Expert insights

Hurricanes and business travel: what you should know

10 October 2017

With hurricanes making headlines in 2017, read our essential safety advice for travel buyers and business travellers.

Hurricanes and tropical storms have regularly hit the headlines in 2017, causing devastation, loss of life and massive disruption in parts of the US and Caribbean. In fact, September was the most active month for Atlantic hurricanes since records began.

Here, with the help of Healix International, a global leader in travel risk management and overseas medical, security and travel assistance services, we review what travel buyers and bookers should consider when facing extreme weather.

How frequent are hurricanes?

No less than 13 storm systems in the Atlantic have been severe enough to be given their own name by meteorologists. Eight of these developed into hurricanes – storms with winds reaching more than 74 mph – including Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria.

Although 2017 has yet to top 2005’s record-breaking Atlantic hurricane season (which saw 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes), it will be remembered as a year of intense and destructive storms.

What’s more, experts fear that these kind of storm systems may only worsen in future. While there is no evidence that climate change will cause more storms, scientists believe it could increase their intensity. Hurricanes are massive storm systems that develop over water and move towards land. They are fuelled by warm air rising from the sea – so rising ocean temperatures could result in more powerful storms.

With traveller safety a top priority for business bookers, how can you help colleagues stay out of trouble?

Avoiding hurricane season

Steering clear of extreme weather in the first place is obviously preferable to getting caught up in it. The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from 1 June to 30 November, but the season peaks from mid-August to late October.

For peace of mind, event planners would be well advised to avoid the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico during those months. Hotel and venue rates in the region may well be cheaper at this time – but this only reflects the additional risk.

Weather conditions in many parts of Europe are still favourable in early autumn, so UK event bookers looking for warmer climes would do well to consider destinations closer to home.

Travelling in a hurricane zone

If you do have employees travelling within hurricane-risk regions, it’s worth remembering that these areas are usually well-monitored. For example, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center provides long-term predictions and short-term forecasts.

If a hurricane is on the horizon, travellers should take official evacuation advice seriously, and book a flight out of there before trouble hits.

Capita Travel and Events’ out-of-hours travel team can help reroute travellers in the event of trouble, while our worldwide travel alerts provide updates on disruption and severe incidents. For customers who need extra support, we also work with Healix International to help keep business travellers safe on the move.

Preparing for hurricanes

If the worst happens, and travellers find themselves in the path of an extreme weather system, with airports shut down, the experts at Healix have some useful advice:

Firstly, they recommend that travellers pack a ‘grab bag’ of essentials. This should include first-aid supplies, cash, a torch, a fully charged phone, essential documentation, bottled water, prescription medication, toiletries and a change of clothes.

If you are the manager or event organiser, make contact with all your delegates and check their exposure to the hurricane. Ensure they have access to a viable shelter and organise a prearranged text ‘check in’ time. Share emergency contact numbers, and set up an instant messaging chat to keep in touch.

What to do in the event of a hurricane

Stay on top of local news and weather sources, and turn on the radio to keep abreast of ongoing developments.

If the local government decides to evacuate the area, follow its instructions. Evacuations can be a slow process, and cause heavy traffic in cities and towns, but try to stay patient.

If it isn’t safe to evacuate, seek shelter in a secure environment, such as a well-built hotel. Ideally this should be away from coastal areas, and situated on higher ground. If possible, gather enough food and drink supplies to last for at least 72 hours.

Staying safe in a hurricane

Be aware that as soon as the eye of the storm has passed, winds will strike in the opposite direction. This first aftermath is a dangerous time, as loose flying objects and falling trees can cause harm to the unwary.

Flooding is one of the most dangerous effects of hurricanes. Ensure colleagues know not to cross floodwaters. Currents can be deceptively strong, even in shallow waters. There is also a risk of electrocution from fallen or underground power lines. Avoid flooded roads at all costs. If you do encounter rising waters, leave your vehicle and move to higher ground.

During and after an extreme weather event, use your mobile for emergency calls only. This will not only save your battery life, but also avoid overloading phone lines.

Hopefully, you and your travellers will never need this advice – but preparedness is everything.

Interested? Let’s have a chat about your company’s travel, meetings and events objectives - from the stuff that keeps you awake at night, to the everyday experiences of your employees! Call us on 0330 390 0340, or submit your details below.