Flood & Hurricane Cleanup

Hurricanes: Be Prepared with Your Respiratory Protection Ahead of Time


How active a hurricane season is fluctuates based on weather patterns and other factors, but 2020 was one for the record books.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), they “accurately predicted a high likelihood of an above-normal season with a strong possibility of it being extremely active. In total, the 2020 season produced 30 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 14 became hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or greater), including seven major hurricanes (top winds of 111 mph or greater). This is the most storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.”[1] It was the fifth costliest season on record.

The latest research supports this trend in stronger storms. In a paper published earlier in 2020, NOAA’s Dr. James Kossin found major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 and 5) are indeed increasing. Kossin told CBS News, “Globally, there’s about a 25% greater chance now that a hurricane will be at major hurricane intensity than four decades ago. In the Atlantic there’s about twice the chance.”[2]

And although NOAA predicts that the 2021 season may not be as active as 2020 they do think there may be another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.[1]

Meeting Respiratory Protection Needs When A Hurricane Hits

After last year, you should ask yourself, is your respiratory protection program ready in case a hurricane hits? Do you have the respiratory protection you might need to assist in recovery efforts? One key tip to help answer such questions relates to validating the type, amount, and robustness of your respiratory protection products, as they could be essential to help you and your team be prepared on the respiratory protection front in the event of hurricanes.

Disposable respirators are commonly used to help protect against respiratory hazards after natural disasters, such as hurricanes. To help be prepared, you should inspect your inventory of disposable respirators. For instance, you will want to ensure you have NIOSH approved N95 respirators and not dust masks, which do not provide the type of protection that will be needed if you are exposed to particulate hazards. OSHA requires that respirators be NIOSH approved.

One way to check if you have an N95 respirator is to look for the NIOSH approval label on the package and the respirator. (See our blog to learn more about the difference between respirators and masks). Next, you should inspect your current inventory to ensure it is in good condition for use. Are any of your respirators expired? Are the packages damaged and are the respirators inside affected?

Before using any type of respiratory protection, it is important to remember that the wearer must read and understand the User Instructions provided as a part of the product packaging. A written respiratory protection program must also be implemented that meets all the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.134. To learn more about how to implement and manage a program, please see our Center for Respiratory Protection.

If you do need to stock up on respirators, this is also a good time to handle any required annual fit testing for your employees. Fit testing is required, so before a disaster is the time to make sure everyone is properly fit tested and that the needed sizes and styles of respiratory protection are on hand.

These are just a few of the things you should keep in mind when looking at disposable respirator stockpiles and evaluating whether it is time to make additional purchases. You do not want to be scrambling to stock up after a storm when everyone is looking for respirators to help protect them during the cleanup process or for other tasks.

Beyond Respiratory Protection

Of course, before any hurricane hits, it is also a good time to consider what other types of PPE your team might need in the aftermath, and how much of it? For instance, you might want to consider whether to stock up on eye protection, hearing protection, gloves, coveralls, or other forms of personal protective equipment. It’s beneficial to be proactive so you are not scrambling after a storm to stock up when everyone else may also be looking for the same types of protective equipment.

Being prepared for hurricane season should start long before the first storms start to swirl. To learn more or order respirators, please contact us today at 1-800-243-4630 to speak with our health and safety specialists.

More Hurricane Hazard Blogs:

Protecting Yourself Properly During Hurricane Cleanup
Flood Protection and Above the Shoulders PPE
Choosing the Right Respirator for Hurricane Cleanup Efforts
Protecting Yourself from Mold During Hurricane Cleanup

Publisher’s Note: This blog has been updated and republished since it first appeared in 2018.


[1] https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/record-breaking-atlantic-hurricane-season-draws-to-end

[2] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/atlantic-hurricane-season-2020-record-breaking/

[3] https://www.noaa.gov/news-release/noaa-predicts-another-active-atlantic-hurricane-season