Recently, the entire aviation industry has seen significant impacts resulting from severe weather including general aviation and FBOs. Operators and FBOs must ensure they are ready for these events so they can minimize risk and operational disruptions.
There are reports every year of major weather impacts from all over the world. Over the course of your operations, you are bound to encounter peak seasons for tropical cyclones, convective activity, blizzards, or heavy rain. It is important you are prepared with a plan of action and emergency procedures so you can best protect your personnel, passengers, aircraft, and brand with a coordinated and swift response.
FBOs and flight departments should consider three main steps for setting up your operating procedures and response plans.
Determine the weather events you are most likely to encounter based on your location and, for flight departments, where you fly most often.
This is a brainstorming exercise best done with your team and historical research. Look up significant weather events that have happened in the past and consider the changes in weather patterns we are seeing today.
· If you are flying to the U.S. Gulf Coast during the summer, hurricanes may be something you want to watch.
· If your FBO is located in the northern latitudes, you may have a higher risk of blizzards.
Develop policies and emergency response procedures for those weather events.
When responding to a weather emergency you want to ensure your team knows what needs to be done and who is responsible. Documenting your procedures creates a single source for guidance to avoid confusion.
Your procedures should include:
· Monitoring of weather
o Who is responsible for monitoring for potential sever weather events?
o How will the weather be monitored?
· Work stops / trip cancellations or diversions
o Who is responsible for issuing the stop order?
o Under what conditions should operations cease? When can they resume?
· Protection of persons and property
o At what point do we have to evacuate, shelter in place, etc.?
o Where are safe locations for persons during a weather event?
o How should equipment be secured?
· Regulatory requirements
o Are you required to inform anyone if something happens as the result of severe weather?
· Crisis communications
o How will you communicate with people outside of your organization and who will handle it?
· Notification of family and loved ones
o How will you notify and support those affected?
· Coordination with external agencies
o Who do you need to work with? Including local and federal agencies, law enforcement, and rescue services.
o How will you be interacting with these groups?
Practice and refine your procedures as needed.
A tabletop exercise will allow you to identify any gaps in your procedures or areas where your plan is unclear. It will also provide training for your team for rapidly developing events, like tornadoes, where they are unlikely to have the time to reference procedures ahead of the event.
These days the weather seems more unpredictable and severe than ever. Significant emergency weather events may become more and more relevant to aviation. However, with these three steps you can be ready to protect your team, equipment, and facilities. After developing your procedures for weather events operators and FBOs should consider additional risks and emergencies and develop a full Emergency Response Plan.
Kevin Honan is the Senior Operations Advisor at AviationManuals. He is responsible for overseeing operational, safety management system, and emergency procedures content for fixed and rotary wing operators, drone operators, technicians, and FBOs. Kevin is passionate about education and bringing SMS and safety knowledge to the industry and has served on several panels on web and in person events alongside the FAA, NBAA, and industry operators and partners.