About the author
Holger is a management consultant turned volunteer. He loves to take pictures, run around in the sun, dive and he has never met a beer in his life he didn't like.
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Short but pretty prezi about hurricane preparedness in Belize:
What is a hurricane?
For anyone who – like us – didn’t grow up with a hurricane: It’s basically the sum of a lot of water and a lot of wind going in a big circle. Wind speeds up to 52 km/h are called tropical depressions, up to 102 km/h are called a tropical storm and faster than 102 km/h are called a hurricane. Tropical depressions are numbered while tropical storms and hurricanes are considered “named” storms.
Hurricanes cause damage primarily by flooding and blowing stuff away. 90% of deaths by hurricane are caused by drowning. Coconuts flying around are a problem as well as mudslides. And the odd crocodile or snake flushed into your ground floor may be an annoyance as well.
What happens during a hurricane in Belize?
The information infrastructure of a country that is as experienced in hurricanes as Belize is very good. Depending on their house (wood vs. stone) and their personal situation, people will stay at home up until a hurricane category 2 or 3. Lots of houses are built on stilts and most have thick iron bars in front of the windows – doubling as coconut and theft protection.
Most companies have their own hurricane plan in place, some even have dedicated disaster managers. If a company makes the call, operations are shut down and employees are sent home and encouraged to evacuate.
Evacuation usually means packing up your stuff and heading west into the mountains. There, people stay with relatives, at hotels or at public shelters like High Schools. When a town is evacuated, military and police take over to keep looting down to an acceptable level.
1-3 days after the hurricane has passed, people return and begin to rebuild. NGOs like the Red Cross provide aide and food.
How likely is that to happen?
In the German version of this article, I quoted different friends who had different views ranging from once a year to once in ten years.
Today, I found some statistical data compiled by Lan Sluder, a well known specialist on all things Belize:
In the past 115 years since weather records in Belize were formally maintained, Belize has seen the following storms make landfall:
20 hurricanes — average of 1 hurricane every 5.75 years
(by contrast an average of about 1.6 hurricanes a year hit the U.S. during roughly the same period, but the U.S. coast line is many times larger than that of Belize)
31 tropical storms – average of 1 tropical storm every 3.75 years
51 total hurricanes and tropical storms – average of 1 hurricane/storm every 2.25 years
Of the 20 hurricanes:
9 or 45% were in September (1 every 12.75 Septembers)
8 or 40% were in October (1 every 14.4 Octobers)
2 or 10% were in July
1 or 5% was in November
0 or 0% in June and August
Of the 51 total hurricanes and tropical storms:
7 or 14% were in June
4 or 8% were in July
4 or 8% were in August
19 or 37% were in September
14 or 27% were in October
3 or 6% were in November
Odds of hurricane:
Odds of a hurricane in Belize in a given year: 17%
Odds of a hurricane in Florida in a given year: 68%
Odds of a hurricane on the U.S. Gulf Coast in a given year: 67%
Odds of a hurricane on the U.S. East Coast in a given year: 47%
There’s a gazillion websites on this. We use http://www.stormpulse.com – because it has a lot of info. And it is pretty.
Out hurricane plan
Here’s our hurricane plan, consisting of:
Supplies to have at home:
This is a list of what we keep at home at all times. It’s based on having to stay at home for 10 days – even though we expect to be stranded for 3-5 day tops. 100% security buffer on top!
These are the non edible things we keep at home at any time:
Should we have to bail, this what we take with us. We are planning for a 3 days trip – which is also very conservatively calculated. In three days, you can probably walk across this country. Realistically, we need about 3h to the evacuation spots without trouble, 6h if its rough.
List of evacuation destinations:
We looked at the 4 most popular evacuation spots for Belizeans. We prioritized them so that we would know where to go even if we were separated and can’t communicate. We picked affordable hotels with internet access and have the list with phone numbers always handy – this way we don’t need to research when we’re running from the storm.
There are two main reasons why we wrote down our decision rules. First, it’s far better to think about scenarios and how to react when you’re relaxed and don’t have a storm blasting in the door. Secondly, if we do get separated, we will know what the other does without communicating. Based on the rules. This isn’t likely, but could still easily happen (Holger is traveling on business, forgets his cell charger and can’t call).
We compiled the rules in the form of a mindmap / decision tree. Best case is obviously to talk on the phone.
What are your thoughts? What did we forget? What would you take? How would you decide?