Researchers from Colorado State University predict an above-average Atlantic hurricane season during 2020. Their team forecasts 20 named storms, which is eight more than the average of 12 per season. They also forecast nine of these named systems will reach hurricane status, with winds greater than 74mph. They foresee that four will be major hurricanes. This is up from an average of six hurricanes per year, with 2.7 being considered significant.The Seventh-day Adventist Church has experienced significant losses due to hurricanes and tropical storms throughout the Caribbean and Southeastern parts of the United States. With the prediction of an increase in severe storms for the 2020 hurricane season, increased preparedness, coordination, and response is critical. This article presents practical tools to empower churches and schools to take an active role in preparing a coordinated response.
Preparedness and Coordination
“A prudent man foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” Proverbs 22:3, NLTKnowing a calamity is coming before it happens presents a great advantage. If you can prevent damage, you have a moral and social obligation to act to protect your church or school property. These properties are valuable assets, and God expects you to be a good steward of what He has entrusted to you.
The first way to prepare for a hurricane is by identifying the potential hazards. This allows you to respond to the challenges appropriately. Local weather forecasts provide vital information based on the current and expected conditions in your area. The information provided can save lives and aid in the effective planning of church and school activities.
The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has several excellent ways to track tropical storms. Their website provides a quick snapshot of the current storm situation, including maps, preparedness tips, and forecast discussions. The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) also provides global forecasts and climate analysis. Circumstantial evidence indicates in recent years, the ECMWF models have been more accurate than U.S. models.
Storm surge is often one of the most damaging aspects of tropical storms. One cost-effective way to protect a structure from storm surge is to reinforce doors and windows. Use at least one-half inch thick plywood sheets that extend beyond the door frame. Secure the plywood with heavy-duty screws or expansion bolts. Pre-drilling holes and marking the location for each sheet of plywood can help save valuable time in an approaching storm. Remember that plywood is in high demand when a hurricane is predicted, so purchasing the necessary material ahead of time is an essential part of preparation.
Another part of being prepared is understanding your insurance policies’ coverage and when they expire. For example, purchasing flood insurance before a storm season will give you an added advantage in transferring risk. A storm usually is not excluded from the policy. However, there is often a higher deductible than for other coverages on the policy. If a hurricane causes a flood, it could be excluded if the policy does not have a flood endorsement. Knowing if your church or school has a flood exclusion is critical information to have.
Document any valuables before the storm’s arrival, and be sure to note any pre-existing damage. If possible, move furniture, expensive electronics, and other valuables to the building’s highest point and away from exterior walls.
Move cars to higher ground or park them in the garage against the garage doors. Do not park under trees, power lines, or in low-lying areas. Fill the gas tanks of church/school vehicles as gas may be in short supply after a storm. Charge all cell phones, test generators, and have plenty of extra fuel available in case of power outages.
Response and RecoveryIt is essential to sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the emergency alert systems. Take note of the weather forecast during storm season and adhere to the warnings from local authorities, which can be lifesaving. Download the FEMA app to receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations in the U.S. and internationally.
If an evacuation alert or notice is issued, turn off, if possible, all utilities at the church and/or school and follow your disaster preparedness plans. Do not return to your facility until you receive permission from local authorities. Then, use caution when entering a damaged structure. The most important thing to remember is your life is more important than assets and belongings. Report any insurance claims to Adventist Risk Management as soon as possible.
Take action now! When a storm is already approaching, it is too late. Preparing for hurricanes and following an emergency plan can save lives and minimize the damage to church property.