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The Complete Hurricane Season Toolkit for Schools

May 17, 2021 David Wylie

Satellite view of a hurricane off the Texas coast

Only in 2020 would a record-breaking hurricane season not dominate risk management headlines. Last year, 30 named storms—14 more than average—slammed the Eastern seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico. If experts are right, we can expect more of the same in 2021.

Forecasters predict 20 named storms, with four major hurricanes. Even if your organization doesn’t serve along the Gulf Coast, it can still be impacted. Tornadoes, floods, and power outages often extend hundreds of miles from a hurricane’s center.

Quick links

Hurricane season runs from June through December. Use this toolkit to protect your property, vehicles, staff, and students.

Hurricane headlines

Glossary

8 things you didn’t know about hurricanes

Hurricanes by the numbers

Emergency operations plan essentials

Unpacking safety drill regulations

The best tips for hurricane readiness and response

Know your flood risks

Welcome to Texas (aka Tornado Alley)

Resources

Need to report a claim?

Get emergency planning, response help

Sign up for Fund weather updates, and get information and tools to protect your people, property, and vehicles this hurricane season.

Hurricane headlines

Forecasters hike 2021 hurricane season outlook

If Colorado State University hurricane researchers are right, we can expect 20 named storms -  up from 17 - and four major hurricanes this season. Researchers cite Elsa's development and intensification, slightly above normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, and the absence of El Niño conditions in the Pacific as signs of a more active than usual season...MORE

Texans brace for ‘above average’ hurricane season

Major hurricanes impact communities long after winds calm and flood waters recede. Texans are too often left to contend with financial stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and unmanaged chronic disease...MORE

New hurricane season brings new threat: carbon monoxide poisoning

Emergency generators produce carbon monixide, an odorless, colorless gas that interferes with blood's ability to carry oxygen to the body's tissues. Generators aren't the only source of CO in schools...MORE

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Glossary

Eye

The eye is the center of a hurricane where winds are relatively light and there is little precipitation.

Eyewall

The eyewall is an area of dense clouds and high winds surrounding the eye.

Hurricane

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds at least 74 miles per hour (mph).

Hurricane warning

Forecasters issue a hurricane warning when a storm is likely in the specified area within 24 hours. Take protective actions immediately.

Hurricane watch

A hurricane watch means a hurricane is possible in the specified area. A watch is issued 48 hours before the anticipated arrival of tropical-storm-force winds (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph). Monitor the situation and prepare to promptly take protective actions.

Major hurricane

Hurricanes classified as Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale are considered major hurricanes. Major hurricane sustained wind speeds range from 111 mph to 157 mph or higher.

Named storm

When a tropical cyclone’s wind speed reaches 39 miles per hour, it becomes a named storm.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

The scale is a system of classifying hurricanes based on their wind speed and potential for damage.

Storm surge

An abnormal rise of water caused by strong wind pushing water toward the shore is called storm surge. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina generated a staggering 28-foot storm surge that smacked New Orleans and the Mississippi Coast.

Tropical cyclone

A tropical cyclone is a rotating, organized system of clouds and thunderstorms that starts over warm waters

Tropical depression

An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined surface circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph or less is known as a tropical depression.

Tropical storm

When a tropical cyclone’s maximum sustained surface wind speed ranges from 39 mph to 73 mph, it becomes a tropical storm. A tropical storm, in turn, becomes a hurricane when winds reach at least 74 mph.

Typhoon

In the North Pacific, a tropical cyclone with wind speeds of at least 74 mph is called a typhoon. The same storm is called a hurricane in the North Atlantic, Central North Pacific, and Eastern North Pacific.

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8 things you didn’t know about hurricanes

1. They’re extraterrestrial.

Jupiter has been home to a single, massive hurricane for the past 300 years. That’s 10 times longer—and counting— than Hurricane John, which meandered across the Pacific Ocean for 31 days in 1994.

2. Hurricane season peaks in early fall.

Hurricanes love warm water. Coincidentally, oceans in the Northern Hemisphere reach a bath water-like temperature in August and September. If your organization serves a Coastal community, be especially alert for hurricanes shortly after you kick off the fall semester. Remember, however, that hurricanes can, and have, formed during every other month outside of the official season.

3. They can't be tamed.

There's no shortage of concerned laypeople who have offered suggestions for taming hurricanes. Why not chill ocean water with icebergs or knock storms out of commission with nuclear weapons, for example? The professionals at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) explain why those strategies, and many others, won’t work.  

4. Wilifred forced forecasters’ hands last year.

Each predetermined list of hurricane names accounts for 21 storms. When Tropical Storm Wilifred claimed the final spot on last year’s list, forecasters turned to the Greek Alphabet to name subsequent storms. It was only the second time in more than 50 years that all names were exhausted. If a hurricane is especially destructive, its name is retired.

5. What's in a name?

Speaking of named storms, forecasters won't soon forget the 2020 winter storm that bashed the South. They won't, however, reference it by name: Winter Storm Uri. It turns out tropical storms are the only weather events given names by the National Weather Service. The Weather Channel has taken to naming winter storms. It makes broadcasters' jobs easier, but the names have no significance beyond convenience.

6. The country’s deadliest natural disaster played out in Texas.

In September 1900, a Category 4 hurricane swallowed Galveston. The storm’s 135 mph winds and 16-foot storm surged claimed between 6,000 and 12,000 lives. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 ranks as the second deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, with approximately 3,000 fatalities.

7. Hurricane Harvey dented the Earth’s crust.

Harvey dumped 33 trillion gallons of rain across multiple states in 2017. The water’s collective weight depressed the Earth's crust.

8. You shouldn’t open the windows.

Shattered glass can become dangerous, flying projectiles during a hurricane. So, you should open facility windows and invite the storm in, right? Not so, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Instead, FEMA experts recommend boarding up windows with 5/8-inch plywood.

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Hurricanes by the numbers

$65 billion in damages

Last year’s record-breaking hurricane season racked up approximately $65 billion in damages. Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm that walloped Louisiana in August, accounted for the lion’s share—$30 billion—of that price tag. In 2020 alone, the U.S. experienced 22 billion-dollar disasters, shattering the previous record of 16.

Insured costs associated with hurricanes, hail, floods, and other extreme weather impact property coverage availability and costs across the globe.

1,380 miles

Typical hurricanes measure about 300 miles wide. Super Typhoon Tip was anything but typical. In 1979, Tip’s circulating winds peaked at 190 miles per hour and sprawled across 1,380 miles. That’s roughly the distance between New York City and Dallas.

36 hours

This spring, NOAA upgraded the computer model that forecasters use to predict the weather. The upgrades improved tropical cyclone tracking and intensity forecasts by 10 percent to 15 percent. That translates to about 36 hours of extra lead time for schools and communities.

76 percent

Storm surge and flooding accounted for a combined 76 percent of tropical storm-related fatalities between 1963 and 2012, according to a National Hurricane Center study released last year. Wind accounted for 8 percent of fatalities.

10 atomic bombs

Large hurricanes release the energy of 10 atomic bombs every second.

2 feet

A mere two feet of fast-moving water can carry a vehicle away.

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Emergency operations plan essentials

The Texas Education Code requires school districts and community colleges to develop an Emergency Operations Plan (EOP). Your EOP should reflect collaboration among first responders and school representatives.

Early in the EOP development process, evaluate the hazards your organization faces, including severe weather. You can determine the associated risk with each hazard by considering the following factors:

  • Probability: How likely is it that your school will face the risk? Use this simple tool to identify which natural disasters are common in the community your district serves.
  • Magnitude: How severe is the risk? Are its effects negligible, limited, critical, or catastrophic?
  • Warning: How far in advance might you know about the risk? Will you have days to prepare, or can it strike within a few hours?
  • Duration: How long will the risk last? Does it continue for a few minutes, several hours, or much longer?

Fund members with Auto, Liability, Property, or Workers’ Compensation coverage can contact Melanie Moss, TASB emergency management and school security consultant, for an EOP template.

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Unpacking safety drill regulations

Recent legislation and Texas Education Agency rules give districts updated guidance regarding emergency and safety drills. Each campus and district facility, for example, must perform at least one severe weather drill per year.

Regardless of the specific drills being conducted, schools can follow best practices to help ensure the process is effective and efficient.

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The best tips for hurricane readiness and response

If a hurricane impacts your organization, you might need help recovering and getting kids back in classrooms. As part of your hurricane readiness plans, investigate local and state procedures for requesting assistance, and understand the importance of following those processes.

If your schools share resources with local and state jurisdictions, carefully inventory, photograph, and document assistance provided before and after the incident.

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Know your flood risks

Strong hurricanes dump buckets of rain hundreds of miles away and cause flooding for days after the storm wanes. Take Hurricane Harvey, for example.

During a four-day stretch, Harvey stalled over Houston and doused the region with a record 60 inches of rain. With Texas sufficiently soaked, the storm turned its rain-making potential loose on Southeast Louisiana, Coastal Mississippi, and Western Tennessee and Kentucky.

Make sure you know your flood risks and develop a plan to protect people and property. For example, TASB claims professionals recommend elevating electrical equipment, moving vehicles to higher ground, and telling staff and students to avoid driving or walking in or near flood waters.

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Welcome to Texas (aka Tornado Alley)

Texas may be known as the Lone Star State, but it is also the southernmost tip of a row of states known as Tornado Alley. Tornadoes are most common between April and June. They are also an unfortunate, sometimes fatal, extension of hurricanes.

According to NOAA, you have on average 13 minutes to get to a safe place when a tornado threatens. It may be difficult to identify safe shelter locations for different facilities. Districts can contact their regional weather service office or TASB Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss to schedule a tornado shelter assessment.

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Resources

Use these Fund-produced and third-party resources to prepare your organization to weather hurricane season and the hazards that often come with it.

Hurricane safety checklist

During an emergency, nothing is more important than staff and student well-being. Use this checklist to keep them safe.

Hurricane recovery checklist

If a hurricane impacts your organization, the Fund will be here to support you. Follow this guide to recover safely and effectively.

Water damage prevention on-demand course

Fund members benefit from our online training package at no additional cost. The Water Damage Prevention course covers construction methods, construction materials, building maintenance and inspection, and response to water damage and flooding. Remember that you don’t have to be in a hurricane’s direct path to be impacted. Flooding can occur hundreds of miles inland.

FM Global interactive hurricane resource

Explore the potential consequences of preparing for a hurricane and leaving it to chance with this interactive resource from FM Global, a leading property coverage provider. You can also test your knowledge and see what happens when flying debris connects with facility walls. 

Texas School Safety Center severe weather toolkit

The toolkit includes tips and checklists to help schools assign preparation responsibilities to staff, stock emergency kits, and safely assess damages in a storm’s aftermath.

Quick Reference Guide for School Administrators

The Texas Education Agency and Texas School Safety Center collaborated on this guide for superintendents and their designees. The guide is not intended to replace emergency planning and implementation.

Regional Hurricane Guides

These National Weather Service (NWS) guides include student information checklists, evacuation details, and emergency contacts. The NWS also offers a hurricane educational booklet for children and other severe weather resources.

Natural disaster resources

The Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) offers resources that help organizations weather hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and power outages. The resources are available in English and Spanish.

Hurricane webinars

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) offers webinars on topics such as post-storm damage assessments and the record 2020 hurricane season. If you miss a live webinar, click on the registration link and watch the recording.

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Need to report a claim?

Fund members can report claims related to severe weather online or by calling 800.482.7276. If you call outside business hours, our answering service will contact one of our adjusters. You will receive a call within one hour. If your property sustains damage, please make temporary repairs as needed.

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Get emergency planning, response help

For assistance with emergency management planning, contact your risk solutions consultant or TASB Emergency Management and School Security Consultant Melanie Moss.

For more information or questions about prevention, response, and coverage, contact TASB Claims Manager Robert Piña.

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Tagged: "emergency management", "employee safety", flood, hurricanes, Safety, "severe weather", "student safety", "weather safety"