Since New England began keeping snow accumulation records in 1890, the Boston area has never received so much snow. This past winter, the city was buried under 110 inches, an amount shattering all previous snowfall records. The storms caused businesses and schools to close for several days, ultimately putting a financial strain on the city.
To learn more about this historical snow season, check out the infographic below created by Boston University’s online Master of Science in Business Continuity, Security and Risk Management program.
Severity & Impact on Infrastructure
As of March 3, the city had accumulated 104.1 inches of snow, requiring Boston’s snow melters (which cost $300,000 apiece) to melt 10,000 truckloads of snow with 112,130 tons of salt. That is a tremendous amount of sodium.
To plow over 310,000 miles of neighborhoods, Boston had to pay for 197,681 labor hours, putting the city significantly over its snow and ice removal budget.
To help defray the costs of continued snow and ice removal, the Inspectional Services Division (ISD) opted to use Suffolk County prisoners who are part of the Community Work Program (CWP), to assist with snow removal. All in all, the 25 CWP inmates-using ice picks, shovels and snow blowers-cleared 30 handicap ramps, which amounted to three dump trucks’ worth of snow. Another 50 inmates helped Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) workers to shovel out the Braintree branch of the train’s Red Line.
Though MBTA union workers clocked a generous number of hours at the hourly rate of $30, things were financially bleak for those outside the snow removal field. Overall, Boston payrolls dropped an average of 7% due to forced road and workplace closures, making it difficult to invest and give back to their community.
Schools, Hospitals and Transportation
Boston’s public sector workers and institutions were also temporarily affected by the snowstorms. Public schools in the Boston area had to cancel classes due to poor road conditions resulting in students missing nine days of school. The Boston city police had to make almost 300 trips in the dangerous conditions to answer emergency calls. Medical personnel are required to be at work regardless of the weather conditions, so when the MBTA closed for the day on February 10, police officers provided rides to the hospital.
Injuries, Fatalities and Damages
Unfortunately, snow creates hazards both on and off the roads. Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) reported more than 150 roof and building collapses across the state. It is no wonder that ice damages claims currently represent 40-50% of Boston insurance claims.
January 27th was a dark day for Massachusetts-34,000 people, were without power. There were other power outages throughout the winter, but that was the peak outage date.
Sadly, the weather caused more than just financial damages. Snow-related accidents took three Boston lives this winter.
Keolis International, a French company which operates Massachusetts’ commuter rail system, was hit with a hefty $434,000 fine after nearly two-thirds of its trains were late or cancelled in February.
While Boston budgeted $18.5 million for snow and ice removal for winter 2014-15, the city had spent a whopping $35 million as of February 19. It is estimated that most Massachusetts communities are 40-60% over the snow and ice removal budget.
Somewhere between workers missing payroll and public school students missing school, there were Emerson College students. A few put their heads together to craft a calculator to compute just how much cash their missed classes were costing them. The total they estimated was $600-$1,600 per student.
Massachusetts’s business owners were distressed to see their sales fall 24% between January 26 and February 22. Among the hardest hit industries were retail and restaurants, estimating a 50% decrease in sales.
In the state of Massachusetts, workers lost a startling $1 billion in profits and wages.
Preparing for Natural Disasters / Total Exposure Managements
Looking forward, it is wise to implement an exposure management plan that shields organizations from known risks, reduces organizational vulnerability and focuses on cost savings. The accompanying infographic outlines seven steps for adequate preparation before staring down the barrel of natural disasters such as the winter of 2015.
This winter, several companies allowed their employees to utilize technology to maintain productivity while away from the office. For example, Microsoft allowed its Cambridge employees to work from home using Skype, Lync, and other cloud-based solutions. Companies that implemented similar measures include AthenaHealth and Mass General Hospital.
The city of Boston and its surrounding areas took some serious hits this winter. However, Bostonians are picking themselves up and continuing to devise even smarter ways of dealing with future winters of this caliber.
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