Oct 2012

Hurricane Sandy and Emergency Preparedness

On Monday October 29, 2012 a Cat 1 (80 mph 1-minute) hurricane made landfall in Atlantic City, NJ. The storm had a very broad windfield with a 1,000 mile diameter of tropical storm force winds.

Preliminary estimates are that there will be $10M – $20M in insured losses and $30M to $50M in economic losses.

There were surge heights of 14 feet in lower Manhattan and 9 feet at Atlantic City. Rainfall amounts were low and mostly less than 1 inch. There was not much inland flooding.

To aid in preventing property damage losses in the future, we have provided some Emergency Preparedness plans for Windstorm.

Studies of severe windstorms show conclusively that most windstorm-related damage can be prevented or, at least, minimized. The keys to success are planning and organized action before, during and after a storm. Tropical storms are caused by severe low pressure systems, and they are called different names depending on the part of the world where they occur. In the United States these storms are called hurricanes or windstorms. The season for these storms runs from June 1 to November 30 in the northern hemisphere.

If you don’t have a plan, you need to develop one right away. The checklist below suggests steps that you can take to minimize windstorm related damage to your facility.


  • Inspect and repair roof flashing, roof covering, roof drains and gutters as part of routine maintenance. There will be little or no time for this in the face of an impending storm.
  • Develop a windstorm emergency action plan, and educate appropriate personnel (who play a role in, or are affected by, the plan) as to its aims and procedures.
  • Staff and train employees designated to stay on site during a windstorm (if safe to do so). Ask for volunteers and arrange for support and assistance during the storm for the families of those who will remain at the facility. Alert local emergency preparedness authorities as well about your plans to have personnel on site. Designate a “weather watcher” who will monitor weather conditions and keep management up-to-date before, during, and after a windstorm.
  • Give management the authority to initiate implementation of the Emergency Action Plan based on pre-determined checkpoints (e.g., when a storm is within a certain distance from a facility). This includes shutting down operations and sending various personnel home.
  • An Administrator should also ensure that employees carry out predetermined tasks at each warning stage of the storm. One method is to distribute checklists that must be completed and returned to the Administrator/Safety Officer.

The Emergency Action Plan should:

  • Identify all critical areas of a facility, (e.g., heavy processing equipment, critical diagnostic equipment or data processing). Make sure staff on all shifts know the proper procedures and that someone has the authority to shut down equipment.
  • Have telephone numbers and contacts for local offices of emergency preparedness readily on hand. Contact local authorities to plan and coordinate activities before the need for emergency action arises.
  • Have back-up communications, such as two-way radios or cellular phones, and have spare batteries and a diesel-driven emergency generator, on-site. Arrange for an off-site emergency communications control center, such as a hotel meeting room just outside the windstorm area, in case it becomes too dangerous to remain on-site.
  • Determine which company records are vital, and have a plan in place to protect and/or relocate them before the storm. Consider a business recovery facility where you can resume general business operations during and after the storm.
  • Maintain ongoing agreements with contractors for supplies and repairs that may be needed after a windstorm. If possible, use contractors who are outside potential windstorm areas. Local contractors may be overcommitted, or local authorities’ needs for their services and supplies may be given priority.
  • Order emergency supplies before and maintain them throughout the windstorm season. Have supplies on hand to brace or anchor yard storage, signs, cranes and roof-mounted equipment.
  • Inspect and repair roof coverings and edges before windstorm season. Where practical, provide pre-fitted windstorm shutters or plywood for windows and doorways.
  • Have facility personnel dry-run the installation of windstorm shutters annually. If practical, leave them in place.
  • Prepare for flooding with sandbags and an ample supply of brooms, squeegees and absorbents to help remove water. Identify key equipment and stock that will need to be protected with tarpaulins or other waterproof covers.
  • Identify any large trees that could fall and cause damage to property or power and communication lines, and consider their removal before windstorm season.
  • Have a plan for site security after a windstorm.

Impending storm

For most windstorms, weather services give an advance warning to areas likely to be in the path of the storm. In the United States, a hurricane watch is issued by the National Weather Service when winds of 74 mph (120 km/hr) or greater pose a possible threat within 36 hours. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in 24 hours.

Use advance warning to begin taking action consistent with your Emergency Plan.

  • Map the windstorm and keep up to date on its progress.
  • Implement your windstorm Emergency Action Plan. Shut down operations that depend on off-premises power sources in an orderly manner, following established procedures.
  • Inspect and make emergency repairs to drains, gutters and flashing. Strap or anchor to the roof deck support assembly (e.g., joists) all roof-mounted equipment (HVAC units or exhaust vents).
  • Check and maintain all necessary back-up equipment such as emergency generators and communication devices.
  • Protect and/or relocate vital records.
  • Install windstorm shutters/plywood over windows and doors.
  • Anchor or relocate anything in the yard that could potentially blow away or cause damage, specifically:
    • remove all loose yard debris
    • anchor or relocate all nonessential yard equipment to a safe location
    • secure yard storage of flammable liquid drums, or move them to a sheltered area (never move them into main facility areas!)
    • anchor all portable buildings (e.g., trailers) to the ground
    • secure large cranes
    • ensure that outdoor signs are properly braced
  • Inspect all fire protection equipment, such as sprinkler control valves and fire pumps.
  • Ensure that employees who have been designated to stay on-site have proper supplies and equipment (drinkable water, nonperishable food, medical supplies, flashlights, walkie-talkies). Have cash on hand for post-windstorm needs such as buying food and supplies, or paying employees and contractors.
  • Repair and fill aboveground tanks with product or water.
  • Fill the fuel tanks of generators, fire pumps, and all company-owned vehicles.
  • Clean out drains and catch basins.
  • Cover computers, machinery, and stock with tarpaulins or other waterproof covers.
  • Remove as many items as possible from the floor, or relocate them out of the facility. Isolate, neutralize, or remove from the site any chemicals that can cause violent interactions.
  • Turn off gas to minimize fire loss. Protect or shut off other flames.
  • Shut down all non-critical/non-essential electrical equipment. Disconnect main electrical feeds to the facility, if possible, to prevent a potential fire caused by short circuiting of damaged equipment.

During the storm

Emergency response personnel should stay at the facility only if safe to do so.

  • Patrol the property continuously and watch for roof leaks, pipe breakage, fire or structural damage. During the height of a windstorm, personnel should remain in areas that have been deemed safe from wind and flood.
  • Constantly monitor any boilers that must remain on line.
  • During power failure, turn off electrical switches to prevent reactivation before necessary checks are completed.

After the storm

  • Secure the site and survey for damage. Check for safety hazards such as live wires, leaking gas or flammable liquids, poisonous gases and damage to foundations or underground piping.
  • Repair damage to the automatic sprinkler system and get sprinkler protection back in service as soon as possible. Contact Corporate Risk Management whenever sprinkler piping and/or water supplies are impaired.
  • Call in key personnel and notify contractors to begin repairs. Ensure that safety systems are fully implemented beforehand. Contractors must share responsibility for establishing fire-safe conditions before and during the entire job.
  • Begin salvage as soon as possible to prevent further damage:
    • Cover broken windows and torn roof coverings immediately
    • Separate damaged goods, but beware of accumulating too much combustible debris inside a building
  • Contact Corporate Risk Management for assistance in restoring fire protection and reporting any loss.
  • Clean roof drains and remove debris from roofs to keep drainage clear. Visually check any open bus bars, conductors and exposed insulators before re-energizing the main electrical system.


Wind Speed



(differs from country to country)


74 to 95 mph

(120 to 153 km/h)

Less than 78 mph

(125 km/h)


96 to 110 mph

(154 to 177 km/h)

78 to 106 mph

(125 to 170 km/h)


111 to 130 mph

(179 to 209 km/h)

107 to 140 mph

(171 to 225 km/h)


131 to 155 mph

(211 to 249 km/h)

141 to 174 mph

(226 to 280 km/h)


greater than 155 mph

(249 km/h)

greater than 174 mph

(280 km/h)

The following category descriptions are based on hurricane wind speeds; correlation based upon wind speed can be made to cyclones.

Possible storm surge 4 to 5 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m) above normal. Damage primarily to foliage and unanchored buildings. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Low-lying coastal roads inundated, minor pier damage, some small craft torn from moorings.

Storm surge of 6 to 8 ft. (1.8 to 2.4 m) above normal. Considerable damage to foliage, some trees blown down. Major damage to mobile homes. Extensive damage to poorly constructed signs. Some damage to roofing materials on buildings. Coastal roads and low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water 2 to 4 hours before arrival of windstorm center. Considerable damage to piers, marinas flooded. Small craft torn from moorings. Mandatory evacuation of shoreline residences and low-lying islands.

Possible storm surge 9 to 12 ft. (2.7 to 3.6 m) above normal. Limbs torn from trees and large trees blown down. Most poorly constructed signs blown down. Damage to roofing materials on buildings, some window and door damage. Mobile homes destroyed. Serious coastal flooding and many smaller coastal structures destroyed. Larger coastal structures damaged by battering waves and floating debris. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water 3 to 5 hours before windstorm center arrives. Flat terrain 5 ft. (1.5 m) or less above sea level flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Possible mandatory evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of shoreline.

Storm surge 13 to 18 ft. (4 to 5.5 m) above normal. Flat terrain 10 ft. (3 m) or less above sea level flooded inland as far as 6 miles (9.6 km). Shrubs, trees and all signs blown down. Extensive damage to inadequately installed roofing materials, windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs on many small residences. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Major damage to lower floors of coastal structures due to flooding and battering of waves and floating devices. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water 3 to 5 hours before windstorm center arrives. Major beach erosion. Massive mandatory evacuation of all residences within 500 yards (457 m) of shore, and single-story residences on low ground within 2 miles (3.2 km) of shore.

Storm surge greater than 18 ft. (5.5 m) above normal. Shrubs, trees and all signs blown down, considerable damage to roofs of buildings. Very severe and extensive damage to windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs of many residences and inadequately designed industrial buildings. Extensive shattering of glass in windows and doors. Some complete building failures, small buildings overturned or blown away. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Major damage to lower floors of all structures less than 15 ft. (4.6 m) above sea level within 500 yards (457 m) of shore. Low-lying escape routes inland cut off by rising water 3 to 5 hours before windstorm center arrives. Massive mandatory evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) of shore.

If you would like further information regarding Windstorm Protection or Emergency Preparedness plans, please contact Risk Logic Inc.