EHS OutLoud Blog

Sincerely Stefanie: What Hurricane Matthew Teaches Us about Emergency Preparedness

Emergency preparedness is nothing to brush off your shoulders. As a Northeast Ohio resident, Lake Effect snow is synonymous with a normal winter.

Still, it amazes me come the first snowstorm when residents who have lived here all their lives act as if it’s the first time they’ve experienced one. They don’t plan ahead when they need to travel. They don’t think about being prepared in case Mother Nature dumps a foot of snow in Cleveland just as rush hour begins. They say, “It won’t be that bad.” And it is.

On the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Bertha’s and Hurricane Fran’s devastating impact on North Carolina, Hurricane Matthew likely is to make landfall in the Carolinas bringing winds up to 100 mph.

While some dismiss emergency preparedness as being overcautious, it is none the wiser to go into something unprepared, especially when bracing for natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, storms or earthquakes.

With Hurricane Matthew set to hit landfall in the United States this week, states, residents and municipalities in the storm’s path are preparing for a mass evacuation to avoid the storm’s impact. Year-round residents of the Outer Banks and Florida have been vocal about the impact of past hurricanes and how dangerous they could be.  

On the flip side, I have seen multiple posts via social media of family, friends and others who are planning to travel that way in the next few days despite widespread warnings. Vacationers looking to take advantage of fall beach weather in the Outer Banks and the Coastal United States should use caution and stay away from the area.

This isn’t a normal thunderstorm, which is why tourists need to make arrangements to stay home or find another vacation spot. They need to call their hotels or realtors and determine if it is worth risking their lives, others’ lives and resources.

Because a State of Emergency already has been declared across multiple states, it is foolhardy of anyone to not be prepared to cancel or change plans just because they want their vacation time or because they think “it won’t be that bad.”  It only will lead to confusion and make it more difficult for law enforcement officials and governing bodies who are trying to keep everyone safe.

According to the National Safety Council, one-third of American workers feel they are not prepared for an emergency, which is unnerving. This could spell disaster for not only them but other employees.

This is why it is the responsibility of a company and safety leader to train and educate workers about emergency preparedness because, just like residents in a hurricane’s path, you understand the consequence and impact. An employee might not realize how dangerous a situation can be until you communicate it.

In the end, an emergency preparedness plan is just that: how well you and your employees can be prepared to weather a storm and get home safe at the end of the day.

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What's EHS OutLoud Blog?

EHS OutLoud blog provides a candid look at health and safety issues both at work and at home.


Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is editor-in-chief of EHS Today magazine, a Penton Media Inc. publication. She has been writing about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990. She has been...

Stefanie Valentic

Stefanie Valentic is an associate editor for EHS Today magazine, a Penton Media Inc. publication.  A native of Cleveland, Ohio, she has been in B2B publishing for eight years. Her work has...
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