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In this article, Marina & Boatyard Expert, Carl Wolf describes important topics of consideration for waterfront facilities approaching hurricane season. This article was originally published in the May/June 2017 issue of Marina Dock Age.

Considerations for Your Hurricane Plan

Marina Dock Age, May/June 2017
By Carl F. Wolf, CMM CMI

Has your marina’s hurricane plan been reviewed for this season? If not, I’d recommend that you take the time to review it. June 1 is the official start date of the 2017 hurricane season. Hurricane plans are only as good as the last time the plans were reviewed. “Emergency Preparedness” is one of the courses I teach for the International Marina Institute’s marina management course. During the session, we discuss hurricane planning. In listening to the marina managers, I have gained a unique perspective on what is important at many different marinas as they prepare for a hurricane season.

The Past

No one can accurately predict when a tropical storm or hurricane will strike a certain geographical region. However, historical hurricanes can provide an idea of which areas are prone to such storms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a website (www.coast.noaa.gov/hurricanes/), which can conduct historical storm searches on the geographical location of your marina. The results will show historical hurricane tracks back to 1842. Knowing the frequency and types of past storms that have impacted your area can give you a general idea of what types of storms your geographical area may anticipate.

The hurricane plan for your facility needs to take into consideration the physical components of the facility. Is the business a marina, a dry-stack marina, boatyard, or some of combination thereof? Each of these facilities will require different operational components written into their hurricane plan. For example, marinas that have been designed and built to resist stronger storms with floating docks and pilings (in adequate quantity, height, and size), will need to be prepared differently than a marina with old fixed wooden docks. Many coastal areas which have low-lying land, can become completely flooded by the storm surge of a tropical storm or hurricane and will need to consider their options for securing boats stored on the property.

The Present

Part of the marina’s written hurricane plan should address the monitoring of tropical conditions on a regular basis (daily) during hurricane season. Management should monitor weather forecasts. An excellent source on potential tropical disturbances, tropical storms, and hurricanes is the National Hurricane Center’s website (www.nhc.noaa.gov). Long-range forecasts can show tropical disturbances before the disturbance becomes organized and turns into a tropical storm. These long range weather forecasts are crucial in helping management decide when to open the marina’s hurricane plan. The more time a marina has in implementing the hurricane plan, the more organized the process will be.

Good communications with employees and boaters prior to and during the activation of a hurricane plan are critical to minimizing potential injury and loss of property. Prior to hurricane season, train the employees on the marina’s hurricane written plan and the importance of communicating with each other. Boaters should receive from the marina, and acknowledge they have received and understand the marina’s written hurricane policy, as it relates to the boats at the marina. When a marina makes the decision to implement the hurricane plan, communicate as soon as possible with the boaters and log those communications for future reference.

Boaters need to activate their own hurricane plan and take care of their boat. For protection from the storm, some boaters may transport their vessels considerable distances. Boats being moved by water may be challenged by bridge opening schedules and slow lock cycles. At some point, local authorities may prohibit bridges and locks from operating. Other boaters may decide to prepare their boat to ride out the storm. Various cities, counties and/or states may have specific laws pertaining to tropical storms or hurricanes. Florida Statute 327.59 entitled “Marina Evacuations” describes what marinas may or may not do once a hurricane watch or warning has been issued.

The Future

The highest priorities in writing or revising the marina’s hurricane plan are the protection of human life, minimizing personal injury, protecting the facility, and communicating with the owners of boats still at the marina/boatyard. Involve employees during the review process of the marina’s hurricane plan. The employees need to recognize that they are vital to preparations safeguarding the marina. An important part to be addressed in the hurricane plan is that employees need adequate time to take care of their own homes and families prior to the arrival of a storm.

Many state agencies provide good resources for free, like the Coastal Soil and Water Conservation District and the Coastal Georgia Resource Conservation and Development Council, which has an excellent resource on Hurricane Preparedness Guidelines for Marinas.

It is the responsibility of each marina, boatyard or dry-stack marina facility to prepare for the different types of emergencies their facility may encounter. Facilities located in regions which may be impacted by tropical storms and hurricanes need to have plans in place. While the storm is your enemy, the lack of time for preparing for a storm that has just been recognized will be a formidable enemy as well.

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Featured Expert

Carl F. Wolf, CMM, CMI

Marina & Boatyard Expert

Carl is an expert in the operations and management of marinas and boatyards. Throughout his career, since 1976, Carl owned his own marina related businesses, operated marinas and boatyards, developed marina operations manuals, operated boats and boatyard equipment, and served in the U.S. Coast Guard. Carl applies his expertise to a variety of injury and economic loss investigations involving incidents that occur in marinas, boatyards, and waterfront facilities.