Regional Flooding Highlights Need for All-hazard Planning

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More people die in floods than any other disaster type; making it the number one natural disaster in the United States. The average flood claim amounted to nearly WV flooding$42,000 from 2010 to 2014, and total flood insurance claims averaged more than $3.5 billion per year between 2005 and 2014.

A current flood-stricken area is West Virginia. A total of 25 deaths were reported due to flooding between June 23 and June 27, 2016, causing this flood season to top the history charts. More than 58,000 homes and buildings were without power and the West Virginia Division of Highways reported over 60 road closures.

West Virginia Governor, Earl Tomblin, announced representatives from a number of state agencies were stationed at FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers to provide state assistance to residents and businesses affected by the flooding.

“As cleanup continues in communities across the state, so many of our residents and small business owners are also taking steps to get back on their feet and on the road to rebuilding their homes and lives,” Gov. Tomblin said. “That’s why I have directed a number of our state agencies to travel to FEMA’s Disaster Recovery Centers to help those affected by these devastating floods get the state resources they need. I am grateful for the continued efforts of our emergency responders, non-profit organizations and volunteers who remain hard at work helping our friends and neighbors. I also appreciate the support of our congressional delegation and federal partners to help provide critical resources to West Virginians in need.”

Additional resources, like WV Flood Tool, are assisting residents in disaster relief. WV Flood Tool was designed to provide floodplain managers, insurance agents, developers, real estate agents, local planners and citizens with an effective means by which to make informed decisions about the degree of flood risk for a specific area or property. Features of the tool include:

  • Best available Flood Reference Data
  • Map Views
  • Tool Functions, Visualization and Performance

President Obama declared a federal disaster for the impacted regions and nearly 300 West Virginia National Guard troops assisted with search and rescue operations. Twelve counties are still under a state of emergency.

Additional regions hit with flooding include: Oklahoma, Texas and Mississippi.

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Flooding Adds to Difficult Times

Flooding damages in West Virginia come during a period of high mining layoffs, only adding to economic hardships. Coal mining is a sizeable point of employment for West Virginia residents; providing nearly 30,000 direct jobs within the state. More than 60 percent of West Virginia taxes are paid by either the coal industry, or by utility companies that make electricity by using the coal. This is equivalent to $70 million in property taxes and $214 million in Coal Severance Taxes annually.

This year alone, over 4,000 coal miners are being laid-off across the country, 1,500 in West Virginia. These layoffs directly affect the state’s economy. Lack of jobs reduces resources to support towns and businesses. Decreasing tax dollars directly correlates to decreased funds for infrastructure support – which can cause serious issues in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Business Continuity Impacts

Historically, we have viewed floods as temporary. Here today, gone tomorrow. Yes, the impacts could last longer, but the water receded quickly … not now. These floods will be here for months. Should the region experience excessive snowpack, this could lead to an extended melt and constant continuing exposure. Land will be lost for productive use for the remainder of the year. Can your business survive without income for months or more? … Most can’t.

New Norm

The new norm shows us that weather patterns have changed — and not for the better. Frequency and intensity of storms and weather have increased. Colder, wetter winters are a fact of life. Hotter, drier summers create droughts and destroy crops.

We experience too much water where we don’t need it, and not enough where we do. 2016 has set records for both extreme flooding and drought. Yet, most have not adjusted the vulnerability in their planning or updated their business impact analyses data to reflect the new norm. Black swans, the once in 100 or 500 year events, are the new norm. Lack of belief in man-made climate change does not eliminate the threat.

Action needed NOW

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Recognition of the problem is the first step.

  • When did you update your hazard matrix?
  • Do you take an all-hazards approach?
  • Are your plans current?
  • Do you have an effective monitoring plan?

Business continuity programs are living documents, not binders on a shelf.

  • Is your plan current?
  • Are your people trained?
  • Are your suppliers prepared?
  • Are you sure?
  • How do you know?

Reviewing and updating a business continuity plan can become overwhelming. It takes time, coordination and thought-leadership. Contact us if you need assistance, we’re the experts.

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