Hurricane Preparedness Planning Are You and Your Facility Ready?

Nearly 18 hurricanes on average strike the United States every decade, according to the National Hurricane Center. These storms leave devastation and despair in their wake, taking lives and destroying homes and commercial properties alike. Those who live in hurricane-prone areas often take steps to protect their properties and families from hurricanes. According to the Florida Division of Emergency Management, 77 percent of hurricane-damaged properties suffer from roof damage.

Business owners and managers should have a basic hurricane awareness plan in place to protect facilities and employees. Suggested planning activities are outlined below:

1. Employee Preparation

a. Determine which staff members need to carry out hurricane preparations and who can reasonably expect to be available. Some employees may need to assist their own families or relatives in evacuating from threatened areas. All building maintenance staff may need to prepare your facility for a hurricane. Regularly update your list of employee phone numbers and ensure each department head has a copy

b. Develop a simple written plan which incorporates a set of Hurricane Task Assignments for your staff. Inputs regarding the tasks to be accomplished should be solicited from all of the various work centers at your facility

i. Outline the specific tasks which must be performed to protect your facility during a hurricane watch and a hurricane warning, how they will be accomplished, and who will perform them

ii. It is probably desirable to develop teams for many tasks; a team to board up, a team to secure exterior equipment, etc. Staff members performing unfamiliar tasks may need some instruction

c. Outline your hurricane response plan and task assignments at a training session. Familiarization training should be conducted at the beginning of every hurricane season and during the season if there is high staff turnover. Update team assignments on a regular basis

 

2. Facility Preparation

a. If your facility is in a storm surge inundation zone or appears to be unsafe for occupancy during high winds, you may have to completely evacuate it. Identify essential business records that should be removed from the facility and determine where you plan to take them. Back up computer records on disk or tape and move these with other essential records

b. Review your list of major equipment and furnishings to determine which items need to be protected or removed and record how you plan to do it. The basic choice is to try to protect equipment and furnishings in-place or move them out of the area at risk. In either case, determine what equipment and manpower will be needed to relocate these items. If you plan to protect equipment in-place, move it to well-protected interior rooms on floors above the level of potential flooding

c. Identify outside equipment and furnishings which could be blown loose and may become deadly missiles in hurricane winds. Determine where they will be stored or how they will be secured in-place. Among the items to be secured are any available outside merchandise, trash cans, signs, awnings, antennas and tools

d. Strongly anchor any portable storage buildings and fixtures

e. Ensure that staff members know how to turn off electrical power, water, gas, and other utility services within your building at main switches

3. Roof Top Specific Preparation-Post Storm

You should hire a qualified professional roofing contractor to do the following things:

a. Ensure rooftop equipment such as exhaust fans, wind turbines, and air conditioning units are securely fastened or strapped down to the roof deck. Pay particular attention to access panels for secure attachment.

b. If the roof is a composition roof with gravel covering, consider removing loose gravel to preclude damage to unprotected windows by stones being blown off of the roof

c. Clean and remove all loose debris, trash, abandoned equipment and the like

d. If the roof is composed/covered by roof tile, the roof areas should be inspected for any loose, cracked or broken tile to prevent risk of tiles blowing off and damaging adjacent property including vehicles.

e. Inspect all roof drains, scuppers and emergency overflow scuppers for clogs. All roof drains need to be clean and free flowing in advance of a hurricane/rain storm

f. Secure and loose cables, wires and conduit

g. Prune and cut back all tree branches or palm fronds that overhang the roof. They will cause roof and building damage.

h. Consider having an emergency response agreement in place with your preferred roofing contractor at the beginning of storm season. The agreement should spell out rates for services and equipment for emergency response after the storm. Most all roofing contractors will be very busy after a storm passes. Locking in a reputable local contractor to assure you have someone to secure your property after the storm will provide peace of mind when needed most.

 

Being prepared can potentially save you thousands of dollars in damage from high winds and rains. And even if the hurricane never hits, you may have found a small problem that could have turned into a big and expensive problem if not repaired

Your roof takes quite a beating throughout the year. Regular inspections can save you money and extend the life of your roof while always keeping your prepared for a hurricane strike

4. Equipment

a. Obtain several battery-operated radios and spare batteries to ensure you can receive emergency information. It is desirable to have at least one radio on site which can receive National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio frequencies. Weather radios with a tone alert capability are a very effective way of receiving reports of significant changes in weather

b. Procure sufficient flashlights and other battery powered lights to allow essential work to be conducted in the event of power outage. Ensure a good supply of fresh batteries is on hand throughout the hurricane season

c. Compile a disaster supply kit and have ready for emergencies with contents such as: food (canned goods, non-perishable, ready to eat), water (one gallon per person per day), manual can opener and other eating utensils, personal hygiene items such as soap, deodorant, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper, first aid kit, fire protection equipment or fire extinguisher, rainwear, gloves, and blankets

d. If you do not have storm shutters, ensure you have necessary tools to board up windows and brace doors. The first priority in protecting your facility will be to keep the wind out. Wind pressure and windblown debris can break windows and blow doors in. Sliding glass doors, large picture windows, skylights, French doors, inward opening double doors, and garage doors are particularly vulnerable. Such tools as circular or hand saw, drill with appropriate bits, hammer or nail gun, hand or power-driven screwdriver, and wrench may be needed. Nails will be sufficient on wood-framed windows and doors, but screws or bolts and washers are necessary for metal-framed windows and doors

e. Have ample supply of brooms, squeegees, mops, wet vacs, dryers, de-humidifiers etc. to remove water.

f. A small emergency generator could be useful. The power may go out before a hurricane comes ashore and may be out for an extended period. An emergency generator could provide the capability to maintain lighting, recharge battery powered equipment, power pumps, and tools which may be needed for expedient repairs after the hurricane passes

5. Recommended Supplies

a. Plywood (preferably 5/8″ thick exterior type) to cover large windows and glass doors which can be blown in by hurricane force winds. If possible, obtain plywood before hurricane season begins and precut to size, mark each panel to identify where it goes, and store until needed

b. Sufficient lumber to brace inward-opening exterior doors and roll-up doors on the inside. Boards should be 2″ x 4″ or larger

c. Waterproof tape (duct tape or filament tape) to help protect smaller windows from powerful wind gusts and flying debris

d. Tie-down material (rope or chain) for outside furnishings and equipment

e. Heavy duty plastic sheeting (4 mil thickness or greater), furring strips, and nail or staple gun to make expedient roof and window repairs. Plastic sheeting can also be used to cover and protect equipment in the event of roof damage or leaks

f. A supply of sandbags may be helpful in preventing intrusion of water through doorways in low-lying sections of buildings. Sandbagging can be very time consuming; it takes two people about an hour to fill and place 100 sandbags creating a wall only 1′ high and 20′ long

g. Stockpiling emergency supplies is suggested that may be needed. Many items rapidly disappear from retail outlets during hurricane