Emergency Notification, Mass Communication & Crisis Management Blog

Severe weather and its increasing impact on business continuity

Posted by ERMS Corporation on Thu, Apr 13, 2017

Severe Weather Graph

In the last century, there has been a marked increase not only in the number of natural disasters but in their total damage costs. Whether these are the result of human activity, climate change and global warming or a normal shift in the planet’s evolution is still debated. Regardless, there is little doubt that organizations must deal with the consequences that these natural incidents have on day-to-day operations and most importantly, on the safety of their employees.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are on the rise. In fact, according to the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL), a research program supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency in the U.S.: “Anthropogenic warming by the end of the 21st century will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average by 2% to 11%.” Additionally, they state: “this change would imply an even larger percentage increase in the destructive potential per storm, assuming no reduction in storm size.”

By the same token, winter storms have increased in intensity as well. Although, the average snowfall in Canada and the United States has diminished overall for the last five decades, the full force of snow storms has been coined in social media by terms like Snowmageddon or Snowpocalypse, to express their intensity. To this point, 2016 Winter Storm Jonas, brought the most snow ever experienced by some states on the U.S. East Coast.  This effectively paralyzed entire cities and surrounding communities. Difficult to predict weather patterns and severe weather events are problematic for business continuity, and the trend is unlikely to diminish.

However, it is not only winter or tropical storms limited to a specific geographic area or a short season that are a concern. Increased precipitation also causes adverse effects on built environments and human activity. According to Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the UN Agency, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the amount of rain, as well as its intensity has increased over the years. Mr. Taalas said, “…when it rains, it rains much more” and that leads “to problems for human beings and also for economies.”

The cumulative effects of heavy precipitations can be catastrophic as torrential rains can lead to severe flooding, notably in urban areas. However, rainfall is becoming increasingly responsible for sinkholes, as it occurred in Quebec a few years ago or landslides, such as the one that claimed over 250 lives and displaced countless families in Colombia.

If these climatic trends continue, and there is ample evidence to suggest they will, organizations will have to address effects of severe weather on business continuity. Their plans should include effective crisis communications with employees, vendors, suppliers and others to quickly react to events and aid efforts to return to normal operations.

During an emergency or crisis, semi-automatic notification is a far superior process compared to outdated call trees or even email, as most providers limit the number of recipients per message. The use of an emergency mass notification system provides organizations with the ability to prepare in advance for unexpected events as well as to rapidly communicate with different stakeholders and devices. These systems also provide redundancy and the event-specific flexibility needed to help reduce damages, and injury, or even save lives.

As we continue to experience meteorological anomalies, businesses and other organizations should develop communication plans specifically for weather related events. These plans would include the ability to prepare as much as possible in advance with an emergency mass notification system that is sure to quickly reach the right people, with the right message, on the right device, and at the right time.