April 24, 2020

Preparing Customers for Wildfire and Storm Evacuation During COVID-19

There have been few times in recent history where the entire world has collectively experienced such extreme unpredictability and disruption to our lives. Many of us are seeking certainty right now, and there’s very little to be found. There is one fact that is undeniable today, and that is, Mother Nature is not pressing pause on severe weather this year. Meaning, storm evacuation is highly likely as we continue to weather this global pandemic.

The Forecast

As the tornado, hurricane, and wildfire seasons ramp up, there will almost certainly be times when people are forced to leave their homes, often with short notice. Weather experts are predicting an active hurricane season, with at least four category three storms, and high fire potential across California beginning in May. COVID-19 adds additional stress and challenges as people search for safe ground. Providing your customers with information on how to safely prepare, is more important than ever.

How Utilities Can Help Prepare Customers

Below is a list of standard preparedness suggestions as well as recommendations on how to stay safe when the storm season and current pandemic collide.

  • Alert customers to specific risks associated with natural disasters that commonly occur in their area and provide tips, like the safest area of the house to go in a tornado.
  • Recommend they prepare a list of all the disaster shelters in their area. If social distancing is still in place during evacuations, local governments may open more shelters, potentially forcing people to find alternate locations further from home. 
  • Suggest they have a stockpile of cloth masks in case they are unable to wash them.
  • Encourage them to contact insurance companies to know what benefits are available to those at higher risk for contagion during evacuations. 
  • Make sure cars are operational and have fuel at all times.
  • Keep basic emergency supplies in the car, including water, nonperishable food, masks, and a flashlight.
  • Advise they map out all potential evacuation routes out of their community.
  • Urge them to have medicine, prescriptions, and important documentation (insurance, identification, etc.) on hand.
  • For customers living in wildfire zones, they should clear all brush and debris from within 30 feet of their house. Customers living in a hurricane zone should unclog their rain gutters in advance of storm season.

Visit our dedicated COVID-19 Notifi® and Storm Center pages to learn how to communicate these important updates during the pandemic.

Nobody wants to think about severe weather forcing people from their homes during a pandemic. But the reality is, storms and fires are going to come regardless of everything else that’s going on in the world. The only thing to do is make sure you and your customers are prepared.