If you’re a contractor who does business along the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Coast, hurricanes are an unfortunate fact of life. The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, so hurricanes are on your radar for half the year.
Before the season starts, refresh the emergency plans for your jobsites and consider the extra equipment you might need.
Strategy: A detailed hurricane emergency action plan you share with your team can provide structure in the stressful days when a storm is approaching. If you aren’t sure what to include, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an online tool to help you create an effective plan. Make sure you establish key decision-makers, include multiple ways to contact each team member and outline the steps to shut down (and reopen) the jobsite. The hurricane emergency plan will overlap to some degree with plans for other natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes and winter storms.
Equipment needs: Consider what resources your team would need to deal with potential outcomes like floods, hazardous material leaks, power outages and structural damage to buildings. Even a relatively mild Category 1 hurricane will produce sustained winds of at least 74 mph, while the most powerful Category 5 hurricanes bring winds of at least 157 mph, which can knock out power for weeks or months. If you don’t have enough pumps, generators and other equipment to deal with a worst-case scenario, establish how you will rent them if needed. If you wait until right before the storm, when demand is highest, you might be out of luck.
Strategy: Unlike more unpredictable natural disasters, hurricanes usually come with advance notice, giving you time to secure your jobsites. It’s wise to take action soon after a tropical storm is named and you are identified as potentially in the storm’s path.
Take inventory of all the equipment and materials on your sites. Move what you can indoors. Lower and tie down what you can’t move. Clean up the site, as debris and loose materials can turn into projectiles. Board up doors and windows and place sandbags around buildings to protect them from water. Shut down electricity, gas and water lines (except water lines used for fire protection) and take photos or videos of the site to document the project’s status before the storm for insurance purposes.
Give yourself and your team enough notice to accomplish all this and still have time to evacuate the area if necessary. As the storm moves closer to you, the National Weather Service will issue a watch 48 hours before landfall for areas possibly in harm’s way and a warning 24-36 hours before landfall for areas expected to be hit. If local or state officials issue evacuation orders, follow those directions.
Equipment needs: Boom lifts can help you board up windows above ground level. Make sure the equipment you’ll depend on during and after the storm — including vehicles — are topped off with fuel. Fully charge devices and batteries.
Strategy: Before you start recovery efforts, a safety manager should inspect the site and a building engineer should examine structures. Anyone assisting in recovery should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and avoid standing in floodwater, which can contain sharp objects, live electrical wires and hazardous chemicals. Remove water as soon as possible to minimize mold and prioritize other rebuilding tasks to safely and efficiently get back to work.
Equipment needs: To remove water and dry out damp areas, you need pumps, fans and dehumidifiers. Generators are in high demand because of power outages, and earthmoving and material handling equipment are often needed to remove downed trees and damaged structures.
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 help you protect your business. An agent can help you compare quotes and customize coverage limits to fit your needs.