With Severe Hurricane Season Predicted, Advance Planning a Must | Sports Destination Management

With Severe Hurricane Season Predicted, Advance Planning a Must

May 27, 2024 | By: Mary Helen Sprecher

While weather patterns do not care one iota about travel plans, people do. That’s what makes it so worrisome that this year’s forecast includes a serious threat of rapidly intensifying storms (RIS) during the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. And RIS build within 24 hours, meaning sports event owners should have alternate plans on the table well in advance of their events.

According to the Washington Post, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is warning that this year’s hurricane season could be among the worst in decades. In fact, the NOAA outlook predicts 17 to 25 tropical storms, eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven “major” hurricanes, making it the most aggressive May prediction the agency has made.

And NOAA is not exactly known for being alarmist or extreme in its predictions.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and runs through the end of November. AccuWeather's team of long-range forecasters say now is the time to prepare for a frenzy of tropical systems, being termed “explosive.” There are signs that the first named system could spin up early; this hurricane season is expected to pose a major threat to life and property, particularly along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. (AccuWeather’s map of predicted hurricane and tropical storm landfall locations can be found here.)

"The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to feature well above the historical average number of tropical storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes and direct U.S. impacts," AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Forecaster Alex DaSilva said. This echoes the early warning AccuWeather issued in late February, ringing the alarm bells about the potential for a surge in tropical activity.

Being Prepared

Ready.gov is an excellent source of information, with this toolkit among its most valuable assets. It advises knowing a community’s evacuation plan, possible evacuation routes and how to sign up for local alerts.

Sports event planners, of course, have additional layers of worry. And while it’s (obviously) impossible to remove bad weather from the board, important steps taken in advance can help mitigate at least some of the problems. Contingency plans are key, says Mike Guswiler of West Michigan Sports Commission, in this article.

McVeigh.com advises event planners to make sure a few building blocks are in place in advance of travel; these are numbered below, from 1 to 4:

1. Get Event Insurance - Event Insurance plans offer coverage for damages as well as reimbursement for a meeting or event cancelled due to hurricanes.

2. Don’t Forget a Force Majeure Clause – It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of a force majeure clause  when reviewing contracts. This clause is designed to free parties of contractual obligations in the event of natural disasters, disease epidemics, terrorist incidents and other uncontrollable occurrences. 

Hurricane Planning3. Establish a Communication Plan – Consistent updates are extremely important when facing event cancellations or in-event postponements due to hurricanes or other extreme weather. Keep attendees and vendors well-informed by providing consistent updates on contingency plans and safety. 

4. Delegate Responsibility – With the many stakeholders of an event, it can be easy to lose sight of communication in a high-stress situation like a natural disaster. Assign staff members to contact venues, vendors, clients, and suppliers to ensure that all ground is covered. 

Other steps that can be taken include making sure there is a way to update any mobile app for the event, so that information can be posted immediately and accessed quickly. Remember to include regular updates from the competition venue, hotel(s) and information on, or at least links to, update lines for all relevant transportation providers, including airlines and airports, bus services, rental car businesses and others. The more information you can provide in one place, the better off you are.

If events need to be cancelled or postponed, it’s more than likely that you’ll have to deal with complaints. Be ready and be understanding. It’s easy to lose your cool. If games can be postponed to the next day, look in advance for lighted venues that can extend the playing day – or for indoor spaces. Maybe it won’t be perfect, but at least athletes will be able to play.

Pitching in and Helping Out

If your event is to be held in an area that has been affected by a previous weather event, McVeigh.com notes that demonstrating corporate social responsibility (CSR) can help. CSR is the idea that a company should play a positive role in the community and consider the environmental and social impact of business decisions. It is also an excellent way to foster attendee engagement and build connections.

The schedule of your event and the age of your participants can help determine the level of work to be done, but even donating toiletries or canned goods can help those who have been affected by catastrophic weather.

Some events do this as a matter of course; Dan Wood, executive director of the National Christian College Athletic Association, notes that whenever teams travel for events, time is built in to give back to the hosting community.

“We want the kids to learn to do more than compete; we want them to figure that service to the world around you should come first,” he notes. “It’s easy to lose sight of that post-season and say, ‘I’ll get back to that when play-offs are over’ but that’s not what we want. We want kids to think, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Well, He wouldn’t be standing around on a street corner, passing out religious tracts. Our kids have worked in soup kitchens and done landscaping work in the community. In one city, they went around to a low-income community, distributing high-tech light bulbs and changing out the old bulbs in people’s homes if they needed that done.”

The NCCAA builds in an extra day so that students can pitch in where they are needed; arrangements are made in advance of the tournament.

“It can be logistically tough to figure out a student service project that fits in with the schedule of a sports event, but we think it’s important enough for students to take that time. Sometimes, they can do toy drives or food drives or cash donation drives at the gate to a championship event, but it depends on what the community need is. The host school will help decide that. Sometimes, students will work in a nursing home serving dinner and playing bingo and hanging out with the residents. For us, it’s just as important as competing. It’s what we call out-of-the-classroom education.”

Stay in Charge and in Control

No matter what happens during hurricane season, it is essential to be seen as an authority, ready to provide whatever is necessary. Remaining calm in the face of unpredictable weather is key, says Oschner Health.

Particularly when dealing with youth athletes, adults should always be seen as being in control and be able to communicate that they have plans in place, and that everyone will remain safe. People will respond well to someone who is there to answer questions and who can provide the most updated information. Remember that panic is contagious – but so is calm.

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