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Proper planning for schools & government agencies:

How Can the Public Sector Protect Itself Against Severe Weather?

Jan 20, 2020

As the US economy grows and cities and schools support increasing populations, significant weather events are becoming more costly and damaging to local businesses. While public weather information can be helpful, site-specific forecasts provide actionable information—a crucial aspect of any proactive plan for severe weather events.

Schools and government agencies have an immense responsibility to operate efficiently while also prioritizing the safety of employees, students and residents. So what do you do when a severe weather or tropical forecast has been issued for the general public, but you are unsure how it will affect your facilities or operations?

Finding the right weather forecast is vital in making significant decisions like closing schools and roads, evacuating local areas, and postponing outdoor events. If these forecasts are not location-specific, there can be significant impacts to your decisions and post-weather operations, such as:

  • Confusion by local media – The forecasts are often focused on a general region, rather than your specific area, and information between stations can be inconsistent.
  • Unexpected weather conditions at your location – When utilizing free weather resources (such as the news or apps), you may find yourself caught off-guard by weather conditions. This is particularly true for areas with large counties or more rural areas, where the weather can change drastically within just a few miles, and conditions that you experience might be more severe than what was forecast for the entire region. Small counties and urban areas are not immune to this effect, however.
  • Unforeseen costs to repair or rebuild – Weather greatly impacts the resilience of your facilities, especially when those facilities have not been properly secured beforehand.
  • Safety risks that increase liability – Maintaining the safety of your employees, students and residents is a huge liability. Making the decision on whether to close or evacuate should not depend on generic weather information, as it does not take the location and thresholds of your facility into account.
  • Disruption to your supply chain – Public schools, cities, universities and other government agencies have deliveries coming and going every day. Until these facilities find the best weather windows for scheduling deliveries, they are at risk of delays, damage and cancellations that disrupt operations. A severe thunderstorm might postpone a delivery by a day, but a blizzard or hurricane can disrupt deliveries for weeks or more.
  • Failure of facility infrastructure – Your maintenance teams are responsible for ensuring your facilities stay up and running during significant weather events. General weather forecasts do not include actionable notifications to conduct maintenance checks on IT networks, air systems and backup generators. This means more frequent outages and failures at your facilities.

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), every state in the United States has experienced at least one billion-dollar natural disaster. Weather affects all regions, and depending on your geographical location, you may be even more vulnerable to some types of severe weather. Here are some of the ways location-specific weather forecasts can help mitigate risks and improve operational efficiencies:

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  1. Access to a team of experts – Having a team of experienced meteorologists available by phone or email any time of day is especially useful when determining whether to close a school or call for an evacuation. Rather than making guesses based on broad forecasts from the local media or a free app, a team of experts focused on your specific interests, locations and assets will provide actionable decision guidance based on the established thresholds of your facilities.

  2. Enhance safety and accountability – Knowing the weather conditions expected at your location(s) helps you determine working hours, student schedules, evacuation areas, etc. and streamlines communication between all responsible parties.

  3. Reduce costs by taking a proactive weather approach – If you base your planning around location-specific weather forecasts, unexpected costs due to weather damage, personnel liability, loss of goods and full closures can be avoided. It only takes one significant weather event to strain your budget, so it’s important to ensure you have the right resources and preparations in place ahead of time.

  4. Maintain resiliency – Strong infrastructures, machinery and materials are vital to avoid damage during severe weather, regardless of if you are sheltering in place or have been evacuated. Location-specific weather support gives your maintenance team context into when to expect certain impacts at their location, allowing precautionary maintenance to be ordered. This gives your facilities the best chance at weathering the storm.

  5. Optimize logistics – Special deliveries are required to keep your schools and agencies running day-to-day. Site-specific forecasts allow you to take expected weather impacts to your location into account when coordinating with vendors. It’s also important to set up alternate vendors in case your current vendors are unable to fulfill their deliveries. This will keep costs associated with cancellations and delays to a minimum.

  6. Back to normal operations – Being caught by unexpected severe weather can have serious consequences, but so can returning to business too soon. With your safety in mind, expert meteorologists help you prepare for, respond to and recover from severe weather with timely communications and advisories so your team can restore normal operations at the moment it is safe to do so.

The best decision you can make for your school, university or agency is to recognize your area’s weather risks and take a proactive approach to preparedness and response. StormGeo, as a global provider of weather intelligence solutions and 24/7/365 decision support, is here for you and your team, and will have your back when you need us most.

Learn more about StormGeo’s location-specific decision support solutions.