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Industry Insights

Derecho emergency: Protect your site and your people

June 11, 2013
Author: Joanne Pekich
Source: Metis Secure Solutions

Derechos should be part of an organization's emergency planning. A derecho is a “widespread, long-lived wind storm that is associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). A derecho combines the potential damage from high winds with heavy precipitation and hail.

Derecho threats include:

  • Falling trees and utility poles
  • Flying debris
  • Collapse of temporary structures such as festival tents, stages, and scaffolding
  • Overturned trucks, buses, and mobile homes
  • Flying glass indoors if trees, branches, or debris shatters windows
  • Structural damage to buildings
  • Prolonged power outages

Emergency Planning

In many ways, preparing for a derecho is similar to planning for a tornado. Since derechos move in a straight line, damage can occur over a very large area, and people and businesses should be prepared for the potentially widespread and extended power outages. Derechos can happen very quickly, so rapid emergency response is critical. Here are the five things organizations should consider:

  1. Situational Awareness: Organizations should designate a person or people on-site who will be responsible for monitoring weather and emergency warnings and triggering emergency procedures. The US National Weather Service is an excellent resource. In addition, many mobile phones can now receive new Wireless Emergency Alerts.
  2. Emergency Communications: In the case of a severe, impending derecho, people should be warned to shelter in place. Large facilities and campuses should plan in advance how they will immediately alert everyone on-site to stay indoors and away from windows. Don’t forget customers and visitors—they will likely not be privy to measures such as desktop and email alerts. Because derechos arise so quickly, phone, text, and email alerts alone may not be enough--these networks can bog down in a crisis due to the heavy phone and internet traffic that occurs in an emergency.
  3. Exception Planning: Many organizations have areas or functions that will require special instructions—for example, a research lab that needs to secure hazardous materials, or a healthcare facility that needs to trigger backup power procedures. Make sure to provide specific, targeted emergency training and notification to the people who work in these areas.
  4. Business Continuity: Prepare for how your organization will carry out critical functions if power is down for an extended period. For example, after the June 29-30, 2012 US derecho, more than four million people and businesses in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic were without power for days. This can have a significant impact on businesses’ bottom lines.
  5. Post-Storm Assessment: After the storm has passed, assess potential damage. If power was interrupted, test critical systems and networks to ensure that they are operational. Check for water leaks—even minor roof breaches can cause significant damage to buildings and equipment if they go undetected. Evaluate how the organization’s emergency plan worked in action, and make improvements if necessary.

Organizations who lease space in buildings, office parks, or other sites should check with facilities managers to determine who has primary responsibility for emergency response.

See here for more information about derechos.