What are the Main Principles of Disaster Preparedness?

Disasters may not be totally avoidable—particularly natural disasters—but we can reduce their impact through proper disaster preparedness.

Cities, state governments, utility companies and commercial businesses can improve their resilience to disasters with the right risk management and disaster preparedness strategies. Utility companies in particular need to think ahead because of the common weather events that often interrupt vital services such as electricity.

Disaster preparedness can be approached methodically and strategically. By taking a step-by-step approach, disaster preparedness can be more successful.

The Four Phases of Disaster Preparedness

One common model for disaster preparedness involves four phases. These are the phases that every organization and entity will typically go through in relation to disasters. The phases are mitigation, preparation or preparedness, response and recovery. (Some models also add a first preliminary step, which is prevention.) Here is a look at the four main phases of disaster preparedness:

Disaster Preparedness Phase 1: Mitigation

As mentioned above, some models for disaster preparedness include an initial separate step called “prevention,” but in our view, mitigation also includes prevention. The idea is to prevent emergencies if possible and proactively mitigate their impact.

Mitigation needs to happen not only before the disaster takes place, but long before the disaster is on its way. It is not “mitigation” to scramble to prepare once you know a hurricane is barreling down on your building. Rather, mitigation is about the strategies and plans that are put into place well before hurricane season.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 2: Preparation (Preparedness)

Phase 2 of disaster preparedness is all about taking action on the mitigation strategies to get the organization or entity prepared for the potential or coming emergency.

Certainly, there can be a fine line between mitigation and preparedness, but preparation may be seen as being more expedient to an actual threat. For example, if your utility company has a plan to proactively remove hazardous trees prior to hurricane season, that might be filed under “mitigation.” If the utility company is actively removing tree branches that are at risk of falling on power lines because a hurricane is forecasted to hit the area, that’s better filed under preparedness.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 3: Response

Phase 3 of disaster preparedness falls after the major event has taken place. In effect, it’s more about how well-prepared you were, because the preparation period is now over! The response phase is all about how an organization deals with the immediate aftermath of a major disaster such as a fire, tornado, snowstorm or hurricane.

For utility companies, a major part of the response after a natural disaster will likely be tree clearing. Trees will need to be cleared from power lines and roads, which is where a tree service provider like Townsend Tree comes in.

Disaster Preparedness Phase 4: Recovery

After the disaster has hit and following the immediate aftermath, the recovery phase occurs. This is the period of time in which rebuilding happens after a disaster. The immediate risks and urgency of the response phase has passed, and things have calmed down, but there is still a lot of work to do to rebuild.

The recovery phase can be a long phase and run anywhere from six months to a year or even more. During the recovery phase, it is often a good idea to start working on phase 1 again, mitigation, and start planning ahead for the next disaster.

Utility Companies and Natural Disasters

More and more, it seems like a week doesn’t go by without another natural disaster occurring in the United States. We seem to go seamlessly from blizzards to fire season to hurricane season to floods to tornadoes these days.

Utility companies in particular are perpetually under the gun to keep services up and running despite the continuous bad weather.

One of the most common problems with a natural disaster, but one that can also be easily mitigated, is the issue of trees. Trees burn, ice up, collapse after a flood and blow down in tornadoes and hurricanes. Unfortunately, trees are also very common around power lines that are necessary for electrical services. But one of the easiest ways to mitigate damage from a disaster is simply through proper tree management. Trees that are well maintained and pruned around power lines will be less likely to cause problems during a windy thunderstorm or snowstorm.

Of course, no amount of tree pruning is going to stop a category five hurricane from blowing a tree completely down. Nor will many trees be able to survive an EF5 wedge tornado. But some of these events can also be mitigated through proactive assessment of trees to remove old, damaged and diseased trees that might be more likely to blow away during high wind events.
We can’t live without trees, nor would we want to, so making sure that the trees that grace our streets are healthy and secure is one of the best ways to reduce damage from a major environmental disaster.

Better Disaster Preparedness with a Quality Tree Service Provider

Townsend Tree is a tree service provider with a stellar track record in disaster preparedness and disaster recovery. With innovative technology and knowledgeable personnel, we offer the best in vegetation management, power line clearance and storm damage relief. Our hazard tree program involves a proactive inventory of potentially dangerous trees that are at risk of downing power lines and damaging people and property.

Townsend Tree’s headquarters are in Muncie, Indiana, near Indianapolis, and our workforce spans more than 30 states. With over 75 years of service, Townsend Tree has become a leading tree service provider known for quality and customer care.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing, and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise preparing for major disasters like tornadoes, hurricanes, winter storms and more. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.

Who Pays for Hurricane Clean Up in the United States?

Hurricanes are one of the worst disasters in terms of loss of life and damage to property. Unfortunately, some scientists are speculating that 2022 may be another bad year for hurricanes because of warmer water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Governments, municipalities and utility companies should be prepared and on alert for massive storm damage. Hurricane cleanup, including debris clearing and damaged tree removal, should ideally be budgeted for in advance, if possible.

The Risk of Hurricanes in 2022 and Beyond

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30. While the chance for hurricanes usually peaks around early- to mid-September, August can also be a big month for hurricanes. While most hurricanes hitting the United States happen during the months of June to November, 3% can still occur beyond the typical hurricane season.

Will 2022 end up being a record-breaking year for hurricanes? We won’t fully know if this year is record setting until hurricane season passes, but it looks like 2022’s weather conditions are especially good for massive tropical storms.

Why? Scientists have noted that the “Loop Current,” which is a stream of warmer water that comes up from the Gulf Stream current and warms the Gulf of Mexico, had already traveled far into the Gulf of Mexico by mid-May, much farther than usual.

A warmer Loop Current has the potential to feed larger storms and create massive hurricanes. Hurricanes need warmer water if they want to grow.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Loop Current pattern mirrors the path of the Gulf current in 2005, which is when the deadly Hurricane Katrina hit. Thus, the Northern Gulf Coast, including areas between Texas, Louisiana and Florida, are a great risk for massive storms throughout this hurricane season.

The Costs of Deadly Hurricanes

Hurricanes are extremely costly, both from a human life perspective and economically. According to NOAA, between 2019 and 2021 alone, the United States experienced 56 weather and climate disasters with costs exceeding $1 billion.

Tropical cyclones or hurricanes caused the most damage and death between 1980 and 2021, with $1.1 trillion in total damage and 6,697 deaths. The cost of all this hurricane damage averages out to $20.5 billion per hurricane (of course, some were far more damaging than others, such as Hurricane Katrina).

But who pays for hurricane clean up in the United States?

Hurricane Cleanup: Who Pays?

A variety of entities end up picking up the tab for hurricane damage, from the federal government to local municipalities. Beyond federal and state disaster relief funding, local governments are often required to tap into reserve funds or utilize credit to fund hurricane cleanup.

Insurance companies may cover some of the costs, but individual homeowners are often left with a large chunk of the cleanup bill.

Local and regional utility companies also need to dig into budgets to pay for necessary infrastructure repair, including utility line repair and tree clearing.

Vegetation Management and Tree Clearing

One of the main sources of damage during a hurricane are trees and vegetation, which can quickly get entangled in power lines or worse, become uprooted. Trees can cause a number of problems during and after a massive tropical storm including:

Fallen Branches and Debris

During a hurricane, tree branches can often fall and bring structures as well as utility lines down with them. The debris can get in roads and block travel, causing all sorts of havoc.

Uprooted and Broken Trees

It’s not uncommon for tree trunks to snap completely during a hurricane, which can cause property damage and death. These fallen trees can also be a major source of power outages. Trees are also often completely uprooted during hurricanes, especially when soil is moist from heavy rainfall.

Unstable Trees

Trees can shift after a hurricane due to the erosion of the soil as well as flooding. If the tree’s roots are saturated for a long time with water, they can drown, which can lead to root rot. Once this happens, the trees are prone to falling, which can cause problems with power lines and put people in danger.

Proactive Vegetation Management to Reduce Hurricane Costs

Because of all the dangers that can come from hurricane tree damage, it is very important for municipalities and utility companies to be proactive about cleaning up trees that might be harmed during a hurricane.

Ongoing, proactive vegetation management before a hurricane hits can help reduce the problem of trees harming power lines and transformers if a storm does barrel through the area.

During extremely strong storms, of course, even the most well-maintained, stable trees can be harmed, but if excess vegetation and sick trees are pruned prior to a storm, then there will be fewer chances of problems.

Keeping trees properly trimmed before a storm can potentially save costs, as it is far cheaper to maintain vegetation proactively than fix damage caused by a tree in a howling storm.

Tree Service Providers for Hurricane Preparedness

One of the most important entities involved in hurricane cleanup is a tree service provider (like Townsend Tree Service), which can be brought in to help municipalities and utility companies for emergency storm response. Tree service providers should also be tapped to clear vegetation proactively, on an ongoing basis.

Also, if a hurricane is forecast to hit an area, it’s a good idea to contact a tree service provider such as Townsend Tree Service ahead of time. If there is sufficient time ahead of the storm, the tree service provider can assess the trees that are close to power lines and prune or clear out any that are growing too close or at risk of falling during a massive storm.

Townsend Tree Service is a leading, multi-state provider of expert tree trimming, line clearing and vegetation management services. We have extensive expertise helping utilities get the power back on after major disasters like hurricanes. Learn more about our integrated vegetation management services here.