Preparing for the Hurricane Season of 2020

June 5, 2020

June 1st marked the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season and this year brings a new set of considerations for business continuity plan managers, risk managers, and emergency managers on campus. With unusually warm water in the Atlantic Ocean, hurricane researchers at Colorado State predict that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season could be 140% above the average season with an estimated 16 named storms. CSU also predicts there is a 69% chance of a Category 3 or 4 storm making landfall somewhere along the coast of the United States. “One of the reasons for the above-average seasonal hurricane forecast from CSU is due to the likely lack of El Nino this summer/fall. El Nino generally increases vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes.”, tweeted Phillip Klotzbach, Meteorologist at CSU specializing in Atlantic basin hurricanes.

Emergency operation leaders, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic response and recovery are now faced with planning for the 2020 hurricane season. New considerations related to campus emergency shelters and the increased planning for health and safety requirements during COVID-19 as outlined by the CDC must be considered during this hurricane season’s preparations.

Access to critical documentation is a key requirement for all institutional departments and a critical function of the hurricane planning and recovery stages. As campuses begin to open in limited ways over the coming months, it’s a good time to update continuity plans to include new facilities, inventory and equipment that has been added within departments, and learnings from your institution's response to COVID-19. The list can become extensive but here’s a list of must have documents that, if safeguarded in the continuity plan, can reduce stress before, during, and after a hurricane.  

  • Department Contacts and other institutional contacts
  • External Contacts (including vendor and stakeholders)
  • Department Critical Functions and the plan to continue them
  • Alternate work location plans
  • Department critical apps, data, and resources, along with the plan to continue their functionality if regular operations are impacted

If you’re using Kuali Ready, be sure to update these elements in your Kuali Ready continuity plans:

  • Review critical functions, have they changed?
  • Update ALL contact information
  • Review and update resources and apps
  • Determine if critical apps, documents, and data are available in a remote location
Higher ed hurricane preparedness checklist

Having updated emergency contact information and alternate backups brings peace of mind and security to the hurricane readiness plan as reliable departmental communication is central to hurricane preparedness. As many staff members have transitioned to work from home during the pandemic, it’s time to verify and update contacts–including alternate email addresses– for key departments.

Bike in flooded bike parking area, Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Additionally, given that so many members of the campus community are still working from home due to COVID-19, take some time to ensure faculty and staff have a plan in place to evacuate from home, including how to protect and secure their property. Share and use this Higher Ed Department Level Hurricane Preparedness Checklist across your campus.

With planned changes in instructional delivery for the Fall, evaluating and updating the continuity plan for critical IT resources will improve time to recovery in the event of a hurricane impacting campus operations. Many campuses are operating through alternative work locations as a result of COVID-19. Given this, including the remote nature of some critical IT resources when evaluating and updating your IT continuity plan will also help improve time to recovery. The 2020 hurricane season could test the recovery and return plans just as campuses begin to reopen.

Campus continuity plans document critical functions and dependencies across campus departments. As administrators plan for the 2020 hurricane season, it’s important that individual departments have reviewed and updated key components for instruction, research, and student and staff services, including learnings from the COVID-19 response.

Here’s how East Carolina University prepared itself for Hurricane Matthew by ensuring departmental involvement and engagement during hurricane planning in their institution’s business continuity plan.

If you’d like to discuss ways you can improve your institution’s resilience as you prepare for the 2020 hurricane season we’d love to help, contact us at

Additional Resources

A thorough guide to continuity planning in higher edcuation
Building organizational resilience in higher education
Department-level hurricane checklist
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