Making the Tough, and the Tough-Tough, Hurricane Planning Decisions
By RICHARD GALLAGHER, line of business director, property. for Zurich Services Corp.
Whether you are confident that your facilities are ready or whether you have a degree of uncertainty, each hurricane season should prompt you to update your hurricane emergency action plan. If you do not have a plan, it is never too late to get started.
There are three fundamental qualities of a sound hurricane plan: quick, simple and practiced.
"Quick" means that the plan must fit into a reasonable timeframe. If a facility needs five days to shutter windows, it is probably best to leave the shutters in place during hurricane season. A reasonable timeframe will begin no more than 48 hours before estimated hurricane landfall and needs to wrap up with sufficient time to allow for personnel evacuation.
"Simple" means a series of checklists to facilitate implementation. The checklists should be backed up with more detailed documentation as needed; however, keep in mind that as a hurricane approaches, no one will have time for the details.
"Practiced" means you have actually conducted a full-scale implementation test of your plan. You know how many people are needed, you know what tools and supplies are needed, and you know how long each task will take. In short, you know the plan will work because you have tried it.
HURRICANE PLANNING: DURING THE SEASON
Facilities located in hurricane-prone regions should continuously monitor all tropical cyclone activity during hurricane season. For the United States, check the National Hurricane Center Web site daily for hurricane forecasts and advisories. Also, consider signing up for the NHC's Tropical Cyclone Advisory Mailing Lists, with the understanding that this is an experimental e-mail alert system and should not be the sole source of maintaining your hurricane awareness.
The coastal areas affected by watches and warnings are constantly changing as a hurricane moves. Watches and warnings will provide an indication of the time available for action, but keep in mind that these times are only estimates. Hurricanes are unpredictable and can show up early.
By actively monitoring tropical cyclone activity, you do not have to wait for a hurricane warning to be issued to begin taking action. It is always best to be proactive and begin as early as possible.
At 48 hours before landfall, you will have a difficult time convincing yourself that you will be affected by the approaching hurricane. This is especially true if your facility is not located near the centerline of the "5-day track forecast cone" being displayed on the map at the National Hurricane Center web site.
If your plan calls for starting action 48 hours before landfall, the Zurich Easy-Tough approach to starting a hurricane emergency action plan could be helpful. It suggests taking easy actions before a hurricane warning is issued. Once the warning is issued, then carry out tough actions. The objective is to have all actions completed with sufficient time to safely evacuate personnel who do not intend to stay with the facility during the hurricane.
Easy actions are measures that will still make sense even if the hurricane turns and never affects your location. They may include:
-- Checking building roofs, making repairs to roof coverings and flashing as needed, removing loose equipment and debris from roofs, and verifying roof drains are clear of obstructions.
-- Filling fuel tanks serving emergency generators, fire pumps and other vital services.
-- Verifying dewatering pumps are in-service, on emergency power and working.
-- Verifying outside drains and catch basins are clean.
-- Removing debris from outdoor areas and loose, outdoor or inactive equipment.
-- Backing-up computer data.
-- Verifying that 96 hours of healthcare supplies are on hand.
-- Shipping out as much stock as possible and verifying that all remaining stock is skidded at least four inches above the floor.
-- Removing loose equipment and temporarily brace new construction on any unfinished projects.
This list is by no means complete. Based upon your specific needs, add to or modify this list of easy actions.
Tough actions are measures that you would only want to take once you are certain that a hurricane will be directly affecting your location. Once a hurricane watch is issued, the tough actions should begin, including:
-- Protecting or relocating vital business records.
-- Removing all loose outdoor storage or equipment and securing what cannot be moved.
-- Anchoring portable buildings or trailers to the ground.
-- Starting the installation of manual protection systems (e.g., shutters, plywood covers and flood gates).
-- Raising critical equipment off floors (e.g. PC towers) and moving critical it from below-grade areas.
-- Covering critical stock and equipment with waterproof tarpaulins.
-- Initiating an orderly shutdown of production equipment and systems that rely upon normal power.
-- Turning off fuel gas services and nonessential electrical systems.
-- Verifying all fire protection systems are in service (e.g., water supplies, fire pumps, sprinklers, fire alarms and special extinguishing systems).
Again, based upon your specific needs, add to or modify this list.
It is important to note that a few actions could be really tough, actions that take so long to implement that they need to be started during the easy-action period. We call these the tough-tough actions. Some examples of tough-tough actions include:
-- Setting up flood barriers at all first floor doors and entrances.
-- Closing up buildings under construction temporarily to avoid entry of wind-driven rain.
-- Installing manual shutters on multistory buildings.
If your hurricane plan will include any tough-tough actions, exceptional discipline will be needed to make the decision to implement the tough-tough actions. You might not be convinced that the approaching hurricane is going to affect you. Still, you know that if you wait the action will never be completed in time.
To implement a tough-tough action to implement, be sure to provide the needed guidance and authority to empower those who will be charged with making the decision. Otherwise, it will not get done.
IS THERE MORE?
Actually, there is more to consider. Hurricane planning is an essential practice to protect your hurricane-exposed properties. But buildings must also be designed for the local wind exposures and must be maintained in good repair.
For more thoughts on wind resistance, see the Zurich recommended practice for facilities in hurricane-prone regions, which provides guidance on improving a facility to HPR Wind standards.
This and other useful information are available at the Zurich Hurricane Information Center and the Zurich HelpPoint Windstorm Web site.
June 1, 2010
Copyright 2010© LRP Publications