Hurricane Season: Getting Ahead of the Storm

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Hurricane season officially began June 1, but it’s never too late to start job-site preparations.

As a named storm approaches and the countdown to landfall begins, you can take definitive actions to protect your job-site and crew. But what about during the weeks and months before those tropical cyclones start forming? For this “pre-preparation,” Builders Mutual Risk Management Expert Sean Purcell and Claims Litigation Specialist Jeff Lenhart have compiled some fundamental information to guide your thoughts and behaviors for taking action.

Communication is Key

It may seem obvious to include crisis communication when onboarding new employees, but have you thought of ongoing refresher training for everyone? That’s also a must. It’s imperative to delineate storm protocol, including pre-storm prep, evacuation plans and cleanup operations. Also consider mandating (and confirming) that emergency supplies are on each job-site and in every truck.

Identifying key go-to people ahead of time can also keep emergency communication clear and efficient. Now is the time to decide which of your leaders your employees should turn to for information about schedules and storm-response actions. You may also want to consider implementing an automated system that your team can call for the latest updates. And in the era of phone reliance, what will happen if cell phone service goes down? For this real potential, some “old-school” processes should be part of the discussion.

To start, everyone needs to be where they are supposed to be, so no one will end up feared missing without cause. And, should service go out, make sure to have a definitive plan for where to meet or how to take a headcount.

Be Weather-Aware

Weather apps will keep the general contractor (GC) in tune with any storms — whether hurricanes or summer thunderstorms — that may be on the horizon. But from the GC down the line, every employee should set weather alerts on their phones. And despite the cyber-knowledge we all have access to, it’s important to simply be aware of the surroundings — including the weather that is actually happening, not just predicted. For example, if the sky is green and the wind is picking up, it’s time to get off the roof.

Because your employees probably originate from various regions, they may have differing perceptions of and experience with storms, so be sure everyone is on the same page for your specific region. Ensure that employees at each job-site are aware of safe places to go, including crawl spaces, low-lying areas, etc., should, for example, a storm with high winds comes up suddenly.

Storms and hurricanes are inevitable parts of the summer and fall. That means weather should already be scheduled into your jobs. This way, your crew won’t try to “beat the weather” or work beyond a time of safety to stay on schedule. Plan the extra time in advance.

Well before the hurricane season arrives, have your storm supplies on hand, including tie-down straps, hurricane clips, etc., to secure materials and protect property. It’s not always possible to move materials, so be sure to keep a detailed inventory in case of loss.

You can also use this pre-season to consider power options. If you have the space, keeping generators is a good idea, especially for storm season. But be aware that business capabilities may go down altogether for several days, so job-site power may be irrelevant.

As hurricane season approaches, pay close attention to your ordering process, and don’t order more materials than you need for your jobs. You may even want to consider a secondary location to store materials should the job be stalled due to storms — and especially any resulting flooding. If another facility on high ground is an option, buying extra materials could be wise, because post-storm demand often limits the availability of construction materials.

Stay Back-Office Savvy

Be sure to prepare yourself beyond the job-site. Hurricanes have the potential to destroy your business office — including project and personnel files. This paperwork is not only critical to your day-to-day operations, but is also crucial for post-storm claims.

Now is the perfect time to take action on administrative preparation. You can duplicate essential paperwork and keep it offsite or move the files to a safe location. A simple way to get started is to move paperwork for long-term or completed projects to a permanent storage option. If your files are already electronic, be sure to create backups to the cloud or store them on external drives that you can keep safe.

These steps will give you an immediate sense of accomplishment and motivate you to continue the hurricane preparation process.

Think, too, about “what’s next” should storm destruction directly impact your business office and/or facility. Where you will resume operations? It’s a great idea to scout vacant locations before hurricane season begins, so you’ll be ahead of the rush.

Finally, talk with your agent about investing in business interruption insurance. This coverage will help provide funds for extra recovery expenses, including relocation costs.

Interested in a post-hurricane recovery guide? Check out this insightful article from the experts at Builders Mutual.

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