Posts Tagged ‘Tornadoes’

Tornadoes Strike Ohio and Michigan

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Powerful and DeadlyTornadoes and thunderstorms struck the Midwestern states this weekend. In Ohio, the tornadoes killed at least seven people and destroyed homes and commercial buildings along a seven-mile trajectory path. The storm also knocked out emergency 911 dispatchers for a brief period. Thankfully, the storm missed the more heavily populated communities around Toledo. In Michigan, the storms caused cosmetic damage to a nuclear reactor, causing a safety protocol to initiate an automatic shutdown. More than 30,000 people were left without power, possibly due to the nuclear plant’s shutdown or to damaged power lines in the area.

One of the key takeaways of this weekend storm is that every natural disaster comes with a threat of power outages. It is uncertain how soon power will be restored to the affected area in Michigan, but consider solutions for your business that address this threat. Do you sell products on your website? Perhaps a hosted e-commerce solution can ensure that your online store stays up and running even when your office is down. Are there contingent service providers you can retain to perform certain of your functions remotely when your office power is knocked out? Assess the sensitivity of your revenues to these risks and plan accordingly.

Deadly Tornadoes Strike Mississippi

Monday, April 26th, 2010
Tornadoes Strike Without Warning

Tornadoes Strike Without Warning

Over the weekend, tornadoes with wind speeds in excess of 160 mph struck an area at least 50 miles long from Louisiana to central Mississippi, killing at least 12 people and injuring more than three dozen others. Hundreds of homes were damaged in the storm. Although tornadoes are more common in the Midwestern states, the fact is that they have been reported in each of the fifty states and countries throughout the world. This is a sad reminder of the need to stay up to date on tornado safety. Here are some tips from Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses (Wiley, second edition 2008):

Tornadoes are known as “twisters” because tornado winds gust at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, destroying everything in their paths. Spring and summer are considered the tornado “season”, but they can happen at any time of the year. A tornado watch means that a tornado is possible in your area; a tornado warning means that a tornado has already been sighted. An approaching tornado sounds like a speeding train. Remain indoors, away from the windows, which could be shattered by the high-speed winds. If you are in a high-rise building, try to make it to the basement safely. We recommend that you avoid the elevators and take the stairs as fallen power lines could disrupt the supply of electricity to your building without warning. If you don’t have sufficient time to go to the basement or the ground floor, move to the center of the building, which is as far removed from windows on either side of the building as possible. If you are outside, go to the basement of the nearest sturdy building or lie flat in a ditch or a low-lying area. If you are in a car or a mobile home, get out immediately.

Once the tornado has passed, check your premises for damage. Be careful when you leave your premises, as fallen power lines pose a particular hazard. Don’t light matches or use candles, as there may be gas leaks of which you are unaware. Listen to the news reports to determine if it is safe to go home and which areas you should avoid on your commute home.

Geography Is Not Destiny

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
World Geography, Not Predestination

World Geography, Not Predestination

When serving as the keynote speaker at the annual entrepreneurs’ award luncheon of the Colorado Springs Small Business Development Center, I spoke of the risk of Colorado’s favorable geography. Disaster-prone locales tend to have heightened awareness of risk threats, whether it is small businesses in California attuned to earthquake risks or Gulf Coast small businesses concerned about hurricanes. The happy fact that Colorado Springs is not located on a geological fault line or a coast can give rise to complacency. Consider, for example, that in any given year, 30% of the areas that flood have never before flooded and are not located in flood plains. While flood is a much more significant risk than either hurricane or earthquake, it is not this peril, but the underlying principle is that it is the everyday risk that is the more imminent threat. Today, a citizen journalist in Colorado posted on the CNN website a video of a tornado in his community. So what is the take home message? Focus on preparing for the everyday disaster, such as human errors and power outages, and this way you will gradually build resilience for the more serious disasters. This is critical because you cannot always predict on the basis of your locale the more severe disaster that will threaten you. It may be a flood or tornado that has never before struck your community.

Twisters Can Strike Anywhere

Tuesday, April 14th, 2009

Over the past week, more than twenty deadly tornadoes struck in Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas. Although typically associated with the midwestern part of the country, tornadoes have been reported in all fifty states. They can occur at any time of year but in the southern states, peak tornado activity usually occurs during the months of March through May.  Tornado activity increases in the northern states during the summer months.  Tornadoes can strike at any hour, but they most often happen between the hours of 3:00 – 9:00 p.m. Tornadoes are known as “twisters” because wind speeds can gust in excess of 200 miles per hour. A tornado watch means that a tornado is possible in your area; a tornado warning means that a tornado has already been spotted in your community. An approaching tornado sounds like a speeding freight train.

Remember the basic precautions for tornado safety: try to go to the basement for shelter. Avoid the elevators and take the stairs. If you do not have time to make it safely to the basement, move towards the center of the building, away from the windows. If you are in a car or a mobile home, get out of there immediately. Remember to bring any equipment that is outside indoors, such that it cannot get swept away by high-speed winds and used as an instrument to cause harm. Power outages are common in the aftermath of tornadoes, so don’t light matches as there may be gas leaks of which you are unaware. Make sure that all of your employees are familiar with basic safety practices to exercise when a tornado warning has been called and encourage them to share this information with their families.

Dodging a Bullet, But Still Suffering

Thursday, September 11th, 2008
Appreciation from the Red Cross

Appreciation from the Red Cross

Having feared the worst, residents of Louisiana got a reprieve, of sorts, when Hurricane Gustav did not leave a trail of devastation comparable to that of Hurricane Katrina. This has caused problems of another kind; Gustav is still a serious disaster and residents in the affected areas are in need of assistance. But charitable giving has not kept pace with the need, in part because of distorted perceptions from catastrophizing risk. The fact that Gustav was not as powerful as Katrina offers little comfort to Louisiana residents living in emergency shelters until their power and other services are restored and they can safely return home. To meet the needs of those who have been displaced by Gustav, the Red Cross has taken on debt, in the hope that donor contributions are on the way (that report from the Washington Post).

On the occasion of my most recent visit to New Orleans, I was surprised with a Certificate of Appreciation from the Gulf Coast Recovery Director of the American Red Cross. This was an acknowledgement of the contributions that my own small business has consistently made over the past few years. I am currently working out the details of a promotion in which profits on the sale of my book will assist disaster relief efforts. I urge other small businesses to join in; helping the relief efforts is not only a worthwhile thing to do, it can be effective team and skill building for your own organization. This has been a tough year in the United States for major natural disasters; in addition, to a severe hurricane season, we have had tornadoes in the southern states, floods in the midwestern states and wildfires in California. The need is certainly there.