Archive for the ‘Hurricane Planning’ Category

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part Two: Consequences (Or the “So What?”)

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

This is Part 2 of a three-part series on hurricane analysis. Part 1, “Determining the What,” dealt with anticipating the impact of a tropical system. We discussed various tools and projections used by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management to predict the potential impact of a tropical system. This post focuses on consequence management.

Historical data on the impact of past storms was useful in projecting potential consequences in New Jersey from Hurricane Sandy. In addition, FEMA, through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), provided maps of flood-prone areas and historical data on property flooding insurance claims as part of its mission to reduce the impact of flooding on private and public structures. GIS mapping helped emergency managers define facilities most at risk, including key residences and businesses; hospitals and schools; and critical infrastructure, such as power plants, water/wastewater treatment facilities, and police, fire, and emergency medical service (EMS) stations. (more…)

The Challenge of Developing Situational Awareness During Hurricane Disasters—Part One: Determining the What

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Author: Jim Weldin, Senior Emergency Planner, IEM

These series of articles will discuss the aspect of gaining situational awareness during hurricane disasters. The overall theme is to determine the potential storm impact, the consequence of that impact, and finally utilization of this information to provide recommendations for consequence management.


Emergency management and civil defense agencies are responsible for coordinating response to a disaster. This coordination occurs in a centralized location—the emergency operations center—where information is gathered and analyzed to determine the impact or potential impact of an incident, ascertain resource needs, and establish priorities for assigning resources where they are needed most.

I was engaged in this process while supporting the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management when Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast of the United States in October 2012. My experience in the State Emergency Operations Center and 2 weeks later in the Joint Field Office working with 2,600 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) staff was consistent with the challenges that every emergency operations center around the world faces when confronted with a dangerous natural disaster: determining the what, the so what, and the what’s next.

Part One: Determining the What!

The State of New Jersey is the most densely populated in the United States, with a population of approximately 9 million people. Much of that population is centered in the urban areas in the northeast part of the state near New York City and coast of the Atlantic Ocean coast. The unmet needs of this large urban area can quickly overwhelm the capability to deliver services.

To coordinate the assistance needed during disasters, a critical function of the emergency operations center is to determine what is occurring, the impact or the consequence of what is occurring (the so what), and the consequence management or the plan to respond (the what’s next). Significant challenges, however, impede the ability to determine these three elements. (more…)

Planning to Provide Continuity

Monday, May 23rd, 2016
Disaster Recovery for Businesses

An open sign is one of the few items left after a tornado struck this convenient store in Oklahoma in 2013. (Photo: State Farm/Flickr)

Author: Gary Scronce, Director of Preparedness Programs, IEM

Where I live in Louisiana, we have been hearing a little more about emergency preparedness than normal lately with the start of hurricane season on June 1 fast approaching. Then this morning, I noticed that the week of May 16-20, 2016 has been designated as Business Continuity Awareness Week. A lot of the focus of the emergency management community prior to hurricane season is on trying to get the public to prepare itself and rightly so. During the first 48-72 hours after a hurricane, people should be prepared to take care of themselves. So how does this tie to Business Continuity? In two important ways at least.

First, the public sector version of Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP). Governments develop COOP plans to help reduce or prevent the risk of critical government services and functions going offline in a disaster. For those risks that can’t be prevented, COOP planning prioritizes those services and functions and seeks to minimize the time it takes to recover them if they go offline. The faster governments can recover, the faster they can resume providing day to day services to their citizens/customers, respond to their emergency needs and support their recovery from disaster.  Being able to do those things helps a community get back to “normal” faster. (more…)

6 Vital Catastrophic Planning Considerations

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Author: Michael Icardi, Associate Manager, Preparedness Programs, IEM

Hurrican KatrinaMaintaining a high degree of preparedness for conducting emergency management operations has gone through many iterations of planning paradigms in the recent past. New incidents, both domestic and international, have called attention to the policies, protocols, and procedures that shape response and recovery activities. These incidents highlight the need for catastrophic planning, that is, planning for a disaster that immediately overwhelms the personnel and resources of a jurisdiction; it is a scenario considering the maximum of maximum impacts.

In the past eight years, IEM has served as one of the lead companies supporting catastrophic planning in Louisiana for a major hurricane; Florida and FEMA Region IV for a major hurricane and subsequent breach of the Herbert Hoover Dike along Lake Okeechobee leading to long-term flooding; and the Midwest and South for a major earthquake along the New Madrid Seismic Zone.  Through these efforts, we have identified six concepts that all planners should address during their planning process for a catastrophic incident.

1. Requires fundamental shift in traditional methods

It is easy to become complacent with the status quo for preparedness activities, especially when your jurisdiction has not gone through a significant incident.  As such, the traditional way you provide food and water, sheltering, or evacuation has not been overwhelmed by catastrophic impacts. Planners commonly assume that they can implement operations in the same way they have always done it; they will just scale it up. In Southern California, the Catastrophic Earthquake Response Plan project identified the need to shelter 500,000 survivors in the Los Angeles Operational Area. Using the traditional model, a shelter will hold 300-500 people. Thus, at least 1,000 shelters, personnel and logistical support would be required to shelter 500,000 survivors. The traditional method must be reconsidered. (more…)

Does Trust Matter in Managing Emergencies?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Author: Mark Scott, Manager of Critical Infrastructure, IEM

When emergencies occur — hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, winter storms, pandemics, terrorism, hazmat spills, radiation leaks, and more – people expect government to act. Emergency managers at all levels must move quickly and effectively to protect life and property. And to do so, they need something that is increasingly scarce: the public’s trust.

Many observers believe we live today in an era of mistrust. Poll after poll has chronicled the continuing decline of trust for our major institutions, especially the public sector. In its most recent “Trust in Government” survey, the Pew Research Center found that “By almost every conceivable measure Americans are less positive and more critical of government these days.” Building on previous surveys, the 2010 report found that half of the population continues to believe government runs its programs inefficiently; that there has been a sharp increase in the last decade in people believing that government has the wrong priorities; and that the number of people who believe the federal government has a negative effect on their day-to-day lives has also increased (to 43%). (more…)

The New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP) and how it can be improved

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Author: Eston Spain, Emergency Planning Associate, IEM

I recently indicated in a previous posting that the New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP) was very useful in helping some of the City’s residents (approximately 20,000) in evacuating for Hurricane Gustav. But, like any good plan, as effective as the CAEP has become, it should be updated to reflect any changes or problems encountered in the earlier version.

Bus shelter with route map. Courtesy of Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority

As a suggestion, these updates could include: bus evacuation, route information, and the map updated to reflect the changes. I determined that for each evacuation center, an evacuation route could be identified using GIS. Furthermore, bus stop kiosks and bus stop shelter walls are ideal locations for placing mass transit and city-assisted evacuation information, such as maps, evacuation shelters serviced by a particular route, and evacuation shelter locations. Bus route maps located at bus stop shelters are convenient to mass transit commuters and way-finders in a large metropolitan city.  These maps can display route specific information, such as streets serviced or located along a route; or display the route as an overlay in a large scale map that covers a greater area, such as a city.  The larger scale maps often include multiple bus routes, highways, main and secondary streets, as well as certain geographic and topographic information. The downside to this type of map, as opposed to route specific maps, is that the more information displayed, the more complicated the map becomes, thus the more difficult to read and less likely that one can find the information needed (let alone the bus desired). But, this is not always the case, even though New Orleans does not have maps at their bus stop shelters. Perhaps some examples would help to demonstrate why maps are important features for bus stop shelters. (more…)

The Perfect Storm: 2010 Hurricane Season, the worst yet?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Author: Madhu Beriwal, CEO & President of IEM

Hurricane Katrina was thought to be the perfect storm. It punched Louisiana and Mississippi, causing horrific loss of life, tremendous damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure for miles, and a bruised national psyche.

But, Katrina may not be the perfect storm. The perfect storm may be coming to the Gulf of Mexico this hurricane season.

There are a number of currents that are steering this perfect storm:

The most active hurricane season in recent memory – scientists have predicted that the 2010 hurricane season, stretching from June 1 to November 30, will be very active –more active than the average for the last 50 years of the previous century. The hurricane spawning waters of the Atlantic Ocean are warm, the El Niño (the “good cholesterol” of hurricanes) is weak, and La Niña (the “bad cholesterol” of hurricanes) is expected to get strong during the peak of the hurricane season. (more…)

A Lesson Learned from Katrina? The New Orleans City Assisted Evacuation Plan

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Author: Eston Spain, Emergency Planner, IEM

A few years ago, I witnessed and lived through the before and after of Hurricane Katrina’s wrath.  I saw the problems in evacuating from New Orleans. I was greatly relieved when the City of New Orleans released the City Assisted Evacuation Plan. These are my observations and recommendations about their plan.

As frightful and nerve wracking as it is waiting for a hurricane to make landfall, it can be even more dreadful if you don’t have the means to evacuate.  Maybe it’s because you thought how chic it would be to give up your car and commute everyday to your job via one of the lovely streetcars that New Orleans is famous for. Unfortunately, though, there are others who simply lack the financial means, or for other reasons cannot evacuate on their own. 

In 2008, the City of New Orleans created the City Assisted Evacuation Plan (CAEP) to make sure that the city’s most vulnerable citizens have a way to evacuate. The purpose of the CAEP is to help citizens who want to leave during an emergency, but lack the capability to self-evacuate.[1] The general concept of the plan is that the city utilizes its facilities, manpower, and other resources to provide assistance to citizens who cannot self-evacuate during the declaration of an emergency. The CAEP is available online from the City of New Orleans’ website (http://www.cityofno.com/). The CAEP comes with an evacuation map as part of the evacuation plan and a flow chart to explain how the process works. The map depicted in the CAEP lists 17 evacuation centers; all serviced by the New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority (NORTA or RTA) buses. (more…)

BP Oil Spill, Hurricane Katrina, 9/11—Will We Learn From History?

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

A Message from IEM President and CEO, Madhu Beriwal

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

As we approach the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, I am reminded again of the lessons that Katrina taught. These lessons are especially important now, as a new monster lurks in the Gulf. This time it is not a hurricane—it’s oil gushing from BP’s exploded Deepwater Horizon rig. And waters are warmer this year than in the past few years, foretelling a bad hurricane season.

I remember these words:

“There is terrible potential for fatal harm to the region and its inhabitants from a storm of this severity … The northerly track of the storms depicted here seems to place a majestic volume of surge, driven inland from the Gulf, against the levee systems south of New Orleans … Levees seem to be overtopped for the first time in major sections … Populated areas could have most residential and some commercial structures destroyed totally … All human efforts feasible should be made to secure the largest evacuation response rate possible.”

I, Madhu Beriwal, was the author of those words in 1985—20 years before Hurricane Katrina struck. This scenario and 49 others were included in the Southeast Louisiana Storm Surge Atlas. The atlas was a single document detailing the varieties of hurricanes that could affect New Orleans. The consequences of such storms were not new to me then or now.

In 2004, IEM created a catastrophic hurricane scenario for an All-Government exercise focused on response planning for New Orleans. That hypothetical scenario was called Hurricane Pam. One year later, the hypothetical Pam became reality in Hurricane Katrina. (more…)