Assessing the Aftermath of Hurricane Matthew – The Importance of Home and Workplace Preparedness

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On Tuesday, October 4, South Carolina Governor, Nikki Haley, ordered an emergency evacuation for the coastal residents of South Carolina. Hurricane Matthew

Governor Haley extends mandatory evacuation on October 6 in preparation of Hurricane Matthew

Governor Haley extends mandatory evacuation on October 6 in preparation of Hurricane Matthew

was approaching the continental United States as a Category 4 storm, leaving destruction in its path and claiming the lives of more than 1,000 Haiti residents.

At 4 a.m. on October 5, I found myself leaving my home off the coast of Folly Beach, South Carolina following the orders of Governor Haley. With important documents, electronics and a few suitcases in hand, I left Charleston not knowing what I would return to, or when I would return.

I was not alone. According to state officials, nearly 250,000 South Carolinians fled from the Charleston-Beaufort-Hilton Head areas; many people moving families and loved ones to higher ground. Businesses across the coast boarded windows, placed sandbags around doorways and closed their doors in preparation.

Thousands were without power across the low country and missed work and/or school due to the hurricane. In the weeks following the hurricane, residents of affected areas began clearing debris, assessing damage and restoring life back to normalcy.

While the coast of South Carolina experienced damage, especially in the areas of Hilton Head Island and Edisto Island, our North Carolina neighbors were hit by Hurricane Matthew more than expected.

Assessing the Damage – The Numbers

North Carolina – Flooding Takes Over

Due to severe flooding and 20 inches of rain, damages continued to climb in North Carolina, even after Matthew decreased in intensity to a tropical storm. More than 100,000 homes, businesses and government buildings throughout the state endured damages reaching up to $1.5 million.

  • 800,000 power outages statewide
  • 1,136 North Carolina National Guard Reservists activated
    Damages from Hurricane Matthew, October 2016

    A home in Charleston, SC crushed by a fallen tree after Hurricane Matthew – October, 2016

    • 2,333 water rescues as of October 15, 2016
  • $9 million to disaster survivors through the Individual Assistance Program

Supplies Provided by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Association):

  • More than 33,000 applicants for individual assistance – $12.4 million approved
  • More than 5,900,000 meals
  • More than 4,300,000 liters of water
  • More than 87,000 blankets
  • 500 generators

Personnel Provided by FEMA:

  • Three Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Teams, conducted more than 700 rescues
  • More than 74 Mobile Emergency Response Support staff, 19 Mobile Communications Operating Vehicles
  • More than 2,500 staff (including DSATs and IMATs)

In addition to physical damages, North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, warned citizens to be on the lookout for fraudulent activity and scam operators and that the State Bureau of Investigation will pursue criminal charges. He also warned citizens to verify the license of any contractor prior to hiring and to only give money to credible relief efforts.

RELATED: Hurricane Matthew – A Firestorm Team Pictorial

South Carolina – Matthew Making Landfall 

Matthew officially made landfall in McClellanville, SC (about 40 miles northeast of Charleston, SC) on October 8. Although downgraded to a Category 1, the storm left massive flooding, downed trees and debris throughout the coastal regions. Nearly 800,000 homes and businesses were without power.

Home on Folly Beach, SC with boarded windows

Home on Folly Beach, SC boards windows in preparation of Hurricane Matthew

Georgia – 1-in-500-Year Storm Surge

Similar to South Carolina, Georgia was left with flooding and power outages. Parts of the state, including St. Simons and Jekyll Island, experienced an extreme storm surge with a 9-foot wall of water bringing with it 25-foot waves, according to WFAA 8.

Florida – Insurance Claims and Damages

Hurricane Matthew grazed the East Coast of Florida on October 7, with a peak surge of 9.88 feet in Fernandina Beach. A week after the storm hit, 39,000 insurance claims were filed through the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation due to the storm. Although less than originally expected, property damage in Florida soared to $218 million post-storm.

According to Reuters: “We anticipate this number will grow as consumers return to their homes and assess the damage to their property and belongings,” said Karen Kees, a spokeswoman for the state regulator. “It will take time for this process to be complete.” It was the first hurricane to test the small private insurers that have come to dominate Florida’s market over the past decade, as larger insurance companies pulled out after a series of powerful storms.

Although monetary items can be recovered and replaced after a natural disaster, human lives cannot. Matthew claimed the lives of more than 30 throughout the U.S, but the number of deaths in Haiti quickly rose to a devastating number.

Haiti – Rising Death Toll

The Caribbean Island of Haiti was hit the hardest by Hurricane Matthew. On October 4, the storm reached landfall as a Category 4 with 145 mile –per-hour winds. More than 1,000 people died as a result of the storm. Senior Central Government Official, Kedner Frenel, stated there was a great concern of cholera spreading post-storm.

Frenel said authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

In the days following the hurricane, government officials had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose.

Preparedness at Home and in the Workplace is Essential – How Are You Preparing?

FEMA Officials Survey Damage on Highway A1A near St Johns county. Photo by Eileen Lainez - Oct 10, 2016

FEMA Officials Survey Damage on Highway A1A near St Johns county. Photo by Eileen Lainez – Oct 10, 2016

Hurricane Matthew brought devastation to the East Coast of the United States and Haiti. Damages ranged from flooding, to power outages to the loss of human lives.

In the wake of a natural disaster, what is your first thought? Most are focused on the well-being of their family, loved ones or home. As an employer, what is your first thought? It is imperative your employees are prepared at home.

Preparing and planning for disaster before one hits will allow focus to be shifted to implementing evacuation procedures – or sheltering in place – and tending to loved ones.

If a mandatory evacuation is enacted, do your employees have a pre-determined safety location? How will they get there? Educate employees on materials to keep on hand in case an evacuation, or keep safe if sheltering in place. These materials include:

  • Important Documents:
    • Birth Certificates, Marriage License, Social Security Cards, Driver’s License, Tax Information, Insurance Cards and Documents, Credit and Debit Cards, Cash, Medical Records, etc.
  • Food – This includes non-perishables and coffee.
  • Water – Have a stock of water available prior to a disaster. Water is usually one of the first resources depleted at grocery stores.
  • Flashlights.
  • First Aid Kits.
Hurricane Matthew Preparation

A Subway restaurant on James Island, SC communicates with customers prior to the arrival of Hurricane Matthew.

Your attitude towards disaster preparedness will determine the degree to which you successfully navigate an emergency. If you have taken the time to think through how you will handle an emergency or a disaster, and have taken the steps to be prepared, you will feel far less anxious. You will be able to think clearly and execute decisions with confidence. The actions you take as a result of being prepared are likely to make your life much easier and could quite possibly save your life as well as those you love.

The first thing you need to do to prepare for a disaster is to speak with your family and/or those with whom you live. Encourage your employees to do the same. The next step is preparing your organization to withstand a disaster.NewBookCover

Keeping Your Organization Running During a Disaster

Shutting the doors of a business before, during and after a crisis is detrimental to the well-being of the organization and the economy as a whole. Our friends at Regus dedicate their time to ensure organizations, like your own, not only survive a crisis, but continue operating in times of disaster.

Regus provides private office space when you need it most. Their office spaces are guaranteed to mirror your current office design, providing seamless transfer and recovery.  Don’t let one disaster lead to another.

Be prepared at home and at the office. For additional information on preparedness and disaster planning, download our free e-book, Disaster Ready People for a Disaster Ready America, or contact Firestorm. We’re here to help keep you and your employees safe.

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