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Hurricane Preparedness for Businesses

If your business is in the projected path of a hurricane, you need to act quickly to protect your employees and your property. There are several key steps you can take now that will go a long way towards keeping your employees safe while minimizing damage to your business.

Use the following checklist to help you to prepare your business for a hurricane:

  • Pay close attention to forecasts in order to know when to take action.
  • Confirm that your employee contact lists are up to date.
  • Secure all doors and board up windows to protect against flying debris.
  • Clean out floor drains and catch basins and check sump pumps.
  • Anchor and fill above-ground tanks with water or product to keep them in place during the storm.
  • Fill the fuel tanks on your emergency generator and fire pumps. Fill your vehicles’ fuel tanks, as well.
  • Check to see that your fire protection equipment is working.
  • Make sure your important records are protected — or duplicate them and move them offsite to a safe area.
  • Shut off process piping carrying gas or flammable liquids in case a pipe breaks in the storm.
  • Shut down production processes safely and turn off the electricity for non-critical equipment.
  • Evacuate your employees.

Do not forget to tie down sheds, small outbuildings or similar structures that may not be designed for high winds. Move any items inside that could blow away in a powerful windstorm. Items including yard storage, benches, chairs, plant urns, signs or potted flowers could become flying debris and cause substantial damage during a storm.

Plan for Hurricane Recovery

Once the winds have died down, use your employee call list to make sure everyone is safe and secure. Then assemble a qualified recovery team to begin getting your business back on its feet.

The recovery team should include people qualified to repair electrical, mechanical, plumbing and fire protection systems, as well as general maintenance people for cleanup. Assign a recovery team leader who should make sure the team has cleanup supplies and necessary replacement parts and equipment. The team leader should also assess the damage and develop an action plan that addresses priorities including:

  • Safety hazards, including downed power lines, exposed electrical wires and leaking gas.
  • Structural damage to buildings or damaged foundations.
  • Impaired fire protection equipment and alarms.
  • Critical production equipment and valuable stock required to restore production.
  • Completion of temporary repairs so people can access the building safely.

The recovery team should also follow these steps:

  • Require strict precautionary measures for any cutting or welding, including a formal hot work permit system such as found in NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work.
  • Eliminate any unnecessary ignition sources and enforce “No Smoking” regulations.
  • Establish a procedure for removing storm- or reconstruction-related debris.
  • Temporarily repair any holes or damage to building walls.
  • Assess and prioritize damaged contents to see what can be salvaged.
  • Photograph and/or videotape any damage.

In addition, the recovery team will need to assess and repair fire protection equipment, security alarms and sprinkler systems and notify the fire department if any of those systems will be out of service. They should be cautious during electrical restoration and make sure that an electrician has checked, thoroughly dried and tested all systems and equipment before energizing electrical circuits. Any wet insulation should be stripped and replaced. All mechanical equipment and systems should be checked for leaks and damage, and cleaned and dried, as needed. Also, the water supply should be checked for possible contamination.

Be sure to maintain adequate security by performing a continual fire watch until normal operations can resume. Provide your employees with portable radios or cell phones and instruct them how to contact emergency response units.

Finally, keep your employees informed about any unsafe conditions and keep them updated on the progress of salvage operations.

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