of 155 miles per hour and causing catastrophic damage to coastlines and several hundred miles inland. Additionally, hurricanes can also lead to storm surges along the coast and cause extensive damage from heavy rainfall.

All Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastal areas are subject to hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November, with the peak season from mid-August to late October.  While the past few years have been quiet for our region, it’s always a good idea to be prepared for a potential storm.

Before a Hurricane

To prepare for a hurricane, take the following measures:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan. Contact Texas Associates Insurors if you would like us to provide you with an emergency kit checklist or sample family communications plan.
  • Learn the elevation level of your property and whether the land is flood-prone. This will help you know how your property will be affected when a storm surge or tidal flooding are forecasted.
  • Identify levees and dams in your area and determine whether they pose a hazard to you.
  • Learn community hurricane evacuation routes and how to find higher ground. Determine where you would go and how you would get there if you needed to evacuate.
  • Make plans to secure your property.
  • Cover all of your home’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” marine plywood, cut to fit and ready to install. Tape does not prevent windows from breaking.
  • Install straps or additional clips to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Be sure trees and shrubs around your home are well-trimmed so they are more wind resistant.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Reinforce your garage doors. If wind enters a garage, it can cause dangerous and expensive structural damage.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations, garbage cans and anything else that is not tied down.
  • Determine how and where to secure your boat.
  • Install a generator for emergencies.
  • If in a high-rise building, be prepared to take shelter on or below the 10th floor.
  • Consider building a safe room.

Hurricanes cause heavy rains that can cause extensive flood damage in coastal and inland areas. Everyone is at risk and should consider flood insurance protection. Flood insurance is the only way to financially protect your property or business from flood damage. To learn more about your flooding risk and how to protect yourself and your business, contact Texas Associates Insurors.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a hurricane hazard:

Tropical Cyclone: A warm-core, non-frontal, synoptic-scale cyclone, originating over tropical or subtropical waters, with organized deep convection and a closed surface wind circulation about a well-defined center. Once formed, a tropical cyclone is maintained by the extraction of heat energy from the ocean at high temperature and heat export at the low temperatures of the upper troposphere.

Tropical Depression: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

Tropical Storm: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind speed (using the U.S. 1-minute average) ranges from 39 mph (34 knots) to 73 mph (63 knots).

Hurricane: A tropical cyclone in which the maximum sustained surface wind (using the U.S. 1-minute average) is 74 mph (64 knots) or more.

Storm Surge: An abnormal rise in sea level accompanying a hurricane or other intense storm, and whose height is the difference between the observed level of the sea surface and the level that would have occurred in the absence of the cyclone. Storm surge is usually estimated by subtracting the normal or astronomic high tide from the observed storm tide. Storm surge can reach heights well over 20 feet and can span hundreds of miles of coastline.

Storm Tide: The actual level of seawater resulting from the astronomic tide combined with the storm surge.

Hurricane Warning: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane warning is issued 36 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.

Hurricane Watch: An announcement that hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within the specified area. Because hurricane preparedness activities become difficult once winds reach tropical storm force, the hurricane watch is issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of storm-force winds.

Tropical Storm Warning: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected somewhere within the specified area within 36 hours.

Tropical Storm Watch: An announcement that tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

Scale Number (Category)

Sustained Winds (MPH)

Damage

1

74-95

Very dangerous winds will produce some damage

  • Minor damage to exterior of homes
  • Toppled tree branches, uprooting of smaller trees
  • Extensive damage to power lines, power outages

2

96-110

Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage

  • Major damage to exterior of homes
  • Uprooting of small trees and many roads blocked
  • Guaranteed power outages for long periods of time–days to weeks

3

111-129

Devastating damage will occur

  • Extensive damage to exterior of homes
  • Many trees uprooted and many roads blocked
  • Extremely limited availability of water and electricity

4

130-156

Catastrophic damage will occur

  •  Loss of roof structure and/or some exterior walls
  •  Most trees uprooted and most power lines down
  •  Isolated residential due to debris pile up
  •  Power outages lasting for weeks to months

5

157+

Catastrophic damage will occur

  • A high percentage of homes will be destroyed
  • Fallen trees and power lines isolate residential areas
  • Power outages lasting for weeks to months
  • Most areas will be uninhabitable

For more information on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, visit the National Hurricane Center.

During a Hurricane

If a hurricane is likely in your area, you should:

  • Listen to the radio or TV for information.
  • Secure your home, close storm shutters and secure outdoor objects or bring them indoors.
  • Turn off utilities if instructed to do so. Otherwise, turn the refrigerator thermostat to its coldest setting and keep its doors closed.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Avoid using the phone, except for serious emergencies.
  • Moor your boat if time permits.
  • Keep a supply of water for sanitary purposes, such as cleaning and flushing toilets. Fill the bathtub and other larger containers with water.
  • Find out how to keep food safe during and after an emergency.

You should evacuate under the following conditions:

  • If you are directed by local authorities to do so. Be sure to follow their instructions.
  • If you live in a mobile home or temporary structure. These shelters are particularly hazardous during hurricanes, no matter how well-fastened to the ground.
  • If you live in a high-rise building. Hurricane winds are stronger at higher elevations.
  • If you live on the coast, on a floodplain, near a river or on an island waterway.

If you are unable to evacuate, go to your wind-safe room. If you do not have one, follow these guidelines:

  • Stay indoors during the hurricane and away from windows and glass doors.
  • Close all interior doors, and secure and brace external doors.
  • Keep curtains and blinds closed. Do not be fooled if there is a lull; it could be the eye of the storm and winds will pick up again.
  • Take refuge in a small interior room, closet or hallway on the lowest level.
  • Lie on the floor under a table or another sturdy object.
  • Avoid elevators.

After a Hurricane

  • Continue listening to a NOAA Weather Radio or the local news for the latest updates.
  • Stay alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane or tropical storm has ended.
  • If you have become separated from your family, use your family communications plan or contact the American Red Cross at 1-800-RED-CROSS/1-800-733-2767 or visit the American Red Cross Safe and Well site: www.safeandwell.org.
  • The American Red Cross also maintains a database to help you find family. Contact the local American Red Cross chapter where you are staying for information. Do not contact the chapter in the disaster area.
  • If you evacuated, return home only when officials say it is safe.
  • If you cannot return home and have immediate housing needs, text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area. (example: shelter 12345).
  • For those who have longer-term housing needs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers several types of assistance, including services and grants to help people repair their homes and find replacement housing. Apply for assistance or search for information about housing rental resources.
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads and washed¬out bridges. Stay off the streets. If you must go out, watch for fallen objects including downed electrical wires, weakened walls, bridges, roads and sidewalks.
  • Keep away from loose or dangling power lines and report them immediately to the power company.
  • Walk carefully around the outside your home and check for loose power lines, gas leaks and structural damage before entering.
  • Stay out of any building if you smell gas, and if floodwaters remain around the building or your home was damaged by fire and the authorities have not declared it safe.
  • Inspect your home for damage. Take pictures of damage, both of the building and its contents, for insurance purposes. If you have any doubts about safety, have your residence inspected by a qualified building inspector or structural engineer before entering.
  • Use battery-powered flashlights in the dark. Do NOT use candles. Keep in mind that the flashlight should be turned on outside before entering, as the battery may produce a spark that could ignite leaking gas, if present.
  • Watch your pets closely and keep them under your direct control. Watch out for wild animals, especially poisonous snakes. Use a stick to poke through debris.
  • Avoid drinking or preparing food with tap water until you are sure it’s not contaminated.
  • Check refrigerated food for spoilage. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up to avoid injury.
  • Use the telephone only for emergency calls.
  • NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.

In addition to insuring your home, we are committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact Texas Associates Insurors at 512-328-7676 or http://www.txassoc.com today.

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