The Aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Future Hurricane Emergency Management Issues by Dr. Joseph S. Maresca
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 during his/her shift 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 de-commissioning 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 predefines 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.