Baltimore Port Flooding Preparedness Saves Billions

In September 2003, businesses along the Port of Baltimore prepared for Tropical Storm Isabel. Individuals like Barbara McMahon, manager of safety, environment and risk management at the Maryland Port Administration, led the way to prepare for the storm. She followed the Port’s hurricane preparedness plan, according to an article by The preparation helped secure precious cargo, and possibly billions of dollars, after waters rose more than eight feet above normal levels, flooding piers. The water was kept at bay. It didn’t disturb any equipment of cargo. But with more flooding threats ahead, what’s next?

Three years ago, port officials created the report, “Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Recommendations,” identifying the need for infrastructure and facility improvements that target climate change and rising sea levels. It is reports such as these that can help organizations effectively prepare for the future. These types of examinations can save both life and property, and even save a business’ existence in some cases.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many experts continue to be concerned.

“The storms will become more extreme, and the city of Baltimore has a lot of coastal infrastructure — the port amongst other things — and will end up experiencing higher water levels and higher waves … which will cause damage to the city,” said Dr. Bilal Ayyub, director of the Center for Technology and Systems Management and professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, as quoted by the Maryland Reporter (MR).

This concern extends to any flood-prone areas.

As for the Maryland Port Administration, the organization reviews its emergency preparedness plans often, and especially after each severe weather incident. Why? To hone in on lessons learned.

“Most of our emergency preparedness plans have been developing for decades. It’s just a matter of revising,” said McMahon in the MR article. “We are always testing new plans with drills and evaluating the pros and cons after.”

McMahon’s words can have far-reaching effects for organizations no matter where they reside. Analyzing, planning and drilling continue to be the core fundamentals behind the best disaster preparedness and response plans.

“There is no way to prepare for every imaginable type of weather occurrence,” she added in the MR article. “Some are so unexpected, but others we know are coming. We can only predict what can happen by being next to the water — flooding, high winds, etc. — but we hope that we are prepared for the future when looking at projected climate change and rising sea levels.”

For more information about flood preparedness for businesses, visit: