Planning for Hurricanes and Natural Disasters Amid COVID-19
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects an above-normal hurricane season with a total 13-19 named storms forecasted. This forecast comes at a very challenging time for many, particularly in the southeast and Gulf states, when resources are already stretched thin because of the COVID-19 response.
In response, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season, which outlines the anticipated challenges to disaster operations posed by COVID-19 and highlights planning considerations based on those challenges.
"While the document focuses on the 2020 hurricane season, most planning considerations can be applied to any disaster operation during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as flooding, wildfires and more," said FEMA administrator Pete Gaynor.
For the housing industry, some examples of COVID-19-related impacts that should be taken into consideration during business continuity and preparedness planning this hurricane season include:
- Material supply chain availability and scheduling: Many suppliers have seen extended backorders for certain building materials and adjusted delivery procedures according to social distancing measure and this may be further affected by a severe weather event.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supply chains: Plan to communicate frequently with any current PPE suppliers to gauge availability, particularly for facemasks, as a widespread weather event could exacerbate existing local shortages.
- Workforce disruptions: A major storm or natural disaster could have a major impact on local labor at a time when COVID-19 has already heavily influenced many companies staffing levels.
- Non-congregate sheltering options for employees and their families: Should an evacuation be ordered, or external sheltering be needed for a hurricane or tornado, plan for contingencies that allow for adherence to local social distancing requirements.
- Communications processes and virtual infrastructure: As with any major weather event, local electric and telecommunications infrastructure can sustain damage resulting in outages. These outages could be extremely detrimental to operations during this current COVID-19 pandemic as many companies are already conducting most business virtually or over the phone. In planning for this hurricane season, make sure to have robust communication plans that include multiple pre-established contact channels for employees and virtual infrastructure backups to support any virtual construction-related technologies that were adopted as a result of the pandemic.
- Economic impacts: The effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic have heavily impacted many companies' financials. During business continuity and preparedness planning, account for how a major business disruption caused by a natural disaster could impact any COVID-19-related loans or federal aid.
- Limiting personal exposure when evacuating and restarting operations: From securing the worksite or office, to evacuations, and eventual return to normal operations, planning for appropriate social distancing and safety measures will be important to plan for this upcoming season. For more information on safety measures, please visit the Jobsite Safety page on nahb.org.
Now is the time to prepare your business for hurricane season. For more information on preparing for a natural disaster, please visit nahb.org or contact Jonathan Falk, Field Specialist for Disaster Relief.