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This Time Last Year: A Look Back at the 2017 Hurricane Season

The 2017 hurricane season was one for the record books, with four major storms and three more minor ones impacting the U.S. and the Caribbean.

What’s worse, several of them hit land in more than one location — causing additional devastation. There were hundreds of millions of dollars in damage and over 100 deaths attributed to the four main storms alone, making 2017 the costliest hurricane season on record for the United States. Ten of the total 17 named storms for the year reached what is considered hurricane force. When you consider the amount of damage and loss of life, you have to consider: is there any way that businesses and individuals could have been more prepared?

The Major Hurricanes of 2017

The four major hurricanes of 2017 were named Harvey, Irma, Maria and Nate. Starting life as tropical cyclones off the shoreline of the U.S. and the Caribbean, they devastated locations such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Louisiana and South Texas. Hurricane Harvey lingered over Texas and Louisiana, making landfall multiples times and causing over $180 billion in damages. More than 30,000 support personnel at the federal level were mobilized to help with cleanup and support efforts. Hurricane Irma came next, with serious storm damage occurring in the Florida Keys and the Caribbean, specifically on the island of Barbuda where more than 90% of buildings were damaged. Irma was “only” a Category 4 storm, but she left behind nearly $200 billion in damages, killed 129 people and caused 40,000 federal personnel to be mobilized.

Hurricane Maria had a catastrophic impact on Puerto Rico, where the Category 4 hurricane stripped the island’s 3.4 million inhabitants of power and basic necessities. While the small country continues to rebuild, it will take years to restore everything that was damaged. Nineteen thousand federal personnel were dispatched to help support the area, where an estimated $95 billion in damages were caused by the storm. Hurricane Nate was the weakest of the four, barely reaching a Category 1 with limited power to cause widespread devastation. Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were hardest hit by the 90 mph winds. Damage was worse in South America where Nate was strongest — causing extensive flooding, landslides and 45 deaths.

Effective Communication Saves Lives

Offering support to the families that were impacted by these disastrous storms required extensive coordination — coordination that would be impossible without advanced collaboration and communication tools. People are looking for communication in a variety of different ways when a storm is headed their way, and they trust their local and federal government to keep them safe and informed. Helping citizens understand the true severity of the weather can be challenging, but lives can be saved when you are able to quickly reach out with time-sensitive messages in a variety of different formats.

Best Practices for Disaster Communication

Creating a disaster communication plan before you need it is critically important. Hurricanes can shift course quickly, surprising your community with the severity of the threat. When you have a communications strategy in place before you need it, you are much more likely to be ready to save lives and protect those you serve. Here are some best practices for disaster communication:

  • Create or expand your database of community members, and maintain updated phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses.
  • Segment your audience list based on job role; e.g. individuals who are on the front line for search and rescue versus those who will be providing support services at a central location.
  • Have a dynamic communications infrastructure in place that allows you to quickly and easily send messages to each audience segment, or based on a geographic location.
  • Pre-load messages for potential events, so the messages can be quickly triggered and contain key information such as: where to gather in the event of an emergency or best practices for staying safe in your home
  • Actively test your communications tool on a regular basis so you can be sure that messages are effectively received.
  • Create a clear chain of command, so there are no questions about who should be triggering specific messaging. Consider all contingencies in your planning.
  • Document your response plans and timelines and regularly review them with your core team.

Staying calm and cool in the event of a disaster is particularly important when you are supporting a community that is counting on you. Request a demo of OnSolve’s CodeRED crisis communication tool today to provide an added level of security to your constituents. With CodeRED, information can be cost-effectively pushed to users based on either their geographic location or because they are on a specific list. The experts at OnSolve are on hand to answer your questions at 866-939-0911 about their wide range of services that includes implementation of the cloud-based applications, standalone system hosting or fully managed services.