Builders Responsible for Not Getting Caught in Storms
While the U.S. has been fortunate during the current hurricane season in so far avoiding any direct hits by a major storm, builders should always have a plan ready to put into action at the approach of severe weather, according to Quality Matters, the e-newsletter of the NAHB Research Center's National Housing Quality (NHQ) program.
During severe weather, the Research Center points out, builders are responsible for securing their job sites for the protection of their employees, the public, property and themselves.
In high winds, materials such as plywood, shingles and scraps of 2 x 4s can become missiles capable of impaling thick oak trees, brick walls or anything in their way. “Construction debris can cause severe damage to property and cost lives,” the Research Center says. “Any failure to take the necessary measures could result in lawsuits, fines or other actions permitted by state laws or local ordinances.”
A quality business plan should not only cover different kinds of economic events, but should also include details for natural disaster preparation. For practical guidelines, builders can refer to the Builder Hurricane Preparation Plan provided by the NAHB Research Center’s ToolBase site. Other sources of pertinent information include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, FEMA and the American Red Cross.
Among the pointers offered by the Research Center in preparing for a natural disaster:
- Review your insurance coverage and be aware if you are covered for contents, replacement value and loss of business.
- Keep important telephone numbers with you, and develop a “telephone tree” with key members of your company. Also develop a contingency plan to operate from another site. “Don’t depend just on your cell phone; establish a contact point out of the area so your employees and subs can keep in touch. Be sure your customers and suppliers know where to reach you, and secure adequate cash to operate for several days.”
- As a general rule, quality-focused builders and trades should keep all job sites clean, arrange for timely pickup of trash dumpsters, only keep materials on the job site that will actually be installed during any given week and keep construction equipment secure, or move it from the site. “Once you become aware of any impending hurricane, or a hurricane watch is issued, arrange to have dumpsters removed, and postpone any planned supply deliveries.”
- When a storm is on the way, remove all scaffolding, and remove, or safely secure, all building materials and equipment. Alert trades of their responsibilities to secure or to remove their materials and equipment. Stop job processes that will likely become damaged by the hurricane, such as window installation, housewrap or landscaping. “On the other hand, complete those construction tasks that will likely prevent damage, such as concrete work, closing in a house or filling in foundation excavations.”
- Office computers and other indispensable equipment should be kept in a safe location, with surge protection and, if it’s needed, a power supply that can’t be interrupted. “To avoid delays due to closed or inaccessible office supply stores, have extra supplies of ink cartridges, paper and computer disks. Keep important office supplies stored in a secure location, possibly offsite if needed. When a hurricane warning is issued, back up all important computer files and keep the back-up tapes or disks in a secure location.
- Builders should finalize their storm preparations with a quick final inspection of their job sites. “Take pictures of valuable property for insurance purposes and turn off water, electricity and gas when possible. Avoid waiting until the last minute, because you may need time to evacuate.”
- Once the hurricane has passed, builders should return to inspect their job sites only when it is safe to do so. Efforts to make immediate repairs may be impeded by fallen trees, damaged utility poles and lines and flooding, and some areas may have been hit worse than others. Employees need to be cautioned to keep a safe distance from fallen power lines and electric utility restoration work crews, and they need to be careful around any open trenches or excavations where the job site has been flooded or saturated with water.
“Remember, there is no way for buildings to completely avoid damage from a severe hurricane,” the Research Center says, “but a preparedness plan can help reduce losses. Following a hurricane, or even at the next forecasted storm, review your construction and design practices for improvements to assist with future preparation.”