May 4, 2023

Preparation and Pumps Can Help You Avoid a Soggy Site

Excavator in flood water

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States, and no part of the country is immune. Heavy rains can lead to flash floods, melting snow can cause rivers to overflow and tropical storms can drench coastal areas.

Fortunately, there are ways for contractors to protect their jobsites from the worst of the water damage and, if need be, EquipmentShare has Advanced Solutions to clean up the mess. 

While it’s dry

You can check the flood risk of a location by visiting the FEMA Flood Map Service Center and typing in the address. Any place with a 1% or higher chance of flood each year is considered high risk. But keep in mind that extreme rains can swamp seemingly safe areas, so it’s wise to create and update a flood preparation plan that can be applied to every project. 

This plan will have some points in common with plans for other disasters like winter storms, tornadoes, fires, earthquakes and hurricanes. Here are some basic items to include: 

  • Set your emergency response chain of command now to clarify who will make key decisions, who they are responsible for informing and how they will communicate the news.
  • Make checklists for employees who have responsibilities during a flood so they are clear on their tasks. 
  • Create emergency shutdown and start-up procedures for each office or jobsite.
  • Determine what equipment you will need to deal with the weather and its aftermath. 
  • Know how and when you will acquire and distribute the needed equipment.
  • Assign a team to examine worksites for damage and determine what repairs are needed before work can safely resume. 

Some parts of the country have seasonal flood risks, like Midwest river towns in the spring or areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts during hurricane season in the summer and fall. In those areas at those times, government agencies and business owners often preemptively rent equipment to handle unwanted water.

“On the Gulf Coast, we haven’t had a bad hurricane season in two years, so people might forget or they may have rented pumps before hurricane season recently and ended up not using them, and the next year they try to gamble,” said Tripp Brown, EquipmentShare’s director of operations for Advanced Solutions. “It’s always best to err on the side of caution. The municipality where I live in Mobile, Alabama, rents like 10 generators and 10 or 15 pumps every year. The start date is May, and they return them in the beginning of November. That guarantees that they have what they need if something happens so they’re not scrambling at the last minute.”

Water is rising

Flash floods — as the name suggests — don’t provide much warning, but river and coastal floods usually give you time to prepare. When you know water is on the way, it’s time to take action.

  • Use sandbags to divert water from jobsites. Stagger the stacked sandbags like you’re building a brick wall.
  • Remove and safely store hazardous chemicals from the site. 
  • Move important equipment, furniture, electronics and documents to higher ground.
  • Take photos of your jobsite so you can provide before-and-after proof of any damage to your insurance company.
  • Place pumps in low-lying areas.

Pumps come in an array of sizes and styles and can run on either electricity or fuel. On the small end, submersible pumps can be placed directly into water — or where water is about to be — and can often be plugged into a standard 110 volt outlet.

“Submersibles are beneficial on a construction site for water mitigation because they’re hand-held,” Brown said. “You can take it out of the back of your truck, hook a hose to it and put it down in a hole. What we encourage our customers to do is use ancillary items such as float switches or level transducers so the pumps turn on and off automatically and throttle up and down depending on the level of water. You don’t physically have to go out there and start the pump.”

Brown said the most commonly rented pumps are the 4- and 6-inch varieties. The size designation refers to the diameter of the inlet and outlet where the water comes and goes. These wheeled pumps sit on dry land, their intake hose is placed in the water and their discharge hose is extended to wherever the water will be redirected.

“A typical full-size truck can tow those pumps — you don’t need a big one-ton truck to tow them — and the hoses can be managed by one person instead of two,” Brown said. “Once you get into 8-inch pumps, those hoses are 100 pounds apiece, so it’s more cumbersome to handle or you need an excavator operator to set the hoses.”

After the flood

The priority after a flood is your safety and the welfare of your family, friends and work colleagues. In your hurry to clean up, don’t put yourself or others at risk.

  • Don’t drive through floodwaters. Six inches of water can cause cars to lose control and stall.
  • Don’t walk or swim through floodwaters. They can contain sewage, sharp objects and other hazards.
  • Wear chemical-resistant gloves, rubber boots and eye protection because floodwaters can be contaminated with oil, gasoline and other pollutants.
  • Avoid areas near downed power lines.
  • Floods can cause gas leaks, so don’t use an open flame while assessing damage.

When you can safely return to the jobsite, make every effort to dry out flooded structures as soon as possible. 

“The first thing to come in are pumps and, if the power is out, generators,” Brown said. “Once the water is out of where it’s not supposed to be, then you come in with dehumidifiers and dryers. It’s disaster mitigation. Depending on where you are and what the weather is like, you’ve got about five days to dry it out or else the mold takes over. That’s why it’s so important to have a plan. For people who live in flood-prone areas, you’ve got to have a plan before it happens, and then you have to have a plan to deal with it after it happens.”

A safety plan can help you protect your people and equipment, and our insurance partner, Leif Assurance — an agency that specializes in construction insurance — can be the safety net for your business. An agent can help you compare quotes and customize coverage limits to fit your needs.

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