Construction sites face a multitude of potential challenges and crises throughout the year resulting from the weather. As we head into hurricane season, the potential for damage increases exponentially, but there are several ways to ensure a job site is protected as much as possible.
PREPARE FOR THE STORM
The moment a job site contract is awarded, the first priority should be planning for any potential crises, including hurricanes. Teams should work together to discuss the specifics of that particular job site. Every project is different, so it is crucial to consider the various factors unique to the job site in question. For example, a project inside of a theme park has a large open area around it filled with a variety of objects that have the potential to go airborne. On the other hand, a project in a downtown area has various floors that need to be taken into consideration to ensure each level is protected. All of these variables should be discussed at length to ensure a detailed plan covers each risk and determines the best solution to mitigate damages. It is also important to consider whether any contractors involved in the project are not local, and thus, may be unfamiliar with dealing with hurricanes. If this is the case, teams should place an emphasis on making sure these contractors understand what needs to be done before, during, and after a storm.
As teams work together to create a hurricane response plan, they should take into account the various timeframes that will be essential to keeping teams informed. This includes planning for 72-hours, 48-hours, 24-hours, and 12-hours before a storm hits. Breaking the plan down to these specific timeframes will ensure even the smallest factors are taken into consideration and communication is consistent throughout the days leading up to the storm.
The first step in being prepared for hurricane season is creating an all-encompassing standard plan. This plan can then be modified whenever a storm approaches and updated with the current job site conditions. The general plan should take into consideration the consistent challenges that a job site faces, such as whether or not it is in a flood zone or what the elevation is from sea level. Once a tropical storm has been identified and the storm is named, teams will have several days to take the master plan and update it with the latest construction site conditions. At that point, teams should call a mandatory hurricane meeting to gather with trade partners and superintendents and discuss how to prepare the site. Supervisors should walk through a project’s current state to consider what types of damage they should plan for. For example, if a project is in a downtown area surrounded by high-rise buildings, teams should take a look at the various floors that have been constructed in order to make sure they’re protected. Walk through the site and understand the magnitude of it. Depending on the project, it may take several days to get materials moved to safe areas.
Teams should ensure that materials that have the possibility of going airborne are secured or moved to safe locations. Otherwise, those materials have the potential to cause damage to various site buildings and allow water to collect inside the project, increasing damage exponentially. Roofs should also be assessed in advance to ensure that items are secured. Access panels should be tied or screwed down to keep them from going airborne. One important element that can be easily overlooked is preparing dumpsters for storm recovery. Teams should make sure all dumpsters are empty before the storm hits, as these will be critical for cleanup efforts.
Water damage is one of the largest factors to keep in mind during hurricane season. Be sure not to overlook smaller things such as gutters, drains, and pool levels. All of these elements could add to water damage if not assessed and prepared in advance. Pools should be drained to very low levels to attribute for the potential downpour a storm brings. Pool flooding could contribute to water damage in nearby buildings and lower areas of a job site. It is also essential to ensure that drains are clear of materials that could clog them such as mulch, leaves, or debris.
ENSURE A SAFE CLEANUP
Once a storm has passed, it is crucial to get a first response team on the job site as soon as possible to mitigate the damage, or the cost of the job site damage could increase significantly. During the planning process, teams should designate the key point person(s) to respond to the site after a storm passes. In order to speed up this process, teams should work with the client or property owner to get clearance from the National Guard as a first responder. This will ensure the designated team members will get early access to assess the damage and start putting temporary measures in place to prevent any further damage. Generators and pumps are essential to reducing water damage, while tarps or temporary roofing will help protect the interior spaces of the job site. It is also important to bring a supply of water in coolers because you never know how long a team will be in the area during the recovery process. Once a job site is deemed safe, teams can return to speed up the cleanup process and work to get construction back on track as quickly as possible.
Hurricane season can be a daunting time for the construction industry, but having a clear and detailed plan will ensure teams and their clients can work together to keep communication open, team members safe, and job site damage as minimal as possible.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Ham is a senior project superintendent for Hoar Construction’s Florida Division. He works with a variety of projects in Florida including mixed-use retail, hospitality, and major theme parks in Orlando, Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, August 2018
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