02 Jun 2020

10 Ways to Prepare Your Jobsite for a Thunderstorm or Hurricane

Harvey satellite image
 

Every year, thousands of construction teams around the world have to battle the effects of hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and floods.

The US alone sees an average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes per year – and these can be cripplingly destructive. It means serious damage to your equipment, tools, foundations and any structures you have underway. In the worst-case scenario, your staff could even be in danger.   
 
You can’t be certain when a severe storm will blow in and threaten your jobsite, but you can make sure you’re fully prepared for whatever the weather brings. In this article, we’ll explain how to best respond to these extremes of weather to limit the damage to your jobsite and get back on your feet fast after the moment of crisis. 
 

What Causes Thunderstorms and Hurricanes?

These form in slightly different ways depending on environmental conditions and location, but in a general sense, both phenomena are created when low and high pressure systems collide, and when hot air crashes into cold air, over water or land. You can learn more about the trigger factors in this blog post.
 

How Do You Handle a Hurricane?

Here are our top 10 tips to protect your jobsite against the worst effects.
 

1.     Follow the Weather Report

It sounds obvious, but it’s essential to keep an eye on emerging threats. Monitor the coverage of major storms brewing and think about whether you might be in the line of destruction. Being vigilant about safety and mentally ready to kick your plan into action makes all the difference.
 

2.     Keep Tabs on What You Have

Do you have an up-to-date, accurate inventory of everything on your jobsite? You need one. Without this, how can you hope to work out how you’ll keep it safe in a storm? How will you even calculate the risk, or tally up the damage after the fact? Regularly cross-reference your list of equipment and materials with what you can actually see on site. Track project progress and total financial investment to date. It’s important to have a paper trail for everything, not least so you can get insurance claims processed quickly and accurately. 

3.     Assess the Risk

Conduct a thorough audit of your jobsite. That means walking around the entire site looking for anything at risk of damage by floodwater, high winds, hail, and so on. What’s exposed to the elements? What’s at floor level? What would happen if hazardous materials or chemicals you have stored were spilled? What process trains are connected and how will it create a knock-on effect if the power supply, one piece of equipment, or even a cable is knocked out of action?
 
You may realize that there are small amendments you can make immediately to make your jobsite safer, such as moving power points, fragile equipment, and other electrical infrastructure higher off the ground.
 

4.     Establish a Flood Plan

Flooding and water damage amount to the most destructive, stressful, and time-consuming outcomes of severe storms. The first thing you’ll need to do in the aftermath is to get rid of excess water, so make a plan to handle this. Consider putting pumps in any basements, foundations, and open excavations to help in an emergency, and have a company on speed dial that can provide trucks and heavy-duty solutions if this is really bad.

 

5.     Chain it to the Ground!

Tornadoes and major storms can sweep away or knock over valuable equipment and materials. If equipment can be moved or stored out of harm's way, do so as quickly as possible. The simplest way to avoid this is to tie down anything that can be tied. Tower cranes are a priority because a falling crane can cause serious damage where it lands. Decide what you can anchor in advance, what you may need to secure in an emergency, and what’s small enough to be moved to safety fast.
 

6.     Sort Out Emergency Supplies

Certain basics will prove to be lifesavers in the moment of crisis. Ensure you have to hand: sandbags, first aid kids, battery-powered torches (and radios), essential medication and adequate supply of drinking water and non-perishable food.
 

7.     Figure Out Who Will Do What in a Crisis

Every person on your jobsite needs to be clear on their role in an emergency. Otherwise, you’ll have a lot of people running around like headless chickens, making things worse. 
 
Establish your emergency meeting points, who will assemble there, who will take responsibility for leading, organizing, and taking headcounts, and who will hang back to handle crisis tasks on the site. That includes rounding up loose tools on the jobsite, boarding the windows, setting up flood protection and barricades, making emergency calls, anchoring equipment, disconnecting the electricity, securing valuable equipment, locking storage areas, and emptying dumpsters.
 
You also need to be clear on who will step in to calculate the storm damage, handle the insurance procedures, call in temporary utility partners, and assess the site safety so that work can resume.
 

8.     Have an Emergency Contact Strategy 

There needs to be zero confusion during a crisis. You need to figure out exactly how you’ll alert everyone on the team to let them know your contingency plan is kick-starting. You need to have up-to-date contact information with multiple ways to reach them, for example through WhatsApp, phone, company email, and any corporate IM services you use. Having a central website, intranet or discussion board set up for warnings and updates is also a good idea. 
 
You also need to know exactly who you’ll call on the outside – and have those numbers handy. More on that in a moment.
 

9.     Create a Contingency Plan

This isn’t a quick task – it takes serious time and thought – but it’s vital. Building on the points above, draw up a clear, step-by-step storm preparedness plan with safety protocols, emergency contact details, and key tasks with order of priority and who they’ve been assigned to. Make sure everyone has a copy and that they can get to a version of this quickly and easily in the actual event of a storm.
 

10.  Work with a Reliable Temporary Utilities Partner

Every hour you’re out of action after a storm means delays and spiraling costs – but a really major storm could knock out your power supply for weeks, especially if power lines are destroyed. That means you need to know exactly what alternative sources of power are available to you and how you’ll access them fast.
 
Reach out to a reputable temporary utilities provider ahead of time and get them to come and do a site survey. They can then advise on the backup equipment you’d need, including power, comfort cooling/heating, dehumidification and other tools for drying out the site. That way, all you need to do after a storm is pick up the phone and they can deliver what you need straightaway. 
  

Final Thoughts: Keep Everyone in the Loop 

It’s no good coming up with a perfect plan if it stays safely tucked up in your brain and no one has a clue what they’re expected to do. Make sure you schedule meetings on a regular basis to talk through contingency plans for scenarios like storms and hurricanes, offer proper training to your workforce, and update everyone carefully when things change. 

That also goes for third parties you’ll rely on in a crisis: involve them early and often. Not only will this make it easier for them to swoop in and support you after a storm, they can also offer expert advice from cases like yours they’ve dealt with in the past.