Be Prepared: Dealing with Disaster Part 1 of 2

While earthquakes and tornadoes are rare in most of the commonwealth, hurricane season is a regular fixture on our calendars in Virginia. The season typically runs from June to November with heightened activity August to October.

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael raised to the Dan River to flood stage, causing damaged roads and buildings, and even loss of life, in areas of Danville, VA that had never seen flooding in recorded history, including downtown. Danville’s experience offers important lessons for other communities before, during, and after a catastrophic event comes to town.

Diana Schwartz from Danville’s River District Association strongly suggests that communities, “Prepare for recovery and rebuilding while the skies are still blue.”

  • Adequate insurance coverage can only be in place in advance of a disaster. Main Street organizations can offer workshops with existing businesses and downtown residents in partnership with insurance companies during the “off-season,” usually the first quarter of the year, to educate about different types of coverage and assess existing coverage for potential gaps. Some people assume that their insurance covers every situation, only to be devastated when they find out it doesn’t.
  • Infrastructure improvements may be necessary to handle higher water volumes in the future. Hurricane Michael came in the middle of ongoing City infrastructure projects (such as drainage) and this event confirmed Danville’s need to continue and expand those projects.
  • Main Street directors should have a list of potential recovery partners, their resources and the best way to contact them in case of a disaster. Make sure that this information is stored on a cloud-based system in case your computer equipment is not immediately accessible for a few days.  Being a bridge/connector is an important function of leadership during a crisis.  
  • Remind businesses to keep financial records and inventory records up to date to facilitate claims faster.
  • FEMA offers training and preparation resources for communities and individuals here.

When it becomes clear that evacuation is necessary, use the strength of your organization’s communication to get the word out and encourage businesses and residents to evacuate. Property can be replaced, lives cannot.

For information about recovery and rebuilding, check out part two of this blog series.