The non-profit group Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, known as FLASH for short, is promoting hurricane preparedness ahead of the June 1 start date for the 2020 Atlantic and Central Pacific Hurricane Seasons. And to make hurricane preparedness a little more interesting, FLASH has teamed up with Lowe’s to give away $50 gift cards to some lucky participants online.
With the start of hurricane season just a half a month away, it appears the season may have an early-start with a new disturbance becoming better organized near Florida. While the season may kick off a little earlier than usual, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made preparing for the season different than usual. Typically in the weeks ahead of hurricane season, hurricane conferences and preparedness tours would take place, providing valuable information about the upcoming season and a general reminder to prepare. With many people sheltering home due to the pandemic, a lot of those in-person activities have been shelved for the season. However, that isn’t stopping one organization from helping the country get “hurricane strong”.
FLASH was started in 1998 after Hurricane Andrew and works year round to get out important information to the public about strengthening their homes. They are a non-profit who, with their many public and private partnerships, provides such information to the public. In 2016, FLASH started the Hurricane Strong initiative to remind the public “now” is the time to prepare for hurricane season.
The Hurricane Strong initiative includes five key messages: personal safety, family preparedness, financial security, damage prevention, and community service. These messages normally correspond with the five days of the Hurricane Preparedness Week and the Hurricane Awareness Tour but this year brought a new challenge to getting that information out. While the National Hurricane Center drove Hurricane Preparedness Week online, the Hurricane Awareness Tour was scrubbed and the 2020 National Tropical Weather Conference was canceled.
FLASH conducted a survey of 500 people in 10 hurricane prone states and found that the percentage of those who said they would prepare increased this year and of that increase, 2 out of 3 people said it was because of the COVID-19 pandemic. FLASH’s Vice President of Communications, Zoe LaPointe explained to us that “personal and family safety was the number 1 reason for preparing but some said they had more time on their hands.”
“This year the hurricane conference got cancelled, the awareness tour got cancelled….We took the five messages and decided to focus on one per week leading up to June 1,” LaPointe explained, describing the logic of a promotion that is active now. “We want the public to know they can take this one step at a time.” LaPointe also says that a lot the preparedness work can be done at home without going to a store and does not have to be done all at once.
Lowe’s is a legacy partner of FLASH and also a national sponsor of Hurricane Strong. This year, FLASH has teamed-up with Lowe’s to create a sweepstakes to go along with their five week preparedness program. While the rules are posted online, it is easy to enter: have a Twitter account and follow @federalalliance; each Monday, they post a question about one of the 5 key messages. LaPointe said, “Answer the question and include the hashtags #HurricaneStrong and #Sweepstakes and you’re entered to win.” And by following FLASH @federalalliance, you’ll get regular news and advice for natural disasters. “All year-round, we post resilience tips for strengthening your home and safeguarding your family,” said LaPointe. The promotion, which began on April 1, runs through May 31.
The FLASH organization has had a history of successfully preparing Americans for disasters. At the 2019 National Tropical Weather Conference, Leslie Chapman-Henderson, who serves as President and CEO of FLASH, won the William Gray Award in honor of her twenty-year legacy of service to the cause of hurricane preparedness, safety, and resilience. The annual award is named after the late William “Bill” Mason Gray who was emeritus professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University (CSU), leading their Department of Atmospheric Science’s Tropical Meteorology Project. Gray is widely regarded as a pioneer in the science of tropical cyclone forecasting, issuing accurate seasonal outlooks for the Atlantic Hurricane Season during his tenure. While Gray passed away in April of 2016, Dr. Phil Klotzbach continues his research and work, issuing annual Hurricane Seasonal Outlooks, including the 2020 outlook which was released just weeks ago through a virtual online version of the 2020 National Tropical Weather Conference. FLASH has also run other initiatives to increase flood hazard awareness, strengthen construction codes, and improve earthquake resilience.
The 2020 Hurricane Season for both the Atlantic and Central Pacific begin on June 1 and run through November 30.