10 Jun 2019

10 Steps for Thunderstorm or Hurricane Prep On a Jobsite

Hurricane formation

Hurricanes, tornadoes, severe storms, floods… every year, tens of thousands of construction sites are hit by dramatic and destructive weather events, often with very short warning. If you’re caught off guard, this can mean extensive damage to your jobsite, lost or destroyed equipment, partially constructed buildings swept away - or even worse, your team’s lives could be at risk. 

Thunderstorms and hurricanes are an inevitable occurrence when layers of hot and cold air, and of high and low pressure, come into contact over land or water. Exactly how these form depends on the surrounding environment and where in the world you are - you can read more about that here. 

The point is, you can’t avoid disasters like these, so how do you make sure they don’t cause serious damage? What steps can you take to protect your jobsite? And how do you tackle the aftermath efficiently and effectively, to get you back up and running as quickly as possible after the storm?

Here are 10 steps you must take now to prepare your jobsite against the worst.

1. Take an Inventory (and Update this Regularly)

Until you know exactly what you have, you can’t start planning how to protect it. Go through all the equipment and materials you keep onsite and create a comprehensive list. You’ll also need to track how far your project has come so far and how much money you’ve invested to date. Document everything. All of this will be vital when checking for damage and submitting insurance claims.

2. Run a Detailed Risk Assessment

Now, walk around your jobsite and take note of everything that could possibly be damaged by the elements, including by flooding. 

Be very specific and consider how different units and items are connected to each other. If one cable, powerpoint or piece of equipment is damaged, how will it affect others down the line? Are there any simple changes you could make now to mitigate risk, such as moving certain items or electrical wiring higher above ground? Are there any hazardous substances that need to be secured as a priority?

3. Figure Out What Should Be Tied Down

If a hurricane hits, the only way to protect some of your kit (and stop it damaging its surroundings) will be to chain it down. This is particularly true of tower cranes, essential barricades, etc. Think carefully about what can be removed quickly and what needs to be anchored to the ground.  

4. Assign Roles for an Emergency

It’s all very well having a plan, but it will only work if everyone knows what they’re meant to be doing! 

Work out who will stay back during a hurricane or storm to enact the plan and establish exactly what tasks each of them will be responsible for, right down to things like making emergency calls, boarding up windows, emptying dumpsters and collecting any loose tools scattered around the site. 

Also, decide who will assess damage after the storm and take responsibility for making the site safe enough for the rest of the workforce to return.

5. Bring in Emergency Supplies

Make sure you have basic emergency kit onsite, such as battery-powered radios and torches, sandbags, first aid kits, and supplies of food, water and important medication.

6. Figure Out How to Get Rid of Water

Dealing with extreme weather doesn’t end with the storm. You also need to know how you’ll deal with the aftermath. 

One of the biggest issues is clearing out water from the jobsite as quickly as possible, so that it doesn’t soften the ground and undermine supporting structures. Place pumps in basements and excavations in advance but bear in mind that heavy flooding means you may need to call in trucks to help remove this fast enough.

7. Liaise with a Rental Utilities Provider

A common effect of severe storms and hurricanes is a loss of power, whether due to downed and damaged power lines, water damage to electrical systems or a myriad of other problems. 

If this happens, you will probably need to bring in temporary power, cooling, and/or drying to get the jobsite up and running in the short term. It’s a good idea to consult with potential providers long in advance so that they can assess what you would need in this situation, advise you accordingly and potentially even ringfence what you need to ensure it’s available when you need it. 

8. Create an Emergency Contact Strategy

If disaster strikes, it’s really important that you can get in touch with everyone in your team and everyone you need to bring in for help without delay. That means collecting contact details for everyone working on site and for the relevant authorities - and checking periodically that these are still up to date.

Storms can knock out certain communication methods, so make sure you have multiple ways of contacting each person, whether that’s by phone, email, WhatsApp or anything else. It’s also a good idea to create a website with a discussion board or use your company’s intranet to post updates, warnings, and information on when people can return to work.

9. Create and Distribute Your Storm Preparedness Plan

You now have everything you need to draw up a point-by-point plan that will kick in as soon as you know a storm is approaching. 

This plan should be based on which tasks you need to prioritize in an emergency, outlining exactly what needs to be done, in what order, and by whom. Include protocols on safely exiting the building, emergency contact details and information on how you’ll get in touch with everyone once the storm is over. 

Once it’s ready, circulate it to everyone in your team and make it readily available onsite and online. It won’t be much use if you can’t find it when you need it!

10. Monitor the Weather

Finally, give yourself a head start by tracking reports on extreme weather events and monitoring the situation carefully. It’s far better to be safe than sorry, so the moment things begin to look dangerous, start putting your plan into effect.

Final Thoughts...

For your plan to work, everyone involved needs to be thoroughly briefed and kept in the loop. That means scheduling semi-regular meetings with the disaster response team you’ve assembled to discuss any new issues or concerns. It means training your workforce properly, so they know what to do in an emergency. It also means including any third parties you’ll rely on to get your jobsite up and running again in a crisis.

It’s highly likely that you’ll need to work with a rental utilities company to kickstart construction, so strike up the conversation long in advance. The more you can include them in your disaster preparation plans, the smoother their response will be when you need it most.