This is a guest post written by Claire Collins, Development Manager, Local Government Solutions, Local Government Services at IBTS.
As Hurricane Florence is about to make landfall on the coast of the Carolinas, IBTS’s team of natural disaster response and recovery experts have prepared the following short list of our most important OnHAND recommendations to help
1. Share your disaster and emergency communications plans with all staff now. Make sure all staff involved in disaster operations are at the table and fully understand the standard operating procedures. Be sure all staff are aware that it is essential to follow the disaster plan in order for your community to receive FEMA reimbursement.
2. Get information out to your citizens now and update them regularly. Use social media, weather radios, cell phone alerts and other communication methods to broadcast where your locality will be sharing information during and after the storm, and post who residents should contact with questions and for emergency assistance on your website and social media page(s). Update citizens as often as possible, about every 3 to 4 hours during the storm’s approach or when you get updates from FEMA or your state emergency management agency. Setup a call center to field resident questions and concerns and prevent your E911 center from becoming inundated with calls.
3. Coordinate with local amateur radio (ham) associations. Cell, internet and landline service are not a given in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Amateur radio operator organizations and operators exist in communities across the country; incorporating local “ham radio” operators for communications assistance can help with vital communications efforts.
4. Identify a single point person for communications with the media and public. Having multiple contacts for media can create mixed messages, confusion, and misinformation in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Make sure all elected officials, staff, and volunteers know the communications contact.
5. When possible, communicate with staff members on call about the security of their own families and homes. They will have an easier time helping others when they are not worried about their own. Be sure to give staff breaks every 3-4 hours and provide food to prevent exhaustion and reduce stress.
6. Be prepared to go it alone for the first 72 hours. FEMA may not be able to assist you immediately.
7. Stage your equipment. Test and perform any needed maintenance on chainsaws, generators, etc. Make working space and plans for where responders coming to your locality can set up.
8. Secure vital office equipment from flood waters. For example, remove computer towers from the floor and place in a higher location before closing government offices.
9. Follow your emergency plan for shelters, and provide information to ALL shelters in the area. Each shelter should identify a single person to lead operations, and make it clear to everyone helping with the effort to report to and take direction from him or her. Advise shelter leaders to give shelter staff specific assignments. Make sure everyone is aware of relevant policies (e.g., pets).
10. Send residents shelter in place instructions. Provide them with a list of items to have on hand, such as batteries, water and a Red Cross kit.
12. Start tracking storm-related staff hours now. Not just for emergency management staff, but for any staff and volunteers who are involved in storm efforts. Keep full check-in and check-out logs at your emergency operations center and incident command post. Record where, what and why activities were performed, and how they tie back to the ultimate goal of ensuring public safety. These efforts will maximize your chances of being reimbursed by FEMA for these activities.
13. Be prepared for recordkeeping requirements. For Presidentially declared disaster areas, documentation requirements are both intense and absolutely necessary to ensure compliance with FEMA. Prepare staff to be diligent with recordkeeping, and upload any documentation to the cloud.