Winter Weather and Secondary Hazards: Know the Risks
The Northern Plains and parts of the Upper Midwest endured a pounding from Winter Storm Delphi as some locations received over 9 inches of snow accumulation in a 24 hour period. In an area of the US already weakened by extreme winter weather, the arrival of Delphi has further strained resources and prompted hundreds of delays, closures, and accidents. In fact, reports from Minnesota alone indicate nearly 400 traffic accidents occurred across the state during that time. In most cases of extreme winter weather such as this, more attention is paid to the amount of anticipated precipitation; however, secondary hazards—icy roads causing major traffic accidents—are often far more dangerous.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), most deaths associated with winter weather are caused by secondary hazards. The most common secondary hazards include power outages, poor road conditions and road closures, downed trees and power lines, and flooding and water distribution issues, with many of these being interrelated. Here, we’ve discussed each one and offer suggestions for incorporating direct responses to them in your winter weather plans.
Of all the secondary hazards related to winter weather, power outages occur most frequently. Downed trees and power lines are generally the cause, and depending on where the breaks in the power lines occur, thousands of people and businesses could be without power for several days. To prepare for potential power outages, install a backup generator and supply flashlights for emergency lighting.
Poor Road Conditions and Road Closures
Poor road conditions are dangerous and lead to hundreds of thousands of crashes, injuries, and deaths. The annual impact of snow, sleet, and ice on US roadways, according to the Department of Transportation’s Road Weather Management Program, results in 1,511,200 crashes, 181,300 injuries, and 2,179 deaths. Consider these statistics when devising your winter weather plans and be sure to implement work from home policies to account for employee safety. In addition to poor road conditions, the influx of accidents may also contribute to road closures. Listen to weather reports for information on road closures and disseminate that information to your personnel.
Downed Trees and Power Lines
Besides knocking out power, downed trees and power lines also contribute to poor road conditions. Monitor weather reports for updated information on which roads to avoid due to downed trees and power lines. If it is not safe to leave your facility, remain there and notify the proper emergency personnel of your situation.
Flooding and Water Distribution Issues
Burst pipes, power outages, and large quantities of melting snow can contribute to flooding and water distribution issues. Check news reports for any safety issues concerning the water supply and avoid any areas that may be flooded.
Besides causing these life safety issues, secondary hazards also make it difficult to deliver food, water, fuel, and other supplies to those who need it. In the event that employees are safer sheltering-in-place, have ample water and enough emergency supplies available to last a minimum of 72 hours.
When developing your winter weather plans, be sure to include processes that account for all the possible secondary hazards of winter weather and how they may affect your business operations and the life safety of your employees. If a storm is imminent, it is important to monitor weather conditions and respond quickly. To help you and your Crisis Team determine what to do during a winter weather event, download the “Crisis Response Flowchart: Winter Weather.” In it, you will discover what major questions to answer at various stages of the winter weather threat and what courses of action to take based on those decisions. For more ways to build a complete business continuity program within your organization, visit www.preparis.com or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.