Building Resilience: Facilitating Disaster Recovery

Building Resilience: Facilitating Disaster Recovery

We have been given notice. It appears that God is changing citizenship.

In 1993, with the Met Office’s dire warnings of a direct hit facilitating hurricane parties, Tropical Storm Bret abruptly shifted paths and slipped relatively harmlessly between Trinidad and Tobago.

Twenty-four years later, another Tropical Storm Bret hit us head on.

This August’s earthquake actually damaged structures in west Trinidad and caused ground heave in south Trinidad

October brought floods.

None of the damage was as bad as it could have been. Most of the earthquake damage was minor. Although flooding caused massive (but mostly uninsured) losses to household contents, most buildings were left filthy but structurally sound.

Businesses and homeowners once again have an opportunity to put in places measures to reduce loss of life and property from the inevitable hazards that come with climate change and a seismically active location. And we don’t even have to do conduct our own study to know what we should do.

Following the havoc incurred by Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Zurich Insurance in collaboration with the non-profit ISET-International and the American Red Cross Global  Center conducted a Post-Event Review Capability study to identify how to mitigate future hurricane and flood losses. Here are their recommendations of small, relatively inexpensive actions that businesses can take to increase their resilience;

Pre – event Planning

  • Scan and store essential documents off-site.
  • Store daily documents and equipment above ground level
  • Purchase, know how to install, and activate flood gates or barriers outside of business hours as well as during active weather systems
  • Purchase equipment, such as commercial refrigerators, with motors located at the top rather than the bottom so that they are less liable to be damaged by flood
  • For buildings with elevators, install “float buttons” in the elevator shaft that automatically move the elevator to the top floor when triggered by flood.
  • Locate elevator control panels on the second floor or higher.
  • Relocate key equipment to higher elevations prior to a potential flood event
  • Hire security to deal with any post-loss looting.
  • Book services for flood cleanup, rental of pumps, power-washers, dehumidifiers

Help Employees Become Prepared

  • Regularly update and have accessible, employee emergency contact information
  • Have a clearly communicated plan for employee check-in following a loss event
  • Raise employee awareness of the need to stockpile a supply of food and water, backup power and to secure key documents

Business Continuity

  • Purchase a backup generator
  • Use security systems to track conditions in business locations and determine potential damage and line up contractors and equipment even before actually accessing the premises
  • Thoroughly review insurance adequacy annually
  • Evaluate the cost of being non-operational for six to 12 months (or longer) to decide whether to take out business interruption insurance.

The warnings have been given; the number and impact of natural hazards have increased. We must now implement the mechanisms that reduce our risk and provide a swift avenue for recovery when the next disaster strikes.

Visit our website at www.rms.co.tt for further information on how to minimize losses from hurricane and flood.