Hurricane Irma was a large and powerful storm that can best be told through the power of numbers. Irma was the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. A record-setting 37 hours of wind speeds greater than 185 miles per hour were recorded.
Approximately 6.5 million people were evacuated in Florida during the hurricane, with 62 percent of the state losing power at some point. Irma was the first Category 4 storm to touch land in Florida since 2004 and it created an estimated $19 billion in damage in the state of Florida alone.
Everyone is affected when a major weather event happens. But what does a hurricane mean for manufacturing companies doing business in central Florida?
In reality, hurricanes are a fact of life for Florida. A total of 162 tropical or subtropical cyclones (hurricanes) have affected the state since 1975, resulting in $124 billion in damage. But while hurricanes are a consistent factor in everyday life, outcomes can be managed better when a comprehensive plan is put in place.
At SMTC, a world class electronic manufacturing services business, we have been operating in Brevard County for 32 years. That gives us more than three decades of hurricane experience – experience we put to good use during storms like Hurricane Irma.
Our Comprehensive Preparedness and Recovery Plan
At SMTC, our approach to managing the potential outages for a hurricane starts with a comprehensive disaster preparedness and recovery plan. The plan covers the following areas:
Coordination and Communication
Our No. 1 priority in a hurricane is the safety of our employees and their families. After we have ensured their safety, we turn our attention to the continued support of our customers’ needs. Once there is a named storm forecasted to hit our area, we put our plan into effect. Using the NOAA website and coordinating with state and local officials, we constantly monitor the progress of the storm as well as any evacuation notices to decide if/when a shutdown becomes necessary. Once a shutdown is decided, we do so in time to let our employees prepare their homes and evacuate their families, if required. This status is communicated daily to our employees, customers and suppliers.
Facility Readiness and Preparation
Our facility is solid concrete construction and located several miles from the ocean and the barrier islands. Consequently, there’s little risk of storm surge flooding damage; our main risks are wind and wind-driven rain. Prior to the storm’s arrival, the external areas of the building are secured and all equipment and sensitive material inside the building is covered for protection in case of any potential leaks. A security guard service is positioned in the facility at all times.
Redundancy and Backup
Since communication is vital and our IT systems are a critical resource, we have backup generators to maintain our IT systems even if we have a power outage. In addition, all of our systems and data are backed up at our other locations to ensure we would never lose any data.
County and State Infrastructure
Over the past several decades, the county and state have spent millions of dollars on hardening the electrical and storm water infrastructure to better handle storms. They also do a fantastic job of positioning resources to quickly bring things back online.
Once a storm has passed and it’s safe to travel, the SMTC facilities and executive management team re-enter the building to determine if it’s safe to re-open. We then start the process of preparing the equipment and building to resume manufacturing operations. Once everything is operational, communications are sent to employees, customers and suppliers regarding the resumption of operations.
Looking Back: The Impact of Hurricane Irma
While it will take some time for the state of Florida to accurately assess the damage caused by the storm, we were fortunate to not only resume operations quickly, but also know that our employees were safe and accounted for after the storm. So, what happened to SMTC during Irma?
- The facility was closed and prepared for shutdown at 5 p.m. on Thursday, September 7. We re-entered the facility on Monday, September 11, and resumed operations on Tuesday, September 12. By contrast, many Northern U.S. locations have outages from yearly snowstorms that last much longer than this.
- There was no damage to the SMTC building, equipment or material.
- The IT system was operational throughout the entire storm and while 62 percent of the state lost power at some point, we lost power for only 4 hours during the storm.
Irma was a powerful and dangerous storm that created plenty of damage, particularly in Florida’s barrier islands and low-lying areas. Many people were affected, with damage to property and loss of power.
Central Florida, however, still remains a great place for the business community and electronic manufacturing in particular. At SMTC, we have been privileged to call Central Florida our home for more than three decades, providing our customers with a sustained level of high service that weathers any storm.