How to prepare and respond to severe weather events: A Checklist

Anna Kotlabova
. 6 min read
It is now more important than ever to prepare for severe weather events in order to mitigate or prevent their damaging effects.

Critical Event Management for Severe Weather 

The scientific consensus states that severe weather events are increasing in frequency and severity. It is now more important than ever to prepare for these events in order to mitigate or prevent their damaging effects. Below is a checklist that every organisation should follow to help ensure risk preparedness and effective severe weather response plans. 

Assess your organisation’s risk to severe weather events

The first step in preparing and responding to severe weather events is assessing your organisation’s risk and your response capabilities. 
Understanding your organisation’s exposure to risk from severe weather, whether it be wildfire or polar vortexes is critical. Some things to consider when assessing the threats posed by severe weather events include: 
  • Is a facility or business travel destination located in an area prone to severe weather?
  • What is the criticality of operations at a vulnerable site?
  • What are the elevation levels of buildings above flood risk zones? 
  • Are shelters available inside buildings, as well as within the local community?
  • Does the facility rely on national grid power and power supplies?
Following this, organisations can take preemptive actions to mitigate the damaging impacts of severe weather. For example, if an organisation is in an area prone to extreme storms, some preemptive actions may include: 
  • Having emergency kits available on site
  • Having additional fuel available on site
  • Ensuring the landscaping around facilities is storm-resistant
  • Having backup generators available on site
  • Ensuring there is fresh bottled water on site
  • Practising tornado or other severe weather drills in advance
There are many forms of severe weather, some of which are more predictable than others. For example, hurricane cones can be predicted more accurately and further in advance than tornadoes. To help predict and mitigate the effects of severe weather, many organisations are turning to critical event management software tools that provide situational awareness and the earliest possible warning alerts for severe weather events. In doing so, organisations can more effectively mitigate the effects of severe weather - from enacting business continuity plans days in advance or communicating to employees to shelter in place.

Locate your key stakeholders

There are two groups of stakeholders in extreme weather scenarios. One group are the people who are physically located within the severe weather danger zone. Clear and concise communications to these individuals is vital to ensure they can remain resilient throughout the severe weather event. This may include protecting their property with boarding or sandbags, or in the most extreme cases, evacuating to safer areas or sheltering in place. 
The other group of stakeholders are the people in charge of managing the situation, sending out mass communications and generally ensuring the safety of people or protection of assets in the risk zone. These individuals also need to ensure key stakeholders within the organisation are kept informed as to the risks or impact on business operations or the life-safety of staff.
In severe weather events, it is likely that electrical power, landlines and mobile phone towers might stop functioning or be damaged, so it is good practice to ensure that both groups of stakeholders have contingency plans in place for communicating in a variety of ways.
Critical event management platforms, such as WatchKeeper, are useful in managing both sets of stakeholders simultaneously. WatchKeeper’s geospatial platform allows clients to view their assets and personnel alongside security risks on a real-time map display. This makes it extremely easy for security managers to understand who or what is in harm’s way during severe weather events. For example, insurance companies have made use of these features to notify their clients to severe weather risks in advance, thereby reducing insurance claims. 

Respond to severe weather events as quickly as possible

While we cannot prevent severe weather events from happening, critical event management tools allow organisations to prepare and streamline emergency responses, thus minimising their damage. 
Responding to severe weather events as quickly as possible is critical to mitigating the negative impacts of these events. WatchKeeper’s real-time risk alerting software alerts clients to severe weather risks faster than traditional sources. When combined with WatchKeeper’s Case Management tool, the software suite also enables much faster response times. 
Ahead of a severe weather event, or as one unfolds, users can open an active case in the WatchKeeper platform. From here, users add team members and assign tasks. Users can even make use of their own pre-prepared playbooks or standard operating procedures (SOPs) to speed up crisis response times even more.  
Workflows are portrayed as a single timeline within the WatchKeeper platform. This design makes it easy for users to see what tasks need to be done and when they were assigned. 
Unifying these features into a single platform (instead of relying on several disparate systems as was traditionally the case for many organisations) provides complete clarity and streamlines the response process, improving business resilience to severe weather events.

Evaluate how security teams responded to a severe weather event and improve processes for future events

Severe weather is here to stay, and the data suggests it will only become more extreme and more frequent. This is why it is more important than ever that every severe weather event becomes an opportunity to learn and improve.
Organisations should implement an after-action reviews (AAR) following critical events. An AAR is a rigorous and structured examination of an event that aims to improve organisational processes and resilience through lessons learnt and the implementation of best practices. 
WatchKeeper’s features enable organisations to undertake a comprehensive AAR. Starting with the time/date picker tool, users can return to a previous point in time in the platform. This allows users to analyse exactly when and where severe weather was forecasted for, when it actually occurred, and what impacts it had. 
From here, users can turn to the case management tool to assess and review their response. The case timeline allows users to see when security teams opened an active case, who was in the team, when tasks were assigned, completed and more. This allows users to undertake an end-to-end AAR which considers everything from the first forecasts and alerts on the event, to the moment the response was complete. It empowers organisations to become more resilient to severe weather events.

Conclusion

Severe weather is no longer a deviation from the norm. 2020 was a historic year of extreme weather, with 22 separate billion-dollar extreme weather events recorded across the United States alone. It is more important than ever that every organisation prepare for these events. WatchKeeper is a critical event management tool that allows organisations to do just that. To find out more about WatchKeeper or to request a demo, please visit https://watchkeeper.com or email info@watchkeeper.com.
[
51° 30' 35.5140'' N
|
0° 7' 5.1312'' W
]