Working in the film industry in Florida during hurricane season can be challenging and potentially dangerous. With a history of devastating hurricanes causing billions in damages, it's crucial for film crews to be well-prepared and educated on hurricane safety. Understanding the risks and knowing how to respond to weather warnings are essential for ensuring the safety of everyone involved in film productions.
Understanding Hurricanes in Florida:
Florida is no stranger to hurricanes, and the state has experienced some of the most destructive storms in the United States. Hurricane Ian in 2022 serves as a reminder of the potential catastrophic impact, resulting in significant damage and loss of life. The hurricane season in Florida runs from June 1 to November 30, with the highest risk typically between mid-August and mid-September. With hurricanes forming over water and their greatest impact felt near shorelines, it's essential to be aware of the potential hazards, including severe winds, rainfall, storm surges, high waves, localized tornadoes, and flying debris.
Understanding the Risks and Taking Precautions
As the film industry involves working in ever-changing environments, it is crucial to recognize the potential dangers of hurricanes while filming on exterior locations. The CSATF Safety Bulletin #38 provides guidelines for inclement or severe weather, including hurricanes.
Download a PDF of CSATF Safety Bulletin #38
The bulletin recommends forming an Action Plan that outlines communication methods, evacuation procedures, meeting areas, and equipment shutdown in the event of severe weather.
Creating an Action Plan:
To safeguard the cast and crew, if the threat of a hurricane is looming, the film production team must form a comprehensive Action Plan prior to any location work. This plan should include methods of communication in the event of severe weather, evacuation routes, meeting areas, head counts for all personnel, and procedures for equipment shutdown and removal. It is vital to conduct safety meetings before any severe weather conditions arise to reinforce the elements of the Action Plan.
Responding to Weather Warnings:
The National Weather Service issues various watches and warnings that indicate the severity of the approaching tropical storm or hurricane. With advanced weather tracking, there is usually ample warning before a hurricane strikes. Some watches to look out for:
- Storm Surge Watch: There is a possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 48 hours.
- Tropical Storm Watch: Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are possible within the specified area within 48 hours.
- Hurricane Watch: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are possible within your area. Because it may not be safe to prepare for a hurricane once winds reach tropical storm force, The NHC issues hurricane watches 48 hours before it anticipates tropical storm-force winds.
Response Actions for Tropical Storm/Hurricane Watches:
Once a Watch is issued, production should cease work by the end of the workday. Consider ending the day at the minimum eight (8) hour workday. The day a Watch is announced should be the last workday until the storm or the threat of a storm has passed. Employees may be requested to help secure equipment and locations during this last workday. At the close of the workday, Local 477 employees (and those in a Local 477 covered craft) must be released from work until the weather threat has passed. If a Watch is issued before the start of a workday, Production may choose not to start that day. Essential personnel may be asked to briefly assist in securing sets, equipment, and locations, but it is at the employee's discretion to accept the work call. Also, if a hurricane warning is issued for a different part of Florida that doesn't directly impact the filming area, crew members living in those counties can choose to be dismissed if they wish.
Response Actions for Hurricane Warnings:
Some warnings to look out for:
- Storm Surge Warning: There is a danger of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland from the shoreline somewhere within the specified area, generally within 36 hours. If you are under a storm surge warning, check for evacuation orders from your local officials.
- Tropical Storm Warning: Tropical storm conditions (sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph) are expected within your area within 36 hours.
- Hurricane Warning: Hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or greater) are expected somewhere within the specified area. NHC issues a hurricane warning 36 hours in advance of tropical storm-force winds to give you time to complete your preparations. All preparations should be complete. Evacuate immediately if so ordered.
- Extreme Wind Warning: Extreme sustained winds of a major hurricane (115 mph or greater), usually associated with the eyewall, are expected to begin within an hour. Take immediate shelter in the interior portion of a well-built structure.
Since a Watch always precedes a Warning, Local 477 covered craft employees should have already been released from work, and production should have ceased and secured sets and equipment. Production should be in the evacuation process for all personnel. New workdays should never be scheduled once a warning is announced.
If any federal, state, or local government authority calls for a mandatory evacuation, all production activities must cease within one hour, and all personnel should be dismissed from work immediately. Curfews often accompany mandatory evacuation orders, and productions must not place employees in a situation where they violate curfew laws.
Safety is the utmost priority when working in the film industry during Florida's hurricane season. By being well-informed, having a comprehensive Action Plan in place, and promptly responding to weather warnings and evacuation orders, film crews can minimize risks and ensure everyone's well-being. Let us all be proactive in preparing for potential hurricanes to protect ourselves and our communities, making the film industry in Florida a safer place to work.