As sea levels continue to rise, flooding is predicted to increase across U.S. coastlines. Overall, we can expect floods to occur, on average, more than 10 times as often as they do today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. With those rising numbers come the inherent increase in resulting damages.
As a critical event, flooding presents a unique risk. To respond and recover successfully, communities and organizations must take a meticulous approach to preparation. Identifying your main priorities is an essential first step to improving your management process.
Flooding Is a Dynamic Risk
While risk generally has two key components – causation and consequence – dynamic risk is differentiated by the unpredictable nature of both. It’s characterized by rapid change, elements of surprise and follow-on risks that arise out of secondary events hitting from new directions. Expect cascading events, interlocking consequences and damages that often manifest where you least expect them. When reflecting on past experiences with dynamic risk, leaders have said, “We were expecting Risk A, but then we got hit by Risk B.”
For example, in the week following Hurricane Ida in the gulf in Louisiana, one business leader reflected:
“We were expecting Ida to hit the Gulf. We were ready. We had identified our most flood-prone properties. We had adjusted our staffing. We had tested our communications. We had pre-positioned generators and other equipment… But we’ve spent much of the last week scrambling, responding to Ida’s flooding of Manhattan – where we were not prepared.”
This organization’s experience underscores the crux of dynamic risk – it manifests in unpredictable ways that require an agile solution, for both anticipation and resolution. So how do you go about solving this puzzle? Technology is the piece that’s been missing.
Prepare, Respond and Recover with Critical Event Management
Critical event management (CEM) includes the resources, tactics and organizational alignment that facilitates effective risk mitigation and incident response before, during and after a crisis. Success is measured by your ability to protect your people, places and property during each phase – Preparation, Detection, Response, Recovery and Post-event Analysis. In today’s complicated risk landscape, human-driven intelligence-gathering and logistical applications are no longer enough. There are simply too many factors to evaluate in too short a time. Mass amounts of available data makes it impossible to understand what’s accurate, timely and the most urgent to respond to. To effectively achieve the overall objective of CEM, organizations need the force-multiplying power of supportive technology.
When applied to the dynamic risk of flooding, the right CEM solution will deliver three elements that significantly enhance your ability to mitigate risk, minimize damages and strengthen overall organizational resilience:
1. Risk Intelligence: This capability enables you to aggregate complex data on any given situation, track feeds from thousands of sources, filter out the noise and then synthesize the data to receive actionable information. This process must happen in real time so organizations, residents and staff can act in time to make a difference.
In the case of flooding, risk intelligence technology can help organizations and agencies more accurately pinpoint locations with increased vulnerability to floodwaters. By considering comprehensive factors such as topography, population density, housing composition and existing infrastructure, risk intelligence can better analyze where, when and how organizations and communities should focus. For example, if your community has a senior care facility in an area located on a low water table with limited access roads, this will likely be a priority group for evacuation. And when the weather pattern shifts suddenly and strikes an area previously predicted to be in the safe zone, risk intelligence helps you pivot faster and analyze the closest available resources to render aid in the new impact area.
2. Critical Communications: This component gives response teams a reliable means to send targeted, time-sensitive notifications to every person in the sphere of impact. To maximize effectiveness, you should be able to deliver geo-targeted, multi-language messages via phone, voicemail, email, SMS and desktop alerts, as well as integrate with IPAWS and other weather alerting systems.
When flooding is imminent, alerts can be sent to residents and workers regarding evacuation routes and resources. If the flood is worse than anticipated, it can be used to apprise everyone on the status of road impasses and utilities outages. As the situation unfolds, two-way communications allow people to mark themselves safe or request assistance. And when families are searching for lost loved ones, rescue workers can quickly get the word out as more people are located and brought to treatment centers and shelters.
The CDC points out another oft unanticipated threat – the spread of infectious disease caused by standing water and unsanitary living conditions following a flood. During the pandemic, it’s especially important to stay on top of this issue and immediately notify people if there’s an outbreak. Stretching medical resources even further to treat patients suffering from overlapping cases of COVID and staph infections presents yet another example of dynamic risk.
3. Incident Management: This function accelerates and simplifies crisis response by helping response teams mobilize immediately via real-time visibility and targeted coordination. This makes it more feasible to provide secure, interactive instructions that are easy to update and distribute as the incident unfolds. A well-developed CEM platform will also offer a chronological audit trail of all actions taken before, during and after an event. Since flooding is seasonal, the goal should always include improvements for the next year.
During the flood and in its aftermath, overlapping risks and their cascading damages can be addressed proactively, to limit preventable secondary and tertiary fallout. For example, often times on flooded roadways, even after the water recedes far enough to allow crossing, dangerous debris remains just under the surface. Incident management technology can ensure response teams are deployed to high-traffic intersections to render aid to people and animals taken unaware by sharp objects and tangled wreckage.
As a leader and protector of communities, you’re committed to doing everything it takes to prepare for a flood. Technology provides the resources you need to navigate the challenges of today and proactively shore up for tomorrow’s unknowns. Visit the Flood Communications Preparedness Resource Center for more tips and insights.
Raise Your Level of Flood Communications Preparedness
What’s your strategy if a flood occurs? Learn key tactics and strategies that can help you better prepare, respond and recover in this flood communications preparedness kit.