Resilience

Essential Tips for Storm Preparedness in 2024

Discover essential tips for storm preparedness in this informative blog post. Gain valuable insights on how to ensure safety in any weather condition and stay ahead of the storm and safeguard your business with these valuable insights and the power of SOFIA - an AI-driven power outage forecasting & storm preparedness tool.

Sayonsom Chanda, Ph.D.
January 9, 2024

A hurricane or tropical storm or ice storm looms on the horizon, power lines brace for impact.

When the fierce winds rise and the skies darken, utility providers are always innovating on proactive measures in place to mitigate the inevitable disruptions. Ensuring continuous service requires meticulous planning and an unwavering commitment to resilience and recovery. One critical aspect of planning can be asking your Utility or Co-op to invest in a power outage forecasting tool, like SOFIA, which helps utilities inform you better if you are likely to be impacted by an impending power outage.

In anticipation of such meteorological adversities, strategic deployment of resources and the incorporation of advanced technologies are imperative. These 'investments'—broadly encompassing infrastructure hardening, workforce training, and information management—serve as the bulwark against the volatile whims of nature's fury.

Safety becomes the paramount concern.

Crafting a Storm Safety Plan

An exhaustive emergency protocol is fundamental to mitigate risks during severe weather episodes, ensuring the protection of personnel and infrastructure assets.

Within this framework, utility companies must develop and refine their Incident Command System (ICS), engage in rigorous staff training, and establish robust communication networks that remain operable in the face of inclement conditions.

Lastly, regular drills and exercises in "blue-sky" and "grey-sky" scenarios will engrain readiness into the DNA of the organization's culture.

Designate a Safe Room

Selecting an appropriate safe room is critical—its robustness—key to safeguarding lives when severe weather looms.

During turbulent times, the safe room serves as a sanctuary, shielding from the tempest while securing peace of mind and safety.

A well-chosen safe room is ideally positioned away from windows and exterior walls, fortified to withstand fierce storms, and stocked with essential supplies, embodying the essence of preparedness.

Designating such a space is not merely about sheltering in place—it's creating a resilient haven for emergencies, whose readiness can mean the difference between harm and safety.

Establish Communication Strategies

Reliable communication is the linchpin of effective storm preparedness, ensuring timely dissemination of critical updates.

In crisis, redundant systems save lives, keep channels open despite failures.

A multi-tiered approach to communication is prudent, blending traditional methods with cutting-edge technologies to maintain a flow of vital information across all levels of operations, internally and externally.

Strategically placed satellite communications and battery-backed wireless systems enable continuity of communication, vital in mobilizing response teams and coordinating with external agencies during widespread power outages or network disruptions. Training personnel in diverse communication protocols ensures seamless information exchange when conventional methods falter.

Practicing Emergency Drills

Proper drills are a vital part of safety protocols, simulating real-world emergency scenarios for preparedness.

  • Ensure all personnel, or family members, know their emergency roles and responsibilities.
  • Practice evacuation procedures, keeping paths clear and marked.
  • Conduct regular emergency communications tests.
  • Simulate power outage conditions and practice operating under such constraints.
  • Rehearse coordination with local emergency services.
  • Review and refine restoration and business continuity plans post-drill.

Repetition is key to ensuring swift, calm responses during actual emergencies.

Through consistent drilling, staff gain the confidence to navigate chaotic situations with composure and efficiency.

Home and Property Protection

Prioritize the integrity of roofing systems, ensuring they are well-maintained to withstand severe weather events.

In addition to roofing, secure outdoor items and reinforce windows with storm shutters or impact-resistant glass to protect against high winds and flying debris.

Finally, maintain clear drainage pathways to prevent water accumulation and safeguard against flooding risks.

Reinforcing Vulnerable Areas

Identify critical infrastructure requiring fortification.

Structural assessments must be a priority for electric utilities. By identifying assets that are particularly vulnerable to storm impacts, such as transmission towers, substations, and distribution poles, preemptive measures can be taken to fortify these structures. Consequently, resilience will be enhanced and service disruption minimized in the face of severe weather.

Upgrade equipment to weather-resistant standards.

Invest in technologies to monitor and fortify assets. For instance, real-time monitoring systems that detect structural stress can guide preemptive maintenance. Additionally, implementations of advanced composites or retrofitting existing infrastructure may be warranted to meet enhanced weather-resiliency requirements, especially under the rigorous expectations established by FERC 2222. Contact your utility if you need help with that.

Keep a contact number, email and twitter (X) address of local authorities and start building communications with climate and weather experts for long-term preparedness in the era of unpredictable climate change.

Collaborations extend capabilities in crisis management. Aligning with municipal emergency services and enlisting external engineering consultation can provide additional insights and resources for strengthening infrastructure. This strategic alliance bolsters community resilience and utility preparedness, which are critical in the context of increasingly frequent and severe weather events.

Securing Outdoor Objects

Unsecured outdoor objects can become dangerous projectiles during storm conditions, threatening infrastructure and safety.

  1. Inspect surroundings for any items that can be picked up by strong winds and relocate them to a safe area.
  2. Anchor heavy equipment such as generators or HVAC units to the ground to prevent displacement or damage.
  3. Secure loose materials on construction sites with netting or sandbags to avoid scattering and potential impact.
  4. Protect utility assets like transformers by placing barriers against flying debris or by strategic landscaping.
  5. Store smaller items such as tools, signs, and outdoor furniture in a locked shed or building interior.

Regular checks and maintenance of these securements are crucial, especially as a storm approaches.

Prompt action is required to mitigate the risks associated with unsecured objects during adverse weather events.

Improving Drainage Systems

Optimal drainage systems are crucial to mitigating flood risks and ensuring public safety during heavy storms.

  • Regular maintenance of storm drains and gutters to prevent blockages
  • Installation of additional drainage pathways in flood-prone areas to reduce water accumulation
  • Upgrading old infrastructure with advanced materials and designs for better water flow
  • Incorporating green infrastructure such as rain gardens and permeable pavements to absorb runoff
  • Implementing early warning systems to monitor and manage high water levels more effectively

Strategic planning and investment can greatly enhance the resilience of these systems.

Advanced drainage solutions protect against property damage and service interruptions, ensuring community well-being.

Essential Emergency Kit Supplies

In the face of unpredictable weather patterns, being prepared with a comprehensive emergency kit can make all the difference. Reliable sources of light, such as flashlights and long-lasting LED lanterns, are indispensable when power outages occur. Backup power options, like portable chargers or generators, ensure continuous operation of essential electronics. Including a supply of non-perishable foods and clean drinking water for several days will sustain you through periods of recovery. Additionally, first-aid essentials should be readily available to address medical needs, and communication tools, such as a hand-crank radio or a battery-powered NOAA weather radio, provide crucial updates and instructions. Your kit should also contain personal documents in waterproof containers, assuring your access to critical information during and after the storm. Remember, appropriate planning with these key supplies can greatly enhance your safety and resilience in extreme weather events.

Basic Necessities and Tools

Equip with versatile multitools and sturdy gloves.

A robust preparation must include varied tools and equipment. It is essential to have screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches that can assist with quick repairs. Weatherproof tape and tarps may be used to temporarily fix leaks or broken windows. Importantly, always consider the potential for damage specific to your region when selecting your toolkit.

Maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit.

First-aid supplies are non-negotiable in any emergency. Thus, an extensive kit should encompass bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, and necessary prescription medications. It should be periodically reviewed and updated to ensure that all items are within their expiration dates and that you're prepared for the unforeseen.

Water purification tools are critical.

Access to clean water is crucial for survival. Hence, your emergency preparedness should include water purification tablets or devices. These enable the treatment of potentially contaminated water sources, delivering peace of mind and safeguarding your health in the aftermath of a storm.

Invest in quality, reliable communication devices.

The ability to communicate during and after a storm is of utmost importance. Modern devices such as satellite phones or two-way radios are essential to maintain contact with emergency services and loved ones when conventional networks are down. Ensure these are charged and have backup power available.

Important Documents and Cash

Secure personal documents in a safe place. In the face of disaster, having quick access to identification, medical records, and insurance policies can make all the difference in expediting recovery and assistance processes.

Consider creating a 'go-bag' with copies of vital documents such as passports, birth certificates, and deeds. This go-bag should also include a list of emergency contacts and account information, stored in a waterproof container to withstand any storm-induced damage.

Maintain a modest reserve of cash, as ATMs and credit card systems may not function during power outages. Physical currency can be indispensable for purchasing supplies or paying for services when electronic payment options are temporarily unavailable.

Remember to also safeguard digital assets. Backup electronic copies of important documents to a secure cloud service or external drive, ensuring they are encrypted and protected against unauthorized access in event of theft or loss.

Regularly update your documents and cash reserve. Changes in personal circumstances may necessitate updates to your documents, while having an adequate amount of cash on hand remains an ongoing need for emergency preparedness.

First Aid Essentials

Prepare a comprehensive first aid kit.

A well-stocked first aid kit is a cornerstone of storm preparedness. It should contain all the necessary items to address minor injuries and common medical emergencies that might arise during a storm. Bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers are essential, as are items for addressing more serious issues such as heavy bleeding or burns. Moreover, personal medications and copies of prescriptions should be included to ensure continuity of care for those with specific health requirements.

Include instructions for medical emergencies.

Packing tools is not enough - know how to use them effectively.

In addition to basic supplies, your first aid kit must include tools necessary for administering aid, such as scissors, tweezers, and a thermometer. These items must be complemented by a comprehensive first aid manual - or at least a quick-reference guide - to instruct non-professionals on carrying out essential medical procedures when professional help may be delayed.

Refresh your supplies and knowledge regularly.

Stay prepared as guidelines and best practices evolve.

Staying Informed and Alert

Honing a deep awareness of weather conditions is pivotal during storm season, ensuring you're never caught off-guard.

In this digital era, subscribing to the National Weather Service (NWS) alerts can be crucial in staying informed, providing you the time to enact your preparedness plans, and ensuring safety measures are in place swiftly and efficiently.

The mantra “stay informed” and “stay alert” should be the linchpin of any thorough emergency plan, the consequences of which may well hinge on these practices.

Utilizing Weather Alert Apps

Leveraging weather alert apps is an effective strategy to stay abreast of severe conditions.

  1. Download Reliable Apps: Choose applications endorsed by meteorological authorities.
  2. Set Up Notifications: Customize alert settings for your specific location.
  3. Check Regularly: Ensure your app settings permit frequent automatic updates.
  4. Battery Preservation: Adjust app settings to minimize battery usage during emergencies.
  5. Multi-Source Verification: Utilize a variety of apps to cross-reference information for accuracy.

Consistent engagement with these applications will keep you forewarned of impending weather threats.

Integration of weather alert apps in your emergency procedures provides an invaluable layer of preparedness. An even more advanced way of doing this would be working with your local Utility to get SOFIA - a power outage prediction tool - that can alert customers about a near-term outage.

Understanding Warning Signs

Storm preparedness necessitates acute awareness of evolving weather patterns and the ability to interpret meteorological data. Neglecting these signs could lead to detrimental outcomes.

Alert systems provide vital early warnings of severe weather, often through tiered alert levels. Understanding these tiers is crucial for appropriate responses.

Storm forecasts often include terminologies like "watch" and "warning," which demarcate different levels of risk and necessary action. A "watch" indicates conditions are ripe for severe weather, while a "warning" signifies imminent or occurring hazardous weather requiring immediate safety measures.

Recognizing the signs of a brewing storm involves not only technological assistance but also a responsive human element. It mandates an understanding that conditions can shift rapidly, necessitating frequent reassessment and an unwavering commitment to safety. Adhering to official guidance, such as the National Weather Service's advisories, is imperative to staying ahead of any storm's trajectory.

Reliable Information Sources

Accurate forecasts save lives and assets.

During a weather event, reliable communication channels become a lifeline. Often, the most trustworthy sources are government and meteorological agencies, which have the expertise and equipment to provide accurate forecasts. Importantly, these institutions serve as the backbone of public safety, disseminating timely and detailed advisories to protect life and property.

Mobile alerts keep communities informed on the go.

Dedicated radio frequencies remain a reliable standby. These are managed by authorities and are particularly useful during power outages when traditional media may fail. NOAA Weather Radio, with its nationwide network, provides continuous weather information directly from the nearest National Weather Service office.

Online platforms provide live updates and interactive tools.

High-quality and orderly dissemination of weather intelligence before and during an event is crucial. Thus, utilities should align with the Integrated Public Alert & Warning System (IPAWS) and leverage partnerships established under FERC Order No. 2222, which encourages coordination among various entities managing the electrical grid. This ensures a readily accessible source of actionable intelligence to support informed decision-making during critical weather events.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sayonsom Chanda, Ph.D.

Sayonsom Chanda is a senior scientist at National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Boulder, Colorado. He works in the intersection of advanced computing technologies and the electric power grid. For last seven years, he has worked extensively in implementation of AI technology for electric utilities in North America. Recently, his work on interfacing quantum computers and power grid simulators for developing industrial applications of quantum computing for solving the complex, challenges of our times - including energy insecurity and climate change. Prior to joining NREL, Dr. Chanda was a Senior Data Scientist at National Grid in New York and an electrical engineer at Idaho National Laboratory. He is also the founder of two tech start-up companies where he helped them raise venture capital and develop commercial solutions for the utility industry. Over a dozen prominent conferences in the United States and abroad have invited him to speak on AI applications in the Energy industry, including a TEDX talk in 2021. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Washington State University, has published more than 18 articles in journals with a high impact factor and holds three patents in cloud computing for power systems. He is also the author of a book “Resiliency of Electricity Distribution Systems," published by Wiley in the United Kingdom.

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