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Preparing Commercial and Industrial Buildings for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season is now underway until November 30, and for our customers along in southern and eastern US we wanted to provide some valuable information. Although the last three years have been relatively quiet in terms of major storms, forecasters are predicting 2016 to be a “near normal” season. That means there could be anywhere from 10 to 16 named storms and at least four major hurricanes.

While most commercial and industrial facilities along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have been built to withstand the effects of hurricane-force winds, building managers can take a number of additional steps to mitigate the damage and safety hazards that can occur during major storms. Your actions can help protect your facility, and help the Utilities when and if they need to restore service in your area.

Understand Your Risks
The four key trademarks of a hurricane are high wind speeds, storm surges, torrential rains, and tornadoes – any one of them can put your business at risk during a storm. The FEMA Flood Map Service Center provides a range of information to help you determine how susceptible your business is to flooding and storm surge damage. An inspection by a licensed professional can help you assess the threat to your facility from high winds and whether a retrofit is needed to reduce vulnerabilities.

Know Your Disaster Response
Although most major commercial and industrial organizations have well-established disaster response plans in place, conducting an audit of your emergency strategy is never a bad idea. Before a storm hits, be sure to:

  • Review the company’s property insurance policy to ensure the business is adequately covered against major storm damage. Back this up with photographs or videos of the business premises, taken from all angles. This will help substantiate insurance claims, if necessary, at a later date.
  • Remind staff of all hurricane-related policies and procedures, and inform essential employees of their specific roles and responsibilities in the event of an emergency.
  • Make sure all emergency supplies are adequately stocked. This could include generators, sandbags, hand tools, and other essential items your business might need during a prolonged power outage and flooding.
  • Revisit plans for protecting computer files to make certain critical data is secured through a backup system.

As a Storm Approaches
As soon as a warning is issued for a hurricane or tropical storm, property managers should check the facility’s interior and exterior surroundings and take appropriate safety measures.

  • Bring in exterior displays and remove any outdoor signs or other items that could become airborne in high winds. Board up glass doors and windows or tape an “X” over them to prevent shattering.
  • Disconnect all electrical devices except for refrigerators. Experts also recommend turning off electricity (except for those circuits running refrigeration) at the power supply box.
  • Clear all desk or work surfaces of small items, and take down all loosely secured items hung on the walls.
  • Move equipment and furniture away from windows. For maximum security, relocate critical files and equipment to the innermost rooms of the office building.
  • Make sure key employees know the processes and procedures that will need to take place before allowing people back in the building once the storm has passed.
  • Shut down non-critical building systems when all employees are evacuated.

After a Storm Passes
Personnel should wait to return to the building until authorities indicate it is safe to do so. A designated emergency response team should then conduct an assessment of the property before allowing people back onto the premises. These individuals can help identify any structural damages or hazards that may need to be addressed before the building can be occupied.

Additional resources on emergency preparedness and response are available through the following links: