Preparing Your Job Site for Severe Weather

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Florida may experience plenty of sun throughout the year. Still, it’s also one of the few states that routinely experience tropical storms and hurricanes from June to November every single year and extreme thunderstorms at the drop of a hat year-round. Unfortunately, the number of these storms and hurricanes seems to be increasing every year, and that’s not good news for construction companies

Construction during hurricane season can be difficult, and while you’ll usually have plenty of warnings to help secure your job site before the hurricane hits, severe weather can happen at any time during the year. The only way to decrease the risk of property damage is to be proactive. Understanding what you need to be ready for a hurricane or other forms of severe weather is absolutely crucial. 

Develop a Plan

Storm preparedness starts with a solid plan for your job sites. Always select one team member to keep up with storm reports and advise the other team members. Your goal should outline all the steps chronologically. To prevent onsite accidents, all members should know what to do and their responsibility. Such a safety plan is vital for projects that are undergoing construction, homes that are undergoing exterior upgrades, or new buildings that are being erected. 

One of the best ways to learn how to prepare for a hurricane is by documenting what happened during the latest storm. Make a checklist of all things that went wrong or were missing. For example, if your backup generator did not turn on, you may need to buy another one for the next storm or have two generators in case of emergency. Include all of your findings in your new plan.

Document Everything

When you know a storm is approaching, create a checklist for your sites documenting any potential risks. All members of the team should share this list. By identifying the risks early, your team members can take steps to mitigate them. An audit should be performed to ensure that there are no gaps in safety. All missed potential hazards should be immediately fixed. Having this supportive documentation will also help should you need to file an insurance claim after the storm.


Stop Working

When it is announced that a hurricane or severe storm is on the way, all work at the site should be discontinued. Tools and equipment should be secured. All loose material like lumber must be collected, tied, and stored in a safe place to prevent the wind from dispersing the objects at people or property. All heavy equipment and machinery should be turned out and stored in a safe place. Call the supplier/contract and halt all deliveries or reroute to an alternate secure location. Switch off all water, electricity, and gas to the site. Don’t forget about preparing your tower cranes. 

When a storm approaches, these cranes cannot be quickly removed or dismantled. It generally requires extensive planning and time to disassemble a crane. As a result, know the wind rating on your cranes and develop appropriate proper protection like tie-down supports and wind veining. The crane must be left in a neutral position and stabilized. The brakes must be released so that the crane can rotate with the wind, or it will topple. 

Finally, all potentially moveable items next to the crane should be removed so that nothing is damaged if the crane falls. You must assess the crane’s structural integrity and notify the team so that everyone understands the risk and steps taken to prevent any accidents when the hurricane hits. Sadly, looting is a fairly common occurrence during a hurricane. Take a few extra safety measures to store any valuable items. You may also want to ensure you have security cameras functioning on site to deter looters. 

Create a First Response Team

Before you send your staff home, create a first response team to play a role in managing the site and keeping everyone else on the team informed throughout the duration of the storm. You’ll want skilled technicians like electricians, plumbers, and other subcontractors if an urgent repair is required to the site during the hurricane. 

The team should be familiar with the layout and structure of the building. Plus, they should be available when the storm strikes. This team can also assist in fortifying the exterior by placing sandbags, boarding windows, and pumping out the water if there is interior flooding.

Create a Communication Plan

Ensure you have a communication plan in place, so all of your team members remain informed throughout the storm to help keep everyone safe. If someone needs a quick rescue or even a place to stay, this communication plan can be vital. 

After the Storm

Only venture to the site if the local authorities and the team have given you the all-clear. Before employees are allowed back, the team should thoroughly assess the place for damage. There may be metal fragments, sharp debris, deep standing water, or live power lines that have been downed. Use extreme caution when entering the building. 

Assess the post-storm damage by good documentation. Take photos and store them. You will need the documentation when filing a claim with the insurer. Once you’re sure it’s safe, you can begin the slow process of cleaning up. 

The key to mitigating storm damage is to be proactive and be prepared. Work as a team, communicate and develop a culture of safety. While you may not be able to avoid damage caused by a hurricane, you can reduce the risk of property damage by preparing ahead of time.