We’re right in the middle of hurricane season, and we’ve already seen 4 hurricanes and 5 tropical storms this year. On average, we see 6 hurricanes from the Atlantic coast each year.
Hurricanes are among nature’s most powerful and destructive phenomena, and they’re not something to be taken lightly. Even if you’re not located on the coast, you can experience some of the impact from hurricanes. NOAA lists the following hurricane hazards:
- Storm surge — an abnormal rise of water generated by a storm’s winds. This hazard is historically the leading cause of hurricane related deaths in the United States. Storm surge and large battering waves can result in many lives lost and can cause massive destruction along the coast. Storm surge can also travel several miles inland, especially along bays, rivers, and estuaries.
- Flooding from heavy rains — the second leading cause of fatalities during landfalling tropical cyclones. Widespread torrential rains from tropical storms and hurricanes often cause flooding hundreds of miles inland. This flooding can persist for several days after a storm.
- Winds — can destroy buildings and mobile homes. Debris, such as signs, roofing material, and items left outside can become flying missiles during hurricanes.
- Tornadoes — often produced by landfalling tropical storms and hurricanes. These tornadoes typically occur in rain bands well away from the center of the hurricane.
- Dangerous waves — can pose a significant hazard to coastal residents and mariners. These waves can cause deadly rip currents, significant beach erosion, and damage to structures along the coastline, even when the storm is more than a 1,000 miles offshore.
Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the response and recovery operations that workers are likely to conduct, and OSHA offers several excellent resources for hurricane preparedness and recovery.
How to Be Prepared
- Have an Emergency Action Plan. (Certain businesses are required to have these.)
- Be familiar with the warning terms used for hurricanes, as well as your local community’s emergency plans, warning signals, and shelters. (Note that Hurricane/Tropical Storm watches mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is possible in the specified area, while Hurricane/Tropical Storm warnings mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is expected to reach the area, typically within 24 hours.)
- Get emergency supply kits and keep them in shelter locations.
- Ensure that all workers know what to do in case of an emergency. Practice evacuation plans on a regular basis, and update plans and procedures based on lessons learned from exercises.
OSHA’s Hurricane eMatrix outlines the activities that you need to be familiar with for hurricane response and recovery work. The eMatrix also provides detailed information about the hazards associated with those activities. The eMatrix is designed to help employers make decisions to protect workers and offers recommendations for personal protective equipment, safe work practices, and precautions for each activity.