Assemble Disaster Supplies – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Rochelle Brittingham


Hurricane Sandy - Assemble Disaster Supplies - Hurricane Preparedness Week
Photo courtesy of R. Brittingham and the Disaster Research Center (University of Delaware). Fire damaged blocked assess after Hurricane Sandy in the Far Rockaways.


Every business needs to be stocked and ready.



It is important to have disaster supplies available year-round.

The days leading up to hurricane landfall allow for businesses, as well as employees, to finish obtaining supplies and getting items that may be more specific to certain needs (as discussed in FEMA’s Emergency Preparedness documents), but waiting until last minute may be too late. There is no telling how long regular services will be disrupted and what sort of damage an area may experience. Being caught unaware or unprepared can cost a company time and money.



Hurricane Sandy 2 - Assemble Disaster Supplies - Hurricane Preparedness Week
Photo courtesy of R. Brittingham and the Disaster Research Center (University of Delaware). Disrupted infrastructure in the Far Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy.

Test your emergency equipment before it is needed.

Businesses that have ride out crews – crews that remain to ensure critical infrastructure continues functioning during a hurricane at such businesses as refineries, chemical plants, etc. – may be more likely to ensure disaster supplies are on hand year-round for unexpected disaster events. Critical infrastructure and services that should not go down during disasters, such as powering flood control measures, rely on redundant systems and back-ups. Generators become crucial to keeping important electrical functions running during power outages (as experienced during the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy) and should be tested ahead of time for days, not just a few hours. Murphy’s law says a generator isn’t going to fail during the first few hours; if it fails, it’s going to fail on day two of a four-day event without power.



Be prepared for a company sleepover.

For other businesses that find they may not usually need to have crews available to oversee infrastructure, businesses should still evaluate whether they are prepared to have employees shelter-in-place at the work location. There needs to be enough supplies on hand for everyone, and business owners need to be able to communicate with their employees. A company may unexpectedly face the possibility that employees are unable to get home safely due to flooding or find employees are unable to travel back and forth to work due to impassable roads. In cases like that, having supplies on hand is critical to remaining operational.


Rochelle Brittingham PhD, MPA is an expert in emergency management with a focus on planning for the needs of people with disabilities or access and functional needs during disasters. She has over 10 years of experience in social work, grant writing and community outreach. Currently, she is employed at the University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies. She is also a Delaware Community Emergency Response Team instructor.


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Secure an Insurance Checkup – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Dennis Hollatz blog filled


Flooding - Insurance - Hurricane Preparedness Week

Weather the Storm Financially with an Insurance Checkup

Profit, growth and stability are common businesses goals at risk when a natural disaster can demolish what may have taken generations to build. Many successful businesses transfer this risk through an insurance policy. The policy is a contract that should be periodically reviewed to help assure the needs of a business are covered.


One of the perils from a hurricane is flood.

Business Flooding - Insurance - Hurricane Preparedness WeekThe standard insurance property policy does not generally cover damage from the rising waters of a flood. A policy to cover this gap in coverage is available where floodplain management regulations apply through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  These policies are purchased from a licensed property insurance agent or broker authorized to issue the coverage.


Basic building flood insurance coverage goes up to $500,000 to repair or replace the insured building and its foundation, and other equipment such as electrical and plumbing systems, central air conditioning, furnaces and water heaters. The building contents such as tools, machinery and equipment will need to be covered with a separate flood policy. Higher limits of insurance might be available with an excess flood policy purchased outside of the NFIP policy. Discuss with your agent about the coverage types and limits of coverage needed.


Business owners and residents who own property in high-risk areas are required to purchase flood insurance if they have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender. A policy could be purchased for just about any location, even for those outside of a flood zone.  Locations less vulnerable to flooding are often eligible to purchase a policy at a much lower price.


Waiting until the last minute to purchase flood insurance is too late. There is a thirty-day waiting period, so you can’t purchase flood insurance just before the big storm and then cancel after the storm passes.


Other hurricane damages to property can result from high winds, wind-driven rain, hail and lightning which is usually covered under the standard property policy. However, many insurers have applied exclusions in some areas, so this also should be discussed with your agent.



Many businesses never reopen following a major disaster.

There is no revenue generated, but the bills keep coming. Employees may be unavailable to work when families are hurt or homes are destroyed. A damaged piece of machinery could be hard to replace and reduce productivity. Insurance is available to cover the loss of income from business interruption, however, this is usually not covered when the loss is caused by a flood.  On the other hand, there might be coverage if the terms in the policy will pay when civil authorities order an evacuation. Read your policy and ask questions.


A few questions to ask:

  • What flood zone is the business in?
  • What will and won’t be covered in case of flood damage?
  • What coverage options are available?
  • How is the property valued: according to replacement cost or a depreciated actual cash value?
  • How is underground property like basements, vaults and tanks covered?
  • If needing to rebuild, is building ordinance coverage provided to upgrade to building code?
  • How are extra expenses covered?
  • Is there a coinsurance penalty?
  • Are contents coverage limits adequate?
  • How is the company’s income from operations that rely on another entity covered?



Dennis Hollatz has over 30 years of insurance industry experience. He is currently a staff consultant for field services and risk management of commercial business insurance exposures at Federated Insurance.


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Developing an Evacuation Plan – Hurricane Preparedness Week

Hurricane - Evacuation Plan - Hurricane Preparedness Week

Plan out where everyone and everything must go.


Historically, industry has been concentrated along or near waterways. As a result, many businesses handling hazardous materials as well as many brownfield sites are vulnerable to flooding. With hurricane season just around the corner, those with businesses or homes in flood and storm surge prone areas need to be very aware of their risks. Everyone must have a plan to evacuate safely when instructed to do so.

Safety of employees and others is a high priority, but a business owner may also benefit from planning a way to safely evacuate equipment or supplies from risky areas ahead of time. Telling people to safely head home is one thing, but getting heavy equipment relocated can be much more difficult. Planning the transportation of equipment and deciding where it will be securely stored is best determined well in advance. Five hours to landfall is not the time to decide how and where to move that expensive trailer. Think about your evacuation needs now and plan accordingly to save time, money and your business from more damage than need occur.


For more information on developing an evacuation plan or to see if your business or home resides in a storm surge prone area, check out NOAA’s Hurricane Preparedness Week site:


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Determine Your Risk – Hurricane Preparedness Week


Every business should be prepared.

As NOAA notes, hurricanes are not just a coastal hazard; inland flooding is a serious issue that can cause severe damage and is known to be the most common cause of hurricane-related deaths. Hurricanes, flooding, strong winds and resulting power outages can reach far inland and hit businesses that may not have anticipated being affected by the storm. For example, businesses have reported an increasing number of hazardous material and petroleum releases caused by hurricanes; about 3% of these occur in inland states with many more in inland areas of coastal states.


Increased Hurricane Activity - Determine Your Risk - Hurricane Preparedness Week


The good news is that it’s never been quicker or easier to evaluate your natural hazard risk. There are multiple resources out there that you can use to understand how a hurricane may affect your business:


  • FEMA flood maps are still the go-to source of flood hazard information. Plug in the address of your business, home or project site to get a good idea of historic flood risk.




  • On a more local level, there have been a number of efforts to create easy-to-use tools for evaluating flood hazards in the Northeast. There are mapping tools for New Jersey and Maryland that include data on flood, sea level rise and storm surge information as well as data on sea level rise in Delaware.




With so many resources available, the real danger for a causal user is getting overwhelmed and not using any of them. We encourage you to get on one of these easy-to-use websites now and get to know the potential natural hazard risks of your business or other places of interest.




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What Are the Bees Telling Us?

Shaun with Bees - Decline of honeybeesThe decline of honeybees has been in the headlines for several years, and theories to explain their deaths abound. The term “Colony Collapse Disorder” was created in an attempt to define the mysterious phenomenon, but perhaps there is not just one single cause.


The widespread loss of bee colonies around the world is troubling.

Many people in the environmental community are wondering if honeybees are the modern day canary in the coalmine. Are they exhibiting symptoms caused by agricultural and environmental toxins that we should be paying more attention to as humans?


The prevailing opinion from a variety of experts suggest that the massive die off of bees is a combination of four factors: pesticides, disease, parasites, and human mismanagement.

Honeybees might be weakened by having a very low level of exposure to insecticides or fungicides, making them more susceptible if they are attacked by viruses or parasites. One specific class of pesticide, neonicotinoids, has received a lot of attention for harming bees. They are particularly problematic because these insecticides circulate in plant tissues and show up in flower nectar and pollen. The bees collect and concentrate the pollen and nectar and take them back to the hive and feed to their young.  What initially seemed to be a very environmentally-friendly group of insecticides is turning out to be a risk for bees.


In addition to pesticides and diseases, using bees to pollinate monocultures could be a contributing factor in their decline. Honeybees are the most widely used pollinators of monoculture crops in the world (almonds, cherries, apples, avocados, etc.) and the commercial agriculture industry would not be able to succeed without them. Sadly, the benefits appear to be one sided as multiple studies have discovered significant detrimental effects of monocultures on the health of bees. When bees are limited to only one type of pollen as a food source, it can lead to certain nutrient deficiencies. Just as humans need a varied diet, so do bees. Bees fed pollen from a range of plants had a healthier immune system than those dependent on a monoculture diet and were better able to protect themselves and their larvae from pathogens.


Bees - Decline of honeybeesMoving bees around the country a couple of times per year, as many commercial beekeepers do, may be yet another contributing factor to the decline of bees due to losing some adult foragers. Bees begin their adult lives as nurse bees, become guard bees and then spend the last few weeks of their lives as foragers. Adult foragers learn where their home is based on solar and landscape cues. When the colony is moved, the adult foragers may leave the colony to gather honey and be unable to find their way home. The loss of a certain number of bees would not normally be fatal to the colony but could severely impact a weakened colony.



All four of these factors are combining in unexpected ways that affect not only the bees but humans as well.



It is fair to say that many people think about honeybees as solely producing honey. Honey is a wonderful food but it’s a byproduct of pollination. Bees visit flowers because they need to eat. They derive all of the protein they need in their diet from floral pollen and all of the carbohydrates they need from floral nectar which the bee converts to honey. As they fly from flower to flower, collecting pollen in the “pollen baskets” on their legs to take home as food, they end up transferring pollen from one blossom to another of the same floral species, and pollination just happens. Without honeybees and other pollinators to take pollen from one flower and fertilizing the seed, the plant has no inclination to produce a fruit. Honeybees and wild bees are the most important pollinators of many of the fruits and vegetables we eat. Of 100 crop species that provide 90% of our global food supply, 71 are bee-pollinated. The value of pollination of food crops by bees in the U.S. alone is estimated at $16 billion. The big picture view suggests that a significant decrease in the bee population could lead to a decreased supply and potentially higher prices of fruit and vegetables.



Bee hives - Decline of honeybeesWithout honeybees, about a third of the food you and I eat every day would disappear.

Therefore, the production of honey and bee products pales in comparison to the integral role that bees play in the global food supply.


Albert Einstein once said that if honey bees became extinct, human society would follow in four years. We’re all connected here, so my question is:

What are the bees telling us?


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Understanding Differing Impact to Groundwater Standards

Deep Water - Understanding Differing Impact to Groundwater StandardsWorking on environmental projects in four or more states simultaneously can sometimes get a little confusing. One of the more confounding issues is understanding (and remembering) the varying state standards for common constituents of concern. Why is a concentration of benzene in soil greater than 5 parts per billion (ppb) something to worry about in New Jersey but one minute down the road in Pennsylvania concentrations up to 500 ppb are OK?


As in most states, the same basic equations describing soil/water partitioning of chemicals are used to derive standards. So why are the end results so different?


One reason is the groundwater standard which needs to be maintained. The NJ health-based standard of 0.2 ug/l benzene (not the 1 ug/l practical quantitation limit [PQL] which is used as a benzene standard in practice) is 25 times less than the PA media specific concentration (MSC) of 5 ug/l.


The second reason is the assumptions made about how much water infiltrating through the unsaturated zone is diluted in the aquifer. NJ assumes a default value of 20x dilution while PA assumes 100X dilution. But PA MSCs for soil to groundwater can also be set to 100x the groundwater MSC if this value is higher than that indicated by partition equations. This option, also used in some other states, was inserted into the Land Recycling Program regulations for when values based on partitioning seemed too restrictive to implement practically.  For mobile COCs, the 100x MSC will be a higher value while for immobile contaminants the generic (partition equation) value will be higher. Using the 100X MSC rule gives you a 0.5 mg/kg PADEP standard for benzene compared to the NJ standard of 0.005 mg/kg.


A slight wrinkle in all this is that in NJ, the standard only applies to unsaturated soils while in PA it applies to both saturated and unsaturated soils. In saturated soils, the PA generic (but not the 100xMSC value) are divided by a factor of 10 and the higher of the two values is chosen.


So what does all this mean? Is one set of approaches better than the other?


Higher standards help to get past minor environmental issues and focus on the major ones, letting you jump through fewer hoops and at lower cost. But in the end, the realities of fate and transport remain the same. Once you move on to site specific determinations of appropriate standards (e.g. SPLP testing and or unsaturated zone transport models), if the evaluation is done right, standards will converge to about the same place despite a host of state-dependent differences in regulatory paths. Knowing where all those numbers come from helps make that happen.


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