Emergency operations centers in the Atlantic are activating in anticipation of a number of hurricanes and tropical storms expected to make landfall in the coming days and weeks. Hurricane Florence currently threatens the Eastern Seaboard of the United States; officials in southeastern states including the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, and Maryland have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of Hurricane Florence. Many of the coastal areas in these states are still recovering from earlier summer storms. Tropical-storm-force winds and rain have already started moving onshore in North Carolina as of Thursday morning (September 13), according to the National Hurricane Center. North Carolina expects up to 40 inches of rain due to the hurricane. According to weather.us meteorologist Ryan Maue, Hurricane Florence is expected to unleash 10 trillion gallons of rain in North Carolina alone over the next week. Other risks associated with Hurricane Florence include potential tornadoes and the threat of storm surge -- rising water sent inland due to the strong winds, expected to reach up to 13 feet. The enormity of Hurricane Florence's threat has even been documented from space.
Watch out, America! #HurricaneFlorence is so enormous, we could only capture her with a super wide-angle lens from the @Space_Station, 400 km directly above the eye. Get prepared on the East Coast, this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you. #Horizons pic.twitter.com/ovZozsncfh
— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) September 12, 2018
Florence is only one of four named storms in the Atlantic currently. Tropical Storm Issac is nearing the Lesser Antilles Islands, while Hurricane Helene approaches Europe. Newly formed Subtropical Storm Joyce does not currently threaten land. As these storms rage across the Atlantic, Hurricane Olivia has already hit Hawaii.
With storms closing in, it's important to focus on disaster preparedness. Homeland Security Today released an article on hurricane preparedness which cited the greatest hazards from tropical cyclones (which include hurricanes) as storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, and high surf and rip currents. Storm surges are "historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the United States" and can inflict extensive destruction along the coast.
According to HST's article, a list of things to be prepared before hurricane season includes:
- Know if you live in a hurricane evacuation area. You can find this out by contacting your local emergency management office or by checking a list of evacuation zones.
- Prepare an emergency kit and double-check equipment such as generators, storm shutters, and flashlights.
- Come up with an emergency plan that details how you will get in contact with loved ones and where you will go to remove yourself from danger. Ready.gov provides a helpful resources to assist you in the creation of your emergency plan.
- Familiarize yourself with the National Weather Service's terms such as watches and warnings.
Pay attention to announcements from national advisories as well as your local emergency operations centers to proceed safely during hurricane season.
Before, during, and after hurricanes and other tropical storms, local emergency operations centers play a vital role. EOC operators track and predict weather patterns on an operations center video wall and measure the potential impact of a storm. Locally based emergency operations centers in affected areas communicate with larger operations on state and national levels to coordinate efforts and share information and resources. In addition to the coordination of immediate response efforts a the height of the storm, EOCs also coordinate responses to incidents that can occur as a result of the storm after it has already passed such as continued flooding and mudslides.
How Design Plays a Role
The key to successful management of an operation is the quality of data and the persistence of the emergency operations team. Emergency Operations Center design should help, not hinder, operations to allow for quick and efficient coordination and response. Since an EOC serves as the central hub of incident preparation and response, Emergency Operators must be able to gather and share critical information, coordinate response initiatives, and manage personnel across various departments. EOC design should not distract from the vital roles that need to be performed; rather it should make those roles easier to perform. Public safety in the event of a hurricane can depend on an EOC build running at peak efficiency. Staff in an emergency operations center must be able to display a variety of data on the command center video wall so that information can quickly be aggregated, analyzed, and shared to make lifesaving decisions. The technology within an EOC must be impeccably reliable with redundancies in place to prevent information loss during the storm. Because of an emergency operation center's mission critical tasks, it is important to work with an integrator that can recommend the most reliable products so your technology weathers through the toughest conditions.
The emergency operations center furniture solutions used in your EOC installation can also contribute to efficiency. Space design and furniture arrangements should facilitate coordination between operators and allow a clear view to the data display wall for every person in the room. Additionally, the shifts during an emergency can be long and grueling. Furniture and video wall positions should be determined with ergonomics in mind so that operators can work without the added distraction of avoidable discomfort.
Make sure your emergency operations center is ready for round-the-clock use as hurricane season continues in full force and follow safety recommendations to weather the storms.
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