Missouri was the latest state to be hit by an extreme storm system this year; as of late Wednesday, 22 May, widespread damage occurred throughout the state, and notably in the state capital, Jefferson City. According to news reports, the tornado was also responsible for the injuries of at least 20 people and three deaths.
According to The Washington Post, residents were alerted about the violent "wedge" tornado during the evening. This kind of storm is characterized by a funnel that is wider in diameter than taller in height. Jefferson City police and emergency responders will continue work today, assisting residents in the three-square-mile area that was hardest hit by the tornado.
According to CNN, the tornado in Jefferson City was one of about 30 that traveled through Missouri and parts of Oklahoma on 22 May, causing significant property destruction and injuries across more than 150 miles. The string of tornados was itself part of a larger severe weather series recently experienced by the Midwest region of the United States, including at least 171 reported tornadoes since 17 May.
Brendan Monahan, chair for the Business Continuity Council and associate director for Novartis, recommends that security professionals or emergency preparation leaders consider the following when dealing with natural disasters that have far-reaching impacts:
- Crisis Management Team – Have a well-planned crisis management process, with an experienced team that has exercised or responded together. As important as having a good plan, is having a capable team that are comfortable working together. The team should be cross functional and reflect core aspects of the organizations critical functions (HR, Legal, Communications, Security, Operations).
- Communications (Internal) – These events occur without warning, but it is still important to get a message out. Many emergency notification systems include features that enable recipients to be connected to an RSOC or Command Center; or allow basic responses along the lines of “Press 1 if you are ok; Press 2 if you are in need of assistance and you will be connected.”
- Communications (Internal) – Get ready early on to mobilize resources to aid those in need, and communicate those activities appropriately inside your organization. Communicating clear, simple objectives in a response is key.
- Communications (External) – Holding or Standby statements that media relations and external comms staff can use as a baseline save time and effort in escalating situations.
- Establish a Response Network – Build a brand around your company or organization’s emergency response function, and give stakeholders ownership in it.
Brian Harrell, who works as assisstant director for Infrastructure Protection within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, added that appropriate facility engineering and design measures is as fundamental as emergency preparedness in terms of resiliance to hazards. "While there are unique engineering and design considerations to account for at a facility level, planning for unexpected disruptions is the cornerstone of business continuity considerations," Harrell said. "Anticipate and have plans in place for dealing with critical services—electric power, water, communications, suppliers—that may be disrupted by the tornadoes."