For professional tradespeople, hurricane preparedness is not only important for safety but also a potential legal requirement. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, or OSHA, employers must develop and implement an emergency action plan for their organization.
If you run a professional contracting business, big or small, you are responsible for creating a plan to keep you and your crew safe in emergency situations, including hurricanes. Get the information you need to help you create your hurricane emergency action plan. Keep your crew safe before and after the storm with the proper tools and supplies.
Hurricane fast facts
Hurricanes are unpredictable. Understanding how they work will give you a better idea of how to plan if one comes your way. Here are some useful facts about hurricanes from the National Hurricane Center to help you know what to expect:
- Hurricanes are ranked in severity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale from Category 1 to Category 5 based on sustained wind speeds.
- A Category 1 hurricane has 75-95 mph wind speeds, which could cause damage to tree limbs, roofs and siding.
- Pro tip: Secure heavy or sensitive branches with durable twine or rope.
- A Category 3 or higher is considered a major hurricane. With sustained winds at 111-129 mph, a hurricane of this magnitude can remove roofs, topple trees and rip out power poles.
- If a hurricane reaches Category 5 status with wind speeds at 157 mph or higher, expect severe damage to buildings and infrastructure.
- The leading cause of fatalities during a hurricane is not wind, but water. Flooding and storm surge cause 75% of hurricane-related deaths in the United States.
It’s important to take action and be hurricane-ready prior to the beginning of hurricane season. Communication is key for hurricane readiness. If a hurricane is in the forecast, discuss your hurricane prep plan with your crew. Designate a central point of contact and be sure that you have all of your employee’s contact info. Next, build an emergency prep kit in a durable chest or box and stock it with the essentials. It’s smart to exercise caution and keep an emergency prep kit at your place of business.
In addition to preparing your kit and checking NOAA’s resources listed above, you should also inspect your property for general repair and maintenance needs. This includes your property on the jobsite.
Tips to secure your jobsite for a hurricane
- Secure materials stored outside. Remove worksite materials and constructions equipment from building exteriors. Lightweight items, such as plywood, can quickly become a projectile in high winds.
- Maintain trees and gutters. Cut low-hanging tree limbs around the property and reinforce loose gutters or siding.
- Move heavy machinery. Move heavy machinery like forklifts, bulldozers and excavators away from buildings.
- Board up entry ways. Seal off doors and windows where possible. If they have not been installed yet, board windows up and screw doors shut.
- Check sump pumps. If a sump pump has been installed in a building, double-check to make sure that it is working to prevent flooding.
Additionally, check to make sure your company’s insurance information is up to date. It’s easier to fix something when it’s a small problem than to fix it after a hurricane turns it into a bigger problem.
After emergency personnel deem that a hurricane has passed and it’s safe to go outside, communicate with your crew and let them know when to return to work. Next, begin the process of assessing and clearing property damage.
- Wear protective gear. Make sure your crew is wearing sturdy shoes, gloves and protective apparel to prevent bodily injury while cleaning up debris.
- Stay away from power lines. Notify your power company of any downed power lines, and never attempt to remove a fallen tree limb from a power line yourself.
- Hang safety signs. Mark off any hazardous areas with the appropriate signage.
- Run generators outside. Always run gas-powered generators outside or in a well-ventilated area. Running a gas-powered generator indoors, including at your business’s shop or warehouse, can cause fatal carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Steer clear from standing water. Standing water in a road may appear shallow
but can actually be very deep. Standing water can leave you stranded or swept away in your
vehicle, even if you’re in a lifted work truck.
Ultimately, remember that recovering from any emergency situation is a process that takes time to complete.