Prepare Now for Hurricane Season
Proper preparation can help minimize loss and keep workers safe.
2017 was a banner year for hurricanes, and experts predict 2018 will be another busy one. Don’t wait until June 1, when hurricane season begins, to develop a hurricane response plan, especially if you work in states along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Coast.
Careful preparation well in advance of a hurricane — and immediately before — can help limit the damage, keep your workers safe and get you back in business sooner.
Develop a hurricane emergency plan
- Assign roles to team members. Who will lead the response efforts? Who will prepare the jobsite pre-hurricane, and who will head recovery and cleanup?
- Establish communications procedures. How will you maintain contact with members of the hurricane response team and other employees before and after the storm?
- Compile a list of important phone numbers. You’ll want numbers for company personnel, insurance company contacts, suppliers and subcontractors and companies that could help with cleanup.
- Make plans for securing materials. Determine what building materials, equipment and hazardous materials you’re likely to have on a jobsite and make plans for how you will secure them during a hurricane.
- Back up your business data. If you’re not in the cloud, store it in a safe place, preferably out of the hurricane zone.
Review your insurance policies
Does your commercial property insurance policy cover water damage or flood damage? (Many don’t, but you can get riders.) Do you have business interruption insurance that will provide income if your business is closed due to a natural disaster? Not all do.
Familiarize yourself with your jurisdiction’s hurricane procedures
In Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, for example, businesses can sign up ahead of time to get a “re-entry placard” that will allow them priority return to the area to get their businesses up and running after a storm.
Follow this checklist when a storm is coming
If forecasters predict a hurricane in your area, review and update your hurricane emergency plan as necessary. (Remember that hurricanes have a bad habit of making last-minute turns; even if you don’t appear to be in the direct path of the storm, get ready if you’re anywhere nearby.)
When the storm is 48 hours out:
- Suspend material deliveries to the site, except what you may need for protecting the building, equipment and materials on the site.
- Brace building components such as tilt-up panels and masonry walls. Anchor roof panels. Cover any large wall openings with tarps.
- Move materials indoors if possible. Tie down or band together any equipment and supplies that remain outside so they won’t be picked up and hurled by high winds. Anchor and fill above-ground tanks to keep them in place.
- Place heavy sandbags or concrete blocks on the floors of portable toilets or secure them to the building or heavy equipment to keep them in place.
- Remove anything that could be ripped up and blown away, like construction signage.
- Shut off natural gas lines, flammable liquid pipelines and/or electric power to reduce the risk of fire. Lock doors and windows.
When the storm is 24 hours out:
- Stop work. Give yourself, your workers and your subcontractors time to make storm preparations at home. Remind them of the plans for post-storm communications and recovery efforts.
After the storm
When you can reach the jobsite, check for unsafe conditions, such as downed wires, leaking gas or flammable liquids, flooded areas and structural damage to the building.
Have your key personnel assess damages and develop a site recovery plan. Take photos to document any losses for insurance purposes. Emphasize the importance of following safety practices throughout the assessment and cleanup process.
Check all systems — electrical, mechanical, gas, etc. — before turning them on.
Keep employees and subcontractors informed about the progress of your recovery efforts and let them know when you expect to be back in operation.
Freelance writer Mary Lou Jay writes about business and technical developments in a variety of industries. She has been covering residential and commercial construction for more than 25 years.
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