Hurricane Preparation

Friday, August 30, 2019 By Tatiana Gust

In my opinion, when it comes to natural disasters we can classify them in two categories:

(1) the type that we cannot prepare for because we don’t know when it will strike, , and

(2) the type that can prepare for, because we know for days and sometimes weeks in advance that something is coming our way.

Personally, I have lived through both of these types. I grew up in an area that was prone to earthquakes, and I survived all of them. They were scary and some did a lot of damage, but overall they came, shook us up, and then it was all quiet again. It was stressful during and after the earthquake, and not knowing the extent of the damage was frightening. But once it passed by, there was a sense of peace because we were still alive.

As an adult, I have been blessed living in beautiful Florida, however this comes with a price. Every year I see the reaction of people to the news of potentially hazardous storms and the few hurricanes that regularly come through this part of the world. This is a totally different experience.

When a Hurricane is in the horizon, we know for days sometimes weeks that it is coming. People all around us turn into different people, most of the residents are in panic mode, completely stressed out. There are long lines at the gas stations, there is no water left in the stores, and very little of the basic food items left in the shelves. Generators disappear from the stores, plywood is hard to get, and the most disheartening is that many of the people don’t care about the next person in line, only taking as much as they can for their own safety. In my opinion, this state of panic/stress is harder on everyone, because it becomes contagious.

The experience after the storm passes is about the same as for an earthquake, people comes out to see the damage, and everyone becomes considerate again, helping each other to recoup from the disaster.

If you ask me which one I prefer, my answer would be neither one. However if I have to choose one I would definitely prefer disaster option (1), the unannounced. The stress and the reaction of people the days prior the disaster have a higher impact on everyone than the disaster itself. None the less, I love Florida so here I am facing another hurricane that is coming in the next few days. Dorian we are ready for you.

Since we work in the construction field, we have to prepare the job sites to withstand the potential hazard of the hurricane and minimize the damage of material, equipment, and to the surrounding areas. Here are the top points that we recommend our contractors to follow to prepare their sites for the upcoming storm:

1. Protect the construction documents/drawings.

Construction documents approved by the local building department are required to perform inspection, if you loose these during the storm, it could be days or weeks before you can get copies of the approved documents to continue. So be proactive and protect these important documents on site.

2. Secure your materials, equipment, and structures.

This is the most important step in your preparation process.

Material:  It is recommended that you avoid delivering any material to the job site. However if you have material onsite already, the best action would be to have it in a secure place or cover the material in a way that prevents the material from becoming flying debris.  Flying objects can cause damage to your structures and those around your job site as well.

Ensure that all materials, tools, sheds, boxes, and small equipment that can be damaged by rising water are removed from excavations and low areas prone to flooding.

Equipment: Equipment is expensive and not having working equipment can cause you significant delays. Thus it is recommended that when possible remove equipment from the job site and store in an enclosed location. If that is not possible, tie down/chain the equipment to permanent structures that have the least potential to be taken by the storm. In other words, identify what can fly away, then restrain it.

Structures: If you are in the middle of construction, ensure you take the best approach to protect your work. Identify areas that may be vulnerable such as walls that are not poured or walls/columns system not yet tied with beams. Protect your building from water intrusion by drying in exposed roofs, boarding up openings, capping pipes, sand bags, etc. Get as much of the envelope sealed prior the storm. Focus your efforts on protecting the structures not trying to complete as much as you can; every project is different; therefore you are the best at judging what will protect your work.

3. Maintain a clean site

Keep the site free of debris and scrap material that can become windblown hazards. Having a clean site will reduce the amount of preparation right before the storm.

4. Plan for communication

No matter how big or small your business is, you need to prepare your team and the people that work with you. It is important that you prepare, and distribute a communication list including cell phone numbers and emails, so you can be as efficient as possible communicating with your team after the storm.

5. Evacuate the job site

Ensure that your team leaves early enough to be safe. Make sure that your employees are safe and sound and no one lingers around until is too late to get to a safe place. Also, ensure your employees know when is ok to come back to the job site. You want to make sure they help you get back to work as fast as possible, but their safety is first. You don’t want them out there if it is not safe for them.

If the storm passes through your area, be prepared to be out of work for a few days. You may not have water or electricity for a few days, fuel may be scarce, routes may be damaged and it may be difficult to get back to work. At this time implement your communication plan and assess the damage, so you can be back to work as soon as possible.

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