Living Prepared™ for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

NHC Current Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Activity

The Atlantic Hurricane season began officially on June 1.  But even a few days before, Tropical Depression One formed off the coast of the Carolina’s, pretty far north for a TD this early in the season.   Although we’ve already missed National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 24-30), it’s never too late to be Living Preparedfor the Atlantic Hurricane Season.

I attended a webinar today entitled “2009 Hurricane Preparedness for Critical Infrastructure” run by the Department of Homeland Security.  While this was geared towards a briefing on how the national authorities have planned to respond to major events like hurricanes to protect critical infrastructure and key resources (CIKR in government acronym-speak), it provided some useful insights on the threats of the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season.  Here’s some tidbits I wanted to pass on:

  • “All incidents are local incidents” – so reach out and know how to make contact with your local first responder agencies.  Good advice.
  • The 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Forecasts for an average season.  The National Hurricane Center predicts there will be 9-14 named stored; 4-7 hurricanes with 1-3 major hurricanes.  The University of Colorado has predicted 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes (category 3+).
  • The frequency of hurricanes peaks around September 10th, with most hurricanes and tropical storms occurring between mid- to late-August and the beginning of October.

peakofseason

There are a lot of great resources online about hurricanes, hurricane preparedness, storm warnings and alerts.  As I’ve done for H1N1, we’ll post a lot of these links in the right and left columns of this site for ease of reference and also let you know where to find them so you can follow them yourself directly.  For now, I recommend the following:

Living Prepared for the Atlantic Hurricane Season

This next series in Living Prepared with focus on the practical steps you should take to ready yourself, your home and your family for a hurricane impacting your area.  It will include advice for building stocks of emergency supplies in your home, readying your home to survive in a storm, and preparing for evacuation.  And I’ll track my own preparations in our newly renovated house in Brooklyn, NY.

But as recommended by FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security, Living Prepared will take an all-hazards approach to emergency preparedness.  What this means is that the your household emergency supplies, go-bags and other steps you take to prepare yourself and your families for emergencies and disasters will be effective against all possible emergencies and disasters – whether an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, flood, fire or chemical hazard.  So the preparations we go through for this Hurricane Season will carry us throughout the year.

The topics we’ll cover are:

  • Household emergency supplies – what you should be storing/stocking in your home to take you through an emergency
  • Personal and Family Go-Bags – what you should be preparing to take with you should you need to evacuate
  • Vehicle Preparedness – what you should be doing to make sure your vehicle is prepared to evacuate you and your family
  • Developing a Household Emergency Plan

And I’ll try to document my own progress at practicing what I preach.  As we’ve recently moved back into our Brooklyn house after six months of renovations, I have to build up my own emergency stocks.  My personal goal will be to be preparedand have everything in place by the time hurricane season opens for New York City on August 1.

Advertisements

Thoughts from Day Two of Long Island-NYC Emergency Management Conference

I attended the Long Island – New York City Emergency Management ConferenceDay Two – today.  Here’s a few thoughts I wanted to pass on that are relevant to Living Prepared™:

Weather: A major focus was on the weather today.  Lots of lessons for the summer and hurricane season, including:

  • Excessive heat was the #1 killer in NYC for all weather hazards in 2008 – 10 deaths – from 2 heat waves in July.
  • Rip currents – 9 deaths in July – all deaths in unprotected areas (no lifeguards).  So don’t swim in unprotected areas – especially when rip currents are forecasted (and they are – I see them on the local news weather reports all the time).
  • Trees falling on cars – from high winds – causes untold deaths every year.  Remain alert at all times when high winds are forecast.

Earthquakes: Did you know that there are 9 fault lines in or near NYC?   The big quake of record here was a Magnitude 5 (M5) in August, 1884 whose epicenter was over ocean south of Sandy Hook.  According to a HAZUS run, an M5 would cause over $4.4 billion in damage.  Still…. a M5 shouldn’t cause significant building collapse or loss of life given the building codes… but who knows?  A larger quake is not really foreseeable.  I’ve been through a lot of M5 aftershocks and can’t see one doing major damage to NYC…. maybe broken glass, utility disruptions, water main and gas line breaks…. but no major loss of life.

NYCfaults_map_800

Hurricanes: predictions for 2009 similar to average – maybe above the average for named storms (9.6) – 6 hurricanes – 2 major according to the forecasts.  The NYC area hasn’t had a hurricane hit since 1985’s Hurricane Gloria.  Tropical Storms – including Hannah last year – are more common.  Certainly – a big storm (cat 3)  is foreseeable for the NYC area and will eventually occur.  Historical hurricane/tropical storm tracks show the entire East and Gulf Coast get hit.  Hurricanes are something to this and every year.  Note that Public Advisory for Tropical Depression One was issued at  11 AM by the National Weather Service today (storm tracks also released).  NYC OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno noted that it is highly unusual that we have a numbered storm this far north (off the Carolina coast) in May.  The 2009 Hurricane Season has started a few days early this year – it starts June 1 for the Atlantic region and August 1 for NYC.

Tropical_Storm_Map

Beware of complacency.  Again, the last hurricane here was 24 years ago.  People have bravado about weather… In addition to (and because of) public complacency, evacuation from low-lying areas – especially special needs population – is the biggest concern of the region’s emergency managers.  So be prepared to evacuate.

It is time to be Living Prepared™ for Hurricane Season.   I’ll be posting on this over the next month to help you with your household emergency and evacuation planning.

H1N1: Commissioner Bruno noted that there are 1.1 million kids in New York City schools and that the Department of Education (DOE) not only educates but feeds a lot of kids who otherwise don’t get good meals outside of school.  When considering school closures, we need to look at the impacts on the children beyond just continuing their education – and other agencies and programs may need to get involved beyond DOE and Department of Health.

The final session was a fascinating case study of how the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 3407 in Clarence, New York (February 2009) was handled by first responders, State and federal authorities.  Good ICS (Incident Command System) and NIMS (National Incident Management System) principles were followed by all; there was good coordination between federal, state and local officials; even the media was mostly well-behaved.   Well done.

That’s a wrap from the conference.

Thoughts from Day One of Long Island-NYC Emergency Management Conference

I attended the Long Island – New York City Emergency Management ConferenceDay One – today.  Here’s a few thoughts I wanted to pass on that are relavent to Living Prepared™:

  • There was lots of discussion about hurricanes…. almost none on H1N1 or pandemics.  The agenda was set months ago before the H1N1 outbreak… Still… it would have been good to hear about the State’s, City’s and neighboring counties plans given the current response to H1N1…..
  • Speaking of hurricane season:  NYC is third largest port in country.  How shipping is affected may be an underestimated impact of a category 3 or 4 storm.  Long Island plans call for ordered evacuations; the NYC plan does not and calls for sheltering in public facilities; the result will be Long Island residents will fill up shelters in NYC – especially in Queens which borders Nassau county.  This needs some more thinking.
  • Debris removal – federal guidelines have changed making it more difficult to use public funds for debris removal on private property.  Must be proven cost-effective to do it or some such nonsense.  This also needs some more thinking.
  • Bryan Norcross – famous for his on air coverage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and author of the Hurricane Almanac, was the luncheon speaker.  He noted that the US has lots of disasters – the East Coast has hurricanes (being on the west ocean basin); the middle of the country has the perfect geography for tornadoes; and the West Coast has its Pacific Rim earthquakes/volcanoes.  So the challenge for government is who is going to lead people through these disaster events?  He sees a failure in emergency communications planning nationally because there is no national broadcast system.  (I’m not sure I agree – more on that in a moment).  He cited a gap between what the National Hurricane Center knows about the impacts of hurricanes (almost everything) and what the people impacted by hurricanes say afterwards (“gee, I wasn’t expecting that”).  The Emergency Alert System (EAS) seems pretty effective (it allows government to break into all TV and radio broadcasts to issue alerts – NYC in particular does a great job of managing this and other assets to notify the public during emergencies.  Media coverage I’ve seen of large pending storms seems pretty good.  I don’t think you can blame government for people’s attention spans.  However, his advocacy of setting up internet feeds and streaming from City/State/County EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) such that the public and the media can be given live info directly from government during emergencies is an excellent one and something to take note of.
  • NOAA Weather radios – get one.  They turn on automatically when emergency alerts are sent and while the system was set up for weather, it could be used for other disasters/emergencies by government.  (Reminder to self – more on this in a future post.)
  • CMAS – Cellular Mass Alerting System – awaiting federal action – will provide cell alerting based on proximity to cell towers.  Finally!
  • NY-Alert is one of the best uses of the internet to notify people of emergencies.  They are also soon pioneering a lot of web 2.0 applications – including the ability to send notifications all the way into people’s XBoxes and Wii’s.   Pretty cool.  The City of New York’s Office of Emergency Management is also going to be using twitter and facebook to push out alerts and public information.  They launch Notify NYC (a text based emergency alert system) on a citywide basis tomorrow.  If you are a resident, sign up to be notified of events/incidents in your neighborhood.

More to come tomorrow from Day Two.