Hurricane Harvey

Disaster recovery: 14 lessons from the natural disasters of 2017

What do last year's hurricanes, wildfires, and earthquakes teach us about disaster response going forward?

June 25, 2018

2017 was a year of massive disasters.

It's important to take a step back and learn from these events, says Scott Teel, vice president of organizational development for Agility Recovery Solutions, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.

Teel offers takeaways from five devastating natural disasters last year.

Hurricane Harvey

One of the most costly on record, Hurricane Harvey drenched Eastern Texas with rain in late August and early September. The resulting floods affected hundreds of thousands of homes and displaced more than 30,000 people. 
Lessons Learned:
  • Where it rains, it can flood. Know your local flood zones and possible threats.
  • Pay attention to your insurance coverage, specifically around exclusions, limitations, and options for “Extra Expense” coverage.
  • Prepare for transportation network disruptions.
  • Remember that fixed-in-place assets for recovery, such as generators, can be affected by the same event and be rendered useless.

Mexico City earthquake

Mexico City Earthquake
On September 19, 2017, a strong earthquake rattled Mexico City and surrounding areas, killing 370 people and injuring more than 6,000 others.
Lessons Learned:
  • Even dense, urban areas, can be without utilities and critical supplies for weeks, if not months.
  • The cascading effects of large-scale regional disasters can cause severe shortages in office space and lodging.

Hurricane Irma

Hurricane Irma, which hit in early September 2017, is the strongest storm on record in the open Atlantic region. It caused widespread damage in the Caribbean and the Florida Keys.
Lessons Learned:
  • Have multiple redundant critical service providers, particularly for cash deliveries, fuel drops, and Internet connectivity.
  • Set up accounts and nurture relationships ahead of time in diverse regions for services and assets you will need during recovery. You can’t rely only on local vendors/suppliers.
  • Vet your own supply chain network resilience to major regional events and ensure you understand your service level agreement from third-party vendors, particularly during situations of massive demand.

Hurricane Maria

Later in September 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean, and is now considered the worst natural disaster on record in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The region is still recovering.
Lessons Learned:
  • Plan ahead for long-term loss of your primary utilities and critical service providers.
  • Understand the potential impacts of primary threats to your workforce and make plans to supplement or replace staff during large-scale events.

California Wildfires

California Wildfires
More than one million acres in California burned during a historically destructive wildfire season, destroying or damaging more than 10,000 structures.
Lessons Learned:
  • Know your options for relocating personnel, forwarding telephones, and obtaining replacement equipment.
  • Have access to petty cash for emergency supplies.
  • Be sure multiple people have remote access to your website in order to make updates to your homepage in real time.