6 Tips for Preparing Your Construction Site for Hurricane Season
Every year, construction companies begin to prepare for the hurricane season. The increasing challenge is that each year, hurricanes are getting stronger, more intense, and more destructive. Hurricane cleanup and debris can be major challenges not only for construction sites but for the whole state. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to prepare for hurricanes that include protecting staff, equipment, and sites from hurricane damage.
Primarily a concern for the more southeast states along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, preparing safety tips for your employees is incredibly important. In the last hundred years, the states most susceptible to hurricanes are Florida, Texas, Louisiana, and the Carolinas, with more than 50 hurricanes each with many being stronger than Category 3. However, states like Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi have also seen several hurricanes of varying strength.
Here are some things you can do to prepare your construction site for the hurricane season:
- Create a safety plan
- Secure a location to store equipment
- Take stock of what you have and what you need
- Communicate with employees and make a response team
- Keep open communication with your employees and their family members
- Help with cleaning up storm debris
1. Establish a Safety Plan
Hurricanes are stressful and can be chaotic. Although we get warnings when they are on the way, reacting to these warnings and being ready for a hurricane can take time if you don’t already have a plan in place. No matter what job site you're on, it will look different on a day-to-day basis. Whether you're a small contractor who's moving from house to house or working on a major project that has new buildings and structures every day, designing a hurricane response plan, also called inclement weather policies, at the beginning of a project can look very different than one partway through.
When establishing a safety plan for hurricane season, some things to consider are:
- Where should equipment be stored?
- Who will be responsible for what actions?
- How will hazardous materials, gas, and other liquids be stored safely?
- What is the communication process for employees and subcontractors?
- What materials or machinery will need to be relocated off-site or moved to lower levels in the event of a hurricane?
- Is there a need to tie down materials or protect them with a tarp?
- Has all the heavy equipment, especially things like cranes and ariel lifts, been lowered and altered to protect them from heavy winds?
Another part of a safety plan that is worth establishing early is the process of returning to work after a hurricane happens.
- Again, how will site supervisors communicate with employees and subcontractors?
- Do you have a contact to OK the site for work after a hurricane?
- What areas of your construction site need to be cleared as safe before returning to work?
- What checks should be taken on equipment before resuming operation?
- Were there any damages that need to be fixed before moving on to the next stage of the construction process?
- Is there any water damage that needs to be addressed?
When you start laying out a plan you realize how many steps there are in the hurricane response process. Answering those questions before you need them is a smart move to help ensure that nothing is missed in the middle of the process.
2. Secure a Location to Store Equipment
Equipment is incredibly heavy and may not be at risk of blowing away in the storm, but it can still be damaged by it. Whether it's the chance of flooding, broken windows and mirrors, or any damage that might be caused by debris flying into them because of heavy winds, securing construction equipment away from anything that could fall and damage them such as trees, poles, fences, and loose debris is important. The equipment should also be stored high enough to avoid flooding and far enough from a slope or edge to reduce the risk of landslides or falling.
This location may need to shift and move as your project progresses. If you don't have a location that is safe enough, it's a good idea to build one, especially in areas that are highly prone to hurricanes like the ones mentioned above. As for portable equipment like generators and handheld tools, they should be secured somewhere indoors.
3. Take Stock of What You Have - And What You Need
Water, gas, and electricity shortages go hand-in-hand with hurricane season. Generator rentals, water pump rentals, and stockpiling of gas and batteries are extremely common before, during, and after a storm hits.
You don’t want to overstock on supplies that you don’t need. However, water pumps for dug foundations, gas for machines you may need to operate right away after a storm, and other immediate emergency supplies such as ropes to fasten down loose materials may be a good idea to get ahead of time.
Have extra gas, water, or helpful materials on site? Maybe there's a local community or business that could use some help in securing their business or preparing for a storm. Shortages can be a big problem for people during a storm so consider what you could donate to help someone near you.
4. Communicate with Employees Ahead of Time
Nothing can cause confusion like a lack of communication. Contractors and employees should know what to expect before a hurricane hits. How they can expect to hear from supervisors, what the first course of action is, and what support they will have during a storm are the types of information that should be clearly conveyed to all employees.
If a hurricane is imminent, it's a good idea to assign one of your employees to the weather radio to listen for any updates. Another great tactic, if you have a team big enough, is to create a "Hurricane Response Team". Assigning some of your staff certain tasks in the case that a hurricane does take place will help keep everyone organized in the case of an emergency and if you're proactively planning for one in the coming days.
Not only does this reduce the risk of people making mistakes during a storm, but it can help instill a sense of confidence and calm within a company culture during a time that can be extremely stressful.
5. Keep Open Communication with Employees
Not only should companies be communicating with employees, but they should also be listening to them. Family members who need help during and after a storm, personal challenges that can occur, and stresses or worries about returning to work are all valid and common. One of the best ways for construction companies to support their employees during hurricane season is to listen to them and listen to their needs during this time. Flexibility and understanding can go a long way in a crisis. Hurricanes can be stressful, dangerous, and scary whether you’re in the construction industry or not.
6. Help with Hurricane Debris Clean Up and Restoration
Contracting companies are known to reach out to help with debris clean-up and damage control after a hurricane. This is one of the reasons why the construction industry is known to be community-focused in nature. With the help of the heavy equipment contractors have access to like backhoes, skid steers, track loaders, excavators, and more, there are tons of pieces of equipment that make debris clean-up much easier. It's also not uncommon for general contractors and those with construction experience to offer restoration services to residential homes, small businesses, and parks that have been damaged by severe weather. No matter how much you are able to help, anything you can offer after an extreme storm is remarkable.
With these six tips for preparing for the hurricane season, construction companies and their employees can be set up for success before, during, and after a hurricane.