The 2020 hurricane season in the United States is predicted to be one of the most active in recent history. Twenty named storms and three to six major hurricanes are expected to form in the Atlantic Ocean. Though Tropical Storm Isaias brought only showers to Florida, it is forecasted to move up the East Coast as a category one hurricane. Just as the country attempts to control the pandemic’s escalation, states are faced with hurricane response efforts at the same time.
How states and localities are preparing. States preparing for hurricane season are working with emergency response systems that may already be at capacity, as COVID-19 has claimed much in the way of emergency funding and hospital resources. In the media, pandemic coverage has crowded out other subjects, and states are struggling to effectively communicate hurricane preparedness plans.
Evacuations will have extra complications due to COVID-19, as people can no longer crowd into shelters without risking mass infection. CDC guidelines recommend sheltering in place, if possible, for residents of states that will be impacted by storms. Some states and localities are contracting in advance with hotels that have vacancies due to COVID-19 for emergency shelters.
The Florida Public Service Commission has said that social distancing and other pandemic-related guidelines will make the state’s response much costlier. For example, relief workers will need more staging areas to reduce crowds, and eating and sleeping arrangements will have to be revamped to decrease the risk of infection.
How can businesses prepare. Hurricane preparation and potential impacts from storms only exacerbate the problems businesses have been facing for months due to the pandemic. Though businesses many have reopened, hurricanes can force closures once again. Supply chain issues also can be expected.
According to consultancy BDO, businesses should prepare for disaster recovery now by assessing their response capabilities. Evaluating a crisis management plan in relation to current finances and the resurgence of covid-19 may assist in preparation. Ensuring that a business can operate or hold training events virtually, for example, will help with continuity.
Businesses should also review their insurance plans and adjust as needed. While some pandemic assistance has come through disaster loan or grant programs in the past few months, insurance plans will address damages due to natural disaster. Communication with staff is critical before, during, and following the storm, both to strengthen preparedness and to ensure employees know what to expect in the event of damages and closures.
What’s to come. Hurricane season officially ends on November 30. In the meantime, communities should prepare to mitigate risk to the extent they can, given the circumstances.
Economic developers should expect the disaster recovery process to take longer due to the pandemic. While more people are preparing for hurricane season due to the coronavirus, state and local responses will have a harder time mitigating risks and reviving damaged communities.