The Atlantic Hurricane season is now upon us for 2017. The season starts on June 1st and runs through to the end of November. Although it is possible for storms to form outside of this time frame, we can expect the bulk of the nasty weather to fall in this period. Hurricanes can have incredibly high winds capable of severe destruction, and should be taken very seriously when landfall is expected.
For more on Hurricanes and a video showing the potential damage of each hurricane category, you can visit this site.
Weathering The Storm
For those who work in the construction industry, an incoming hurricane can be incredibly daunting. A construction site is already a dangerous place, and on top of that we add the potential for destructive winds to carry off dangerous items with destructive force strong enough to rip a roof off a house. There is also the potential of an extended recovery time for sites that were ill-prepared for the storm. Recovery time equals down time, and down time costs contractors lots of money.
With all this in mind, there are some steps that can be taken to ensure both minimal damage and construction down-time.
Building a plan
- Make a plan – The first step to not being caught unprepared in the face of a hurricane is to plan for it before you even know it’s coming. This means making a hurricane preparedness plan. For example, it can be assignments that are handed out so that everyone knows what they need to do. The period of time 24-48 hours before storm landfall is a safe time to stop construction and put storm preparedness plans into action. This is also a critical time for ensuring that your personal home and family are secured as well, so be sure to leave adequate time.
- Watch the Weather – It is important to always monitor the weather. Even the smallest rain events can cause problems for your site. Being on top of it will help you and your crews stay prepared to minimize downtime.
The storm is coming! Now What?
- Secure Site Materials – The storm is officially bearing down on you. It’s time to start securing your site. The first step is to ensure all trash, tools, lumber, debris, equipment, portable toilets, dumpsters, and machinery are secured on site, or removed altogether. It is also wise to remove any electronics or sensitive equipment from your on-site trailer or material storage from the site and store in a secure place. Note that permit boxes or site signage should probably be removed and stored accordingly.
- Hazardous Waste and Chemical Management – Construction sites generally have hazardous chemicals or waste on site, as well. It is important to ensure that your concrete washout is cleaned up, all paint, stucco, or other chemicals are secured, and any dangerous waste is removed from site to avoid any potential contamination on or off site.
- Stormwater preparedness – In addition to making sure all your materials, waste, and chemicals are secured, it is important to make sure that your Stormwater BMPs are prepared. You may want to consider temporarily removing inlet protection and strategically placing or moving silt fence to allow the flow of water to prevent flooding. It is also to make sure to clear out as much debris (vegetative, construction, trash, or otherwise) to prevent buildup in inlets. Having a solid vegetative buffer helps to slow the flow of water and filter out any pollution. Discharging water from detention ponds is also a practice that some might choose to create additional space for stormwater runoff. It might also be worth it to place water pumps in a secure location on site to prepare for water removal quickly and efficiently after the storm. Try to have water treatment necessities on hand prior to the storm for quick deployment once the storm is over.
- Secure the structure – In order to protect the hard work of your employees and other subcontractors, it is important to make sure the structure or project are secured as well. This might mean boarding up windows and other openings, as well as laying sandbags. These steps will allow for minimal damage, faster cleanup time, and less damage to surrounding properties.
- Shut down the site – Ensure that everyone is gone from the site well ahead of the storm. After the site is secured, with only the essential personnel remaining, shut down any water, electricity, and gas before vacating the site yourself, securing any gates as you leave.
After the Storm
- Assess the damage – Now that the storm has passed and it is safe to return to the site, it is time to determine the scope of damage. Make sure to be extra cautious when returning to the site, as no matter how well prepared you were, there is still a chance of danger. Take the time to carefully evaluate the entire site for damage, standing water, runoff, broken equipment, or debris. Stay clear of stormwater collection basins, outfalls, and inlets directly after the storm. Once an assessment of the site has been made, it may be safe to start bringing in crews for cleanup and finally, continuing the project when it is deemed safe enough to do so.
Remember, safety should be everyone’s first priority. Be sure to keep this in mind throughout the entire process, both before, during and after the storm. You can find some hurricane safety tips here.