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The Texas Medical Center (TMC), located in Houston, TX, is no stranger to flooding. 2001’s Tropical Storm Allison brought widespread – and in many locations – unprecedented flooding to the Gulf Coast city of Houston.
For all practical purposes, TMC was under water and could not function for days and was then at reduced capacity while repairs were made for months; full repair and reconstruction took years.
Today’s forecasts are an integral part of multi-million dollar decisions that propel businesses to higher levels of success while also providing a higher degree of safety for employees in the field and customers on property.
As the largest medical center in the world, it was unacceptable to be offline for any amount of time, let alone the days and weeks following Allison. The storm surprised many, including some meteorologists, in the way Allison moved over and away from Houston, then circled back to the city to deliver even more rain.
Yet would the most accurate weather forecast have provided the information necessary to take preventive measures that would prevent damage, reroute ambulances, secure lower floors, evacuate (or shelter in place) patients or when to hold over shifts or to add additional staff to deal with the pending emergency? Not likely.
Since each of those decisions comes at significant cost, at what point does a standard forecast convey a sense of urgency or provide objective data that allows words to translate to action?
Despite the significant flood protection measures put into place following Tropical Storm Allison, TMC management was not naive enough to close the door on the possibility of future flooding. They approached StormGeo asking for a way to make a good forecast better.
The Texas Medical Center wanted StormGeo to provide not just a good forecast but a way to cause their emergency management team to move to action without having to second-guess the forecast or read between the lines. In response, we created the Flood Potential Index (FPI).
Using StormGeo-created algorithms to help define the true measure of the potential of damage from any flood, the FPI goes beyond the standard forecast.
It provides an index to specific actions required to mitigate flood damage, reduce or eliminate unnecessary dollars from being spent and even to save lives by implementing timely, decisive action.
Again, the accuracy of the forecast is a given, however the FPI increases the value of the weather forecast by providing the client with data that can drive action. The client can now feel confident that their weather team is providing everything possible so that they can make decisions that allow action that is neither too early nor too late.
"The FPI is a great tool. It allows us to leave the weather interpreting to the weather experts. [It] really isolates the forecast and its effects to our flood plain. When the index reaches a designated level, we start planning and bringing in resources so that people are in place and ready to take action,” says Fiona Burke, Safety and Emergency Preparedness Manager for the Texas Medical Center.
Yet there’s more to the FPI. Anticipating the destructive nature of a flood event and planning for its effects is a large first step in the right direction, but the event isn’t over just because the planning and staff are already prepared before the first drop of rain falls.
The other side of the event – the time when the rain stops and the flood waters recede – is equally as important. With this in mind, the FPI also helps TMC prepare for the rush of injured and dislocated by helping it anticipate when it can return to business-as-usual.
Burke said, “Keeping Texas Medical Center patients, employees and the surrounding community safe is [our] Number One priority during severe weather, but being able to get the doors back open so that we can receive patients after an event makes our emergency preparedness even more crucial.”
StormGeo’s Flood Potential Index is taking weather forecasts to the next level by making the forecast do more than it ever has before and by supporting our clients in a way that was once thought too complex or even impossible.
As part of our client's business decision guidance, the FPI helps them manage their resources, protect their facilities and remain a trusted and secure resource to a community that may otherwise be under water and without a hospital.