Risk Control Topic: Hurricane Protection, Preparation, Response and Recovery
A hurricane is a storm with rotary circulation that originates in a tropical depression over the sea with winds in excess of 74 miles per hour. Hurricanes are usually accompanied by torrential rains and flooding along coastal areas. Hurricane season typically runs from June 1st through November 15th.
The National Weather Service (NWS) tracks tropical storms as they intensify into hurricanes. It issues advisories every six hours while a storm is more than 24 hours away from land and more frequently as it approaches landfall. The advisories state the storm’s location, wind velocity, speed, and direction. The NWS issues warnings when it determines that a coastal area will be affected by the storm’s high winds or a combination of high water and rough seas.
Every facility that is located in a coastal area should develop a Hurricane Emergency Plan. The plan should include a detailed procedure and checklist for processes and protecting buildings, contents, equipment, and yard storage. In addition, the procedures should include the guidelines to follow to mitigate losses during the hurricane and salvage procedures to follow after the hurricane has subsided.
The plan should include the amount of time required (in hours or days) to complete each major task to ensure preparations are initiated at the appropriate time. Hurricane preparedness should also include the appointment of a qualified group of individuals to form a salvage squad. The objective of the salvage squad is to restore operations to normal as quickly as possible.
Preparation for a hurricane should include both short-term and long-term plans.
Short-term plans should be developed well in advance of a hurricane, but need only be implemented when the projected path of a hurricane puts your home or business in imminent danger of receiving damage. To prepare for an oncoming hurricane, detailed procedures and a checklist should be developed to ensure an orderly shutdown of all production processes and all property is properly protected. The amount of time required (in hours or days) to complete each major task should be determined in advance to ensure preparations are initiated at the appropriate time. As a hurricane approaches, secure the facility. Quick action will need to be taken to install temporary protection features. The following actions should be completed:
- Shutter or board up windows to help protect them from flying debris.
- Verify that roof coverings, edging strips, flashing, gutters, downspouts, and drains are properly anchored and in good repair.
- Verify that roof-mounted signs and equipment, guy wires, and supports are properly anchored and in good repair.
- Repair or replace any weak or damaged door hinges and latches.
- Verify auxiliary lighting is in working order.
- Establish a system to protect all windows and openings in the building. Installing shutters, bracing large doorways, and having material available to cover all glass, etc. will complete this step.
- Establish an emergency response team and assemble necessary supplies and equipment at a central, secure location. Each year, inspect and verify that the supplies are in good repair. Examples of supplies and equipment may include:
- Portable pumps and hoses
- Mops and squeegees
- Emergency lighting
- Tarpaulins/plastic sheeting
- A few sheets of plywood sized to cover windows with some miscellaneous lumber and nails
- Power and manual tools
- Sandbags, shovels and axes
- Ropes and fasteners
- Clean out floor drains and catch basins. Check drainage & sump pumps and that a backup battery system may be installed.
- Anchor structures, trailers, and yard storage so they will less likely be moved by high winds. Move yard storage inside where practical.
- Anchor and fill aboveground tanks to capacity with product or water to minimize wind damage.
- Move portable containers of flammables like gasoline & propane tanks to a secure, properly protected area indoors, if safe and practical to do so.
- Secure outdoor umbrellas or awnings either by removal or with additional tie backs.
- Fill emergency generator and additional fuel tanks for prolonged use.
- Inspect all fire protection equipment to be sure it is in service.
- Move important records to a secure area that is protected from the elements. Duplicate critical records and move them offsite to a location that is not susceptible to the hurricane.
- Shut off all flammable liquid, combustible liquid, and gas lines at their source to prevent an accidental release caused by broken piping.
- Shut off all electrical power at the main building disconnect before the hurricane strikes.
- If you cannot evacuate, ensure that everyone has the following:
- Nonperishable food that doesn’t need to be cooked
- Two-way radios with spare batteries in case cell phone service is unavailable
- Stored drinking water in large containers
- First-aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wash, etc…
- Make sure that all of your vehicles have full gas tanks
- Multiple sets of dry clothing
- Boots / gloves / hats / jacket / blanket (as oftentimes Hurricanes are followed by colder weather ie: Sandy 2013)
Long-term plans should be established, completed, and reviewed periodically. These plans will mainly encompass improvements to construction features and site preparation to minimize hurricane damage. Long-term preparations could require several weeks or months to complete.
Long-term planning should concentrate on installing and maintaining construction features to increase the “hurricane resistance” of the property. Any hurricane resistance feature that cannot be permanently installed should be arranged so that the specialized protection can be quickly and easily installed. Protection features will need to be inspected and tested at least annually (prior to hurricane season) to keep them in good repair.
Things to remember for During the Hurricane and for After the Hurricane.
During the Hurricane:
Arrangements should be made to evacuate before the hurricane strikes, but if an emergency response team is able to stay on site, a safe area of substantial construction should be available for those to occupy. The emergency response team plans should be communicated in advance with local law enforcement officials. The emergency response team should continually patrol the facility as long as it is safe to do so and complete the following:
- Watch for structural damage and make repairs as necessary.
- Watch for causes of fire (e.g., electrical short circuits, flammable floating on floodwaters, and flammable gas escaping from ruptured pipes) and take corrective action as needed.
- Check fire sprinkler water pressures frequently and watch for loss of pressure, if applicable.
- Watch for flooding from rain or tidal surge and deploy sandbags as necessary.
After the Hurricane:
Once the storm has subsided, a salvage squad should be assembled and a squad leader should assign job priorities to safely repair and restore production processes and buildings.
A properly staffed salvage squad generally consists of personnel that are qualified to repair electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and fire protection systems. In addition, an adequate complement of personnel for general cleanup may be required. If outside contractors are used, they must be supervised to ensure safe operating conditions are maintained. In the event cleanup and professional assistance is needed, these companies are aligned with our company to provide top notch service and you can click on them from here:
The squad leader should verify the salvage squad is properly staffed and equipped to complete their objectives. Typical supplies will include construction tools, mops, buckets, rust inhibitors, fans, water vacuums, brooms, dehumidifiers, squeegees, and wiping rags. Other non-typical items may include the need to order replacement motors, mechanical equipment, etc.
Immediate damage assessment should be completed and action plans developed to address priorities:
- Look for safety hazards such as downed power lines, exposed electrical wires, leaking gas, etc.
- Appraise buildings for structural damage or undermining of building foundations
- Assess impaired fire protection equipment and alarms.
- Assess critical production equipment and valuable stock that is required to restore production.
- Complete temporary repairs and minimize hazards to ensure personnel can safely access the building.
- Provide portable multipurpose fire extinguishers.
- Require strict precautionary measures for any cutting/welding that will occur in and around the buildings.
- Eliminate any unnecessary ignition sources and include the enforcement of the “No Smoking” regulations.
- Establish a procedure for removing debris brought by the storm and as a result of any reconstruction efforts.
- Any holes or other penetrations in the building walls should be temporarily repaired.
- Assess and prioritize building contents that have been damaged and can be salvaged.
- Wash walls and floors with soapy water and a disinfectant.
- Photograph and/or videotape any building or contents damage.
- Assess the integrity of fire protection alarm circuits. Fully test all alarms. Repair as needed.
- Physically test any sprinkler control valves that were submerged to verify that are operational.
- Notify the local fire department of any extended impairments that will be required for the above systems.
- Do not energize electrical circuits in the buildings until an electrician has checked all systems.
- Care should be exercised around damaged power cables. An electrician should notify the utility company of all necessary repairs.
- Electric motors, switchgear, and cables should be thoroughly inspected, cleaned, and dried as needed before energizing. Even if it has not been immersed, electrical equipment can absorb sufficient moisture to reduce its insulation resistance to a dangerously low level. While electrical leakage may be too small to blow fuses or trip the circuit breakers, it may be sufficient to cause overheating and fires.
- Carefully examine all metal-clad cable, lighting sockets, receptacles, snap switches, or any devices with paper or fiber insulation.
- Check all flammable liquid and gas piping systems and associated tanks for leaks or damage.
- Perform a continual fire watch until normal operations are resumed.
- Verify that the personnel understand how to contact outside emergency response units.
- Provide portable radios or cell phones so personnel can immediately contact emergency response units.
- Familiarize personnel with any unsafe or hazardous conditions and update them with the progress of salvage operations.
FEMA – NOAA – RedCross
* Third-party resources can be accessed by clicking on the links provided to help you in your efforts to plan for, respond to, and recover from hurricanes. The information provided by these third-party resources is not owned or controlled by Del Duke Insurance Group. They are provided for your convenience only.