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The Aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Future Hurricane Emergency Management Issues

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Hurricane Irene caused at least $1 billion dollars in damages within New York State alone. The New York City subways were shut down for a day and many areas near waterways were evacuated by local residents. Thousands prepared for the hurricane by boarding up their homes and purchasing emergency kits and supplies. Some citizens chose to stay behind and remain in their homes despite the dangers. At least 46 citizens lost their lives in 13 states due to the hurricane. In many places, reconstruction efforts could take months or even years. The government response to the hurricane was generally well coordinated for government at the federal, state and municipal levels. Many television networks devoted large blocks of time to report the evolving status of the hurricane and the governmental response to the exigency in real time .

FEMA provided very detailed instructions on how to handle the hurricane. FEMA recommends maintaining an emergency supply kit, having a family emergency plan and purchasing flood insurance. Major insurers also offer earthquake insurance and policy riders. The Saffir Simpson Hurricane Scale cites a Level 1 hurricane with winds of 74-95 miles per hour. On a sliding scale, a Level 5 hurricane has winds of 155 MPH with severe damage to virtually everything in its path. 1)

There are lessons to be learned from Hurricane Irene. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded American infrastructure a “D” overall with a $2 trillion dollar investment needed in the next 5 years. The most urgent needs are for improvements in drinking water, levees, inland waterways, roads and wastewater. This investment alone would create thousands of new jobs. 2)

In anticipation of a major hurricane, the offshore oil rig senior operations personnel should require the deployment of a Contingency and Disaster Recovery Plan in order to empower the staff the moment critical problems from the hurricane begin to escalate. The Offshore Installation Manager is the ultimate authority on shifts and makes the essential decisions regarding the operation of the offshore oil rig platform. There may be a hierarchy of team leaders to facilitate continuous operations. The Offshore Operations Engineer is the senior technical authority on the platform. Operations coordinators manage crew personnel assignments and backup personnel in an emergency.

At a minimum, the Contingency Plan should provide for decommissioning the oil rig platform based upon a hierarchy of known emergency conditions in the energy industry, as well as predefined criteria of the Department of Energy, Mineral Management Service and relevant coastal authorities. At times, empty oil transporters will be required to store oil recovered/reprocessed from an anticipated oil leak due to the hurricane. Routine oil rig platform shutdowns should be rehearsed so that the operations can be decommissioned in anticipation of emergency hurricane conditions.

Emergency parts and supplies should be provided for together with the applicable vendors and backup vendors in an emergency. The Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) criteria pre-defines the shelf life of major engineering parts and anticipated replacement schemes. These key parts
should be inventoried with replacement times aged on trouble management systems.

Major hurricanes also require special preparations by nuclear power plant personnel. These preparations include the maintenance of a Contingency Plan, Disaster Recovery Plan and rehearsals to shut down the nuclear power plant on an emergency basis. Rehearsals are necessary to ensure that the automatic shutdown capabilities at the nuclear power plant operate as intended in an emergency under hurricane conditions. The Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) criteria described above applies to critical nuclear power plant engineering parts/ design. Trouble Escalation systems and processes apply to nuclear power plant operations, as well as most engineering applications.

The underground piping infrastructure of a nuclear power plant requires separate consideration to anticipate damages due to a major hurricane, flood or earthquake. 3)

All operations in the private and public sector should maintain Contingency and Disaster Recovery Plans tailored to the special requirements under hurricane conditions, as well as other natural disasters. Routine rehearsals of the contingency and disaster recovery plans should be performed to ensure that installation personnel can accomplish facility shutdowns quickly if the need to do so arises. The turnover of key personnel is an issue due to corporate takeovers, job changes, retirements and deaths. Accordingly, the contingency and disaster recovery plans must be updated periodically to reflect these routine personnel changes, reassignments and corporate restructuring.

Some data processing systems, telecommunications systems and cloud computing data centers may operate with data redundancy, backup computing infrastructure, remote job entry capabilities and alternate vendors/subcontractors in case traffic must be rerouted due to a hurricane or other natural disaster.

1) http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html

2) http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/

3) http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/event-status/event/en.html

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About Dr Joseph S Maresca

I've taught approx. 34 sections of collegiate courses including computer applications, college algebra, collegiate statistics, law, accounting, finance and economics. The experience includes service as a Board Director on the CPA Journal and Editor of the CPA Candidates Inc. Newsletter. In college, I worked as a statistics lab assistant. Manhattan College awarded a BS in an allied area of operations research. The program included courses in calculus, ordinary differential equations, probability, statistical inference, linear algebra , the more advanced operations research, price analysis and econometrics. Membership in the Delta Mu Delta National Honor Society was granted together with the degree. My experience includes both private account and industry. In addition, I've worked extensively in the Examinations Division of the AICPA from time to time. Recently, I passed the Engineering in Training Exam which consisted of 9 hours of examination in chemistry, physics, calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, probability/ statistics, fluids, electronics, materials science/structure of matter, mechanics, statics, thermodynamics, computer science, dynamics and a host of minor subject areas like engineering economics. A very small percentage of engineers actually take and pass the EIT exam. The number has hovered at circa 5%. Several decades ago, I passed the CPA examination and obtained another license in Computer Information Systems Auditing. A CISA must have knowledge in the areas of data center review, systems applications, the operating system of the computer, disaster recovery, contingency planning, developmental systems, the standards which govern facility reviews and a host of other areas. An MBA in Accounting with an Advanced Professional Certificate in Computer Applications/ Information Systems , an Advanced Professional Certificate in Finance and an Advanced Professional Certificate in Organizational Design were earned at New York University-Graduate School of Business (Stern ). In December of 2005, an earned PhD in Accounting was granted by the Ross College. The program entrance requires a previous Masters Degree for admittance together with a host of other criteria. The REGISTRAR of Ross College contact is: Tel . US 202-318-4454 FAX [records for Dr. Joseph S. Maresca Box 646 Bronxville NY 10708-3602] The clinical experience included the teaching of approximately 34 sections of college accounting, economics, statistics, college algebra, law, thesis project coursework and the professional grading of approx. 50,000 CPA examination essays with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Additionally, membership is held in the Sigma Beta Delta International Honor Society chartered in 1994. Significant writings include over 10 copyrights in the name of the author (Joseph S. Maresca) and a patent in the earthquake sciences.
  • Glenn Contrarian

    You must be a socialist or communist or Nazi, because in the Tea Party world, we all know it’s unpatriotic (and base heresy) to spend our Precious Taxpayer Dollars on stupid, silly things like being prepared for major natural disasters and providing completely unnecessary aid to those lazy bums who think that they don’t have to go to work just because their homes and places of work have been blown away! Preparedness for disasters and protection of our national infrastructure are Marxist, statist concepts fit only in the eyes of liberal wussies who can’t stand on their own two feet.

  • http://www.lunch.com/DrJosephSMaresca Dr Joseph S Maresca

    First, there was a comment by Glenn Contrarian which didn’t see the need for disaster recovery. How can companies recover without a specific recovery plan which empowers staff to act in the event of an emergency.

    IT professionals will not certify a data processing operation without a disaster recovery plan to deal with the various scenarios related to an emergency.

    Some companies process data twice or even three times in order to protect the record of online traffic in case of a major disruption due to an earthquake, tsunami, hurricane or other horrendous event.

    To answer j4859C, weather forecasters track the trajectory of the hurricane and make projections about which areas may need to evacuate to anticipate cataclysmic losses. This can be done through a thorough analysis of non-linearity and the critical path of the hurricane. Fractal geometry may be employed too.

    China has lost millions of people due to typhoons, floods and earthquakes. The thing to be learned is to have well rehearsed evacuation scenarios and plans. In addition, critical facilities like nuclear power plants shouldn’t be located near earthquake zones or even flood zones. Key facilities must have a Contingency Plan and a Disaster Recovery Plan to limit human and financial losses in an emergency.