Consider this: according to the National Hurricane Center, storm surge directly causes approximately half of all deaths associated with massive storms.
In June, we watched the progress of Tropical Storm Cristobal as it moved along the Gulf Coast and inland. News stories about missing boaters and vacationers requiring rescue from cabins in a state park in Louisiana brought to mind a topic we’ve discussed on this blog before: sending out storm surge information as part of your emergency notification system (ENS) messaging to your citizens.
For many years, close to all of the attention during a storm was given to the storm itself, and not the threat of surge. Then Katrina happened. And later, Maria and Ike. It became obvious that storm surge communications needed to be a critical part of the overall emergency messaging plan.
Today, there are many predictive models and tools—online, apps, emergency notification systems and others—to map and communicate storm surge threats. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) provides a tool on its website for finding the latest storm information, including storm surge.
Using the National Weather Service’s Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes model, the tool can predict where storm surge and resulting coastal flooding could occur, as well as the potential height of water above ground. And using an emergency notification system like OnSolve CodeRED, life-saving information can be pushed out quickly to the public.
Did you know?
Using the predictive tool mentioned above, the government keeps a close watch on potential surges and publishes the information on the NHC website, as well as through various agencies’ emergency notification systems. Surge notifications are released within 90 minutes of when the first hurricane watch or warning is issued.
How can you use your emergency notification system to ensure the public has full and accurate information about the threat of storm surge to specific areas?
Unlike the storm itself, storm surge is not a threat to broad regions. Effective storm surge notifications must be targeted to reach people only in those areas where surge is predicted. For instance, the NHC posted surge warnings for Cristobal only for the mouth of the Mississippi River to Ocean Springs, MS, and for the Lake Borgne area.
Having the ability to target messages to people in only critical areas is a must-have capability for your emergency notification system. Without targeting, you risk spreading confusion in the public and reducing the effectiveness of your emergency response.
What does a good storm surge communication strategy look like? Below, we’ve followed Cristobal’s development to provide an outline you can use to guide your messaging efforts.
June 2: A tropical depression over Mexico becomes Tropical Storm, Cristobal.
June 4: The first notification that the storm should reach the U.S. is released.
June 5 The NWS issues its first storm and surge watch advisory, pinpointing where the surge is forecasted, and where to find more information.
June 6 Some of the surge watches are upgraded to warnings.
June 8 The storm dissipates; the surge and storm warnings are taken down.
Cristobal was an early storm. More severe storms—and their surges—aren’t expected to hit until later in the summer. Now is a perfect time to assess your readiness. An emergency action plan—including comprehensive communications strategies—is imperative to keep your residents safe and their property secure.
Hurricane season is here. Are you ready to communicate about the coming hurricanes and storm surges that could create dangerous situations?
Download the article by Don Hall, Director of Government Relations for OnSolve to dive into the extra steps, processes and actions COVID-19 adds to your hurricane response, and to your messaging.Download the Article