Hurricane damage prevention at construction sites



Hurricanes are one of the most destructive of all natural catastrophes.  A single hurricane can result in billions of dollars in damages.  Hurricanes are not preventable, but they are predictable, which allows time for planning and preparation.  To minimize the effects a hurricane has on your company, it is vital to be prepared.

The following information discusses the hazards associated with hurricanes, the steps to prepare for and withstand a hurricane, and actions to minimize damage to your equipment and property.

Hurricane Losses

Most hurricane damage is caused by water and wind, although looting can occur after a hurricane until law enforcement re-establishes authority.  And fire losses can be substantial while water supplies and fire fighting manpower and equipment remain out of service. 

Planning

Each job site located in an area subject to hurricanes should be surveyed to determine the potential exposure to high winds and/or flooding.  If applicable, tie downs, banding material, blocking, anchors, and other necessary protection supplies should be available.

A preparedness checklist should be developed to identify areas in need of protection.  This list should include, but not be limited to, the field office trailer and its equipment and files, radios and battery chargers, tools and tool vans, heavy equipment engines, generators, compressors, welding machines, crane booms, cranes on barges, tugs, work boats, fuel tanks, permanent materials, and forms. 

If the job involves work on or near bodies of water, plans should be made to relocate and/or protect all watercraft, including tugs and barges.  Attention should be directed to the amount of time it would take to complete any relocation.

The overriding goal of any planning should be to prevent loss to the job site and adjacent property due to winds, flooding, mud deposition, and theft.

Following are some protective measures to take during the 5 phases of a hurricane to minimize the risk of loss.

Phase 1

When a TROPICAL STORM has been identified by the National Weather Service, its activity and location should be tracked.  Organize the necessary supplies to protect equipment and materials, such as cables with eyes, soil anchors, and manta ray anchors.

Phase 2

When the National Weather Service has issued a HURRICANE WATCH for the area of your job site, the project superintendent should take the following actions:

  1. Review the preparedness checklist previously developed and formulate a plan to protect the job site.
  2. Identify all items that may need to be tied down, weighed down, or banded together.  These items would include, but not be limited to, trailers, containers, toilets, fuel tanks, lumber, and permanent materials.
  3. Consider the feasibility of moving material and equipment to higher, protected ground.

Phase 3

When a HURRICANE WARNING has been issued indicating the potential for hurricane force winds for the project area within 24 hours, the superintendent should take the following actions:

  1. Review current job site activities and scope of work and determine whether certain operations should be suspended.
  2. Review the items identified in Phase 2 and the preparedness checklist with appropriate field and management personnel.
  3. Place adequate personnel on standby if the hurricane is forecasted to arrive on a weekend.
  4. Begin to implement any damage prevention methods that cannot be completed within 12 hours.

Depending on the predicted speed, track, and force of the hurricane, implementation of all protection measures may need to begin during this phase to give employees ample time to safeguard their families and personal property.

Phase 4

When weather advisories predict LANDFALL in the proximate area of the job site within 12 hours:

  1. Suspend all normal work activities.
  2. Complete implementation of the hurricane plan by assigning staff and timetables for completion.
  3. Evacuate all personnel.

Phase 5

AFTER THE STORM has passed; damage assessment, theft prevention, and clean-up will be the main activities.  Items to consider include:

  1. Potential for snakes and other wildlife dislocated by flooding.
  2. Downed power lines that may still be energized.
  3. Wet or damaged electrical panels.
  4. Instability of structures.
  5. Documentation of damages (photos and written report).
  6. Checking/cleaning engines thoroughly before restarting.

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