What does the Aquarium do when a hurricane is coming? Well, the answer is simple. We do the same things you do when preparing for a storm at your house!
The first thing our team does is monitor the situation. We work with our City of Virginia Beach partners and begin to plan for potential outcomes. Once we believe a strike could happen, we start our early preparations.
These preparations include checking our backup systems, like our emergency generators, and making sure that they have enough fuel. We also ensure that our animals have enough food by ordering at least two weeks' worth, depending on the severity of the storm. If it's a severe storm and roads are impassible, our animals still need to eat (even if deliveries can't be made). Thankfully, our cold storage is checked by our Life Support Staff ahead of time to confirm that everything is working properly.
We also begin working on our ride-out plans. This means identifying which staff will be on-site to take care of the animals before, during, and after the storm. For the Aquarium, those animals include the rehabilitation patients from our Stranding Response Program, the animals in our Main Building, and the animals in our South Building.
Our animals aren't the only ones that need to eat and drink during the storm. We also work to provide that ride-out team with plenty of food and water so they can take care of themselves!
Of course, like you, we want to make sure that our vehicles are safe during the storm. We begin to move all of our Education vehicles, our Stranding Response vehicles, our trailers, and our boats to safe storage locations for the duration of the storm.
Now onto the most interesting part- our animals!
Hopefully, you've had a chance to see the picture of Zoo Miami's flock of flamingoes in the men's bathroom while they rode out Hurricane Andrew. Well, in the event of a significant storm, that's the smartest thing animal care staff can do! Bathrooms are typically perfectly level, easy to clean, and do not include windows: features that make them one of the safest areas for animals during storms!
In our case, the early preparations also include moving some of the animals from open air exhibits, like our harbor seals out front, or the North American river otters at the South Building, into their holding areas. These holding areas are covered and protected from the elements, and provide a safe haven during inclement weather.
After the storm has passed, our team will begin the recovery efforts, including assessing the damage, working with the City teams to repair elements, and prepping to reopen for our guests!