Construction During Hurricane Season: Preparation Is Everything
‘Tis the season once again in South Florida – and we’re not talking about the holiday season. In an age of record breaking storms like Hurricane Irma, the best gift commercial contractors can give their clients and employees is the gift of preparation. At GSD Contracting we call it H.E.M.P – Hurricane Emergency Management Plan. We think you’ll call it good business.
The Foundation of the GSD H.E.M.P: Defined Roles and Clear Communication
Preparing a construction site for an impending hurricane begins with a clear understanding of who does what when, and conveying that information with a communication strategy. While our plan allows for some variation and some good old common sense adjustments, it’s critical to have it all documented.
It all begins with a complete and up-to-date list of key personnel who will be available before, during (as conditions allow) and after the hurricane clears the construction site, in coordination with local law enforcement and emergency agencies. GSD Contracting management personnel, using phone calls, text messaging, email or fax, communicates with our employees and subcontractors about the following conditions as provided by the National Hurricane Center:
- Weather conditions that could represent hurricane danger
- Potential hurricane formation that could threaten our zone
- Hurricane location (latitude and longitude) and forecasts
- Hurricane classification based on wind speed
- Hurricane status (Alert, Watch, Warning)
- Additional information and special precautions to be taken
As an additional part of our checks and balances, GSD Contracting requires that all personnel keep management apprised of any issues that may affect their availability at any stage of the hurricane preparedness and post-hurricane site security. This practice allows us to provide appropriate personnel coverage at all times.
A Timeline of What Happens, When and Why
As we’ve said, the unexpected can happen at any time. Having a H.E.M.P. brings order and process when hurricane chaos threatens. Here’s a glimpse of what true preparation of a GSD Contracting site looks like:
Hurricane Watch: 36-48 Hours Before Hurricane
- Notify project supervisors and subcontractors of hurricane watch.
- Meet with key personnel to distribute responsibilities and identify special conditions, which may require additional attention.
- Resupply first-aid kits.
- Ensure emergency equipped is stored in a safe place.
- Make sure emergency supplies (flashlights, fire extinguishers, etc.) are ready.
- Develop an emergency phone list per project area and location.
Hurricane Warning: 36 Hours Before Hurricane
- Notify project supervisors, key personnel and subcontractors of the hurricane warning and weather conditions.
- Meet with key personnel to distribute preparation responsibilities and review actions already taken.
- Contain all construction materials so they cannot become projectiles or remove from the jobsite.
- Broom clean all exposed floors.
- Take photographs of the jobsite, both inside and outside, to document precautions taken during hurricane preparation.
- Refuel all company vehicles and park them in protected areas to minimize damage from windblown objects.
- Shut down all non-essential electric motors and cut off power at main breaker.
- Fill all safety cans with gasoline and/or diesel. Safety cans should be labeled for contents.
- Remove compressed gas cylinders from work areas when exposed to outside elements. Store in upright position and secure.
- Store materials, tools and equipment susceptible to flooding in high places.
- Prepare an accurate inventory list of all materials, equipment and tools at the project site.
- Fill drinking water cans with ice and water and place in a safe place.
- Secure all hazardous chemical materials to prevent dangerous spills.
After the Hurricane
- Instruct all job personnel returning to the site to avoid and report downed power lines and piles of debris.
- Be wary of the instability of damaged on-site structures.
- Avoid using water from city main until declared safe fro contamination.
- Take photographs of all areas to document damage.
- Check fire extinguisher and take extra precautions to prevent fires. (Lowered water pressure could hamper firefighting!)
- Conduct final walkthrough before personnel are allowed back on site.
- Prepare an accurate inventory of all equipment, materials and tools to account for any loss or damage.
- Keep computers and other electronic equipment turned off until power is verified from low/variations in voltage.
The procedures described above are all critical to the safety of people working construction sites impacted by hurricanes. They are also intended to protect the immediate community and preserve the integrity of construction sites under the worst conditions. As we’ve said before, it’s good for everyone – and it’s good for business.