The following advice was provided by Lucas Hartford, president of Evergreen USA RRG Inc. For more information, visit www.evergreenusa.com.
The Atlantic hurricane season technically starts June 1 each year, but the majority of the action does not start until after Aug. 1, which is already upon us.
Some campgrounds and RV parks are located in geographic areas where hurricanes are a regular occurrence. Other camping resorts are located in areas where the danger of a hurricane is minimal. So, for nearly 100 million people in the country and the camping facilities in those areas, the worry of a hurricane is not a regular occurrence but still one which needs to be considered.
New England is one such area not regularly affected by hurricanes yet occasionally vulnerable to them. The New England Hurricane of 1938 is not the most recent hurricane to hit the Northeast, nor will it be the last – but it was a powerful Category 3 when it hit land.
This year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects a “near normal season” for hurricane activity. Forecasters say there is a 70% chance of nine to 14 named storms occurring, of which four to seven will develop into hurricanes, of which one to three will become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5). This year the first tropical storm of the year will be named “Ana”.
Campgrounds, RV parks and resorts that have the possibility of incurring the wrath of a hurricane need to be prepared. If you don’t have an emergency plan in place for what to do in the event of a hurricane, there are many resources available to help you develop one. For example, www.ready.gov is a great website where you can make your own emergency plan for hurricanes or other such disasters. Some special things to consider for businesses in the camping industry include:
- If you need to evacuate your campground or park, you should be ready to instruct your campers on how to do so in an orderly manner; it is very easy, if you have planned ahead of time. On a single sheet of paper, you should provide your campers with contact information for the campground, a map of the area, route descriptions to evacuate, and other pertinent information. Make ample copies for your expected maximum number of campers, visitors and employees. In the event of an evacuation, you will have one to hand to each camper, so not only will they know the important information, you won’t have to spend a lot of time communicating with each camper during this very busy time.
- You have a checklist with things to stock up on to prepare including gasoline, water and the other common items you found on www.ready.gov, but do you have enough spare tarps available? As the result of a storm, your buildings’ roofs as well as campers’ units may be damaged, all of which will need to be covered from the torrential rains that follow the strong winds. Make sure you have plenty of tarps.
- In the event of an emergency, do you and your key staff know the essential phone numbers? You should include numbers to reach all your employees, your suppliers and your insurance company, and be sure those numbers are kept off-site. If you are leaving your park, make certain your insurance company has your cell phone number or another place to reach you, so they can work with you and help get you back in business.
- While you are making sure to have those important phone numbers written out and located off-site, also ensure that your computer system is recently backed up and a dated copy of it stored off-site.
- Usually a hurricane warning gives us time to prepare for the event. If you have docks or boats, make sure these are taken out of the water and firmly secured, so they don’t blow around or back into the water.
- For RVs and motorhomes with water and sewage tanks, consider filling them both up as much as possible – and of course the gas tank too. Some units have the ability to store hundreds of gallons of liquids that are typically held in the lower part of the unit; this can amount to hundreds or thousands of pounds of weight and gives the unit more stability during high winds.
There are many other areas to consider, but these are a few specific to camping businesses. f you don’t have an emergency plan in place for events like hurricanes, then make it a priority to get one done – it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it needs to be written and regularly updated.
We’ll be hoping for a mild hurricane seasons for the camping industry!