A ToolBase TechNote
With the advent of the Internet, it is easy to find a host of written material concerning preparations for a hurricane, such as boarding up windows, safe shelter, evacuation routes, etc. In addition, there is plenty of literature concerning how to build homes that can better endure storms. However, the specific purpose of this TechNote is to help the builder prepare job sites and their businesses for an impending hurricane. In addition, this TechNote will supply useful links on hurricane preparation, from planning, building, and strengthening homes in storm prone regions, to studies concerning resistance of housing to natural disasters.
In the strictest of terms, it is nearly impossible to build a home to withstand the most severe storm. Keep this in mind when deciding to ride out the storm or leave town. You can however, plan to secure your job sites to better withstand natural disasters.
A Builder's Responsibility
During severe weather, you are responsible for securing your job sites for the protection of your employees, the public, property, as well as yourself. Materials such as plywood, shingles, and scraps of 2 x 4s become missiles capable of impaling thick oak trees, brick walls or anything in its way. Construction debris can cause severe damage to property and cost lives. Any failure to take the necessary measures may result in lawsuits, fines, loss of license, or other actions permitted by state laws or local ordinances.
Create a Natural Disaster Plan
A good business plan usually covers different kinds of events, such as recessions and high demand, but an excellent business plan should also include details for natural disaster preparation. Use a Builder Hurricane Preparation Plan (see sample above) to assist with your hurricane preparation, and assure your job sites are protected as much as possible. Review your insurance coverage; be aware if you have contents coverage, replacement value, and loss of business coverage. Keep important telephone numbers with you. Develop a "telephone tree" with important members of your company and also develop a contingency plan to operate out of another site, if needed. Establish a contact point out of the area, so your employees and subs can keep in touch. Don't depend just on your cell phone; use the phone of a friend, relative or other builder friend outside your area for contact. Make sure your customers and suppliers know where to reach you. Secure adequate cash to operate for several days.
Now that a Hurricane is Approaching
As a general rule, keep all jobsites clean, arrange for timely pick up of trash dumpsters, only keep materials on the job site you actually will install at any given week, and keep construction equipment secure, or remove them from the job 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 hurricane warning is issued, remove all dumpsters and scaffolding, and remove, or safely secure, all building materials, and equipment. Alert subs of their responsibilities to secure or remove their materials and equipment. Stop job processes that will likely become damaged by the hurricane, such as window installations, 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. Finally, follow through with a quick inspection of your job sites. Do not wait until the last minute to inspect your job sites, as you may need that time to evacuate.
Computers are now indispensable equipment for many builders, so be sure to have a disaster plan for your computer equipment. Keep your computers in a safe location, with surge-protection, and if you deem important, an uninterruptible power supply. 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.
After the Hurricane
Once the hurricane is over, return to job sites for damage inspection only when it is safe to do so. Keep in mind that damages from the
hurricane such as fallen trees, damaged utility poles and lines, and flooding may impede efforts for immediate repairs, and some areas may have been hit worse than others. Make sure that your employees keep a safe distance from fallen power lines and electric utility restoration work crews. If the job site has been flooded or saturated with water, be careful in and around any open trenches or excavations.
Following a hurricane, review your construction and design practices for improvements to assist with future hurricane preparation. Review insurance policies to assure adequate coverage for the next natural disaster. Remember if your area experiences a Category 5 hurricane, there is no way for buildings to avoid damage. The following links will help you find information about hurricane design as well as hurricane and natural disaster preparation.
FEMA - Hurricane Emergency Information
Hurricane and Coastal Construction TechNote
Hurricane Resources from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Natural Disaster Preparations for Homeowners
Hurricane Awareness Resources from the American Red Cross
A Homeowner's Guide to Hurricane Retrofit
Building and Fire Research Laboratory
http://www.bfrl.nist.gov/ (search for hurricane)
NAHB Research Center Books
NAHB Research Center Reports
Assessment of Damage to Homes Caused by Hurricane Opal (PDF)
In 1995 Hurricane Opal struck the Gulf of Florida in a fairly populated area. In an effort to improve the quality of housing, the building industry recognized the need to evaluate actual performance of residential construction during hurricanes. This report presents the study and its findings and offers recommnedations for improving building practices where appropriate.
The Devil is in the Details
You may not be aware of errors embedded into the normal construction practices used by your trades. Ensuring that these practices are correct may be a significant opportunity to improve the strength, durability and performance of your homes.
Laboratory Test Report: PlyloxTM Clips for Installation and Fastening of Wood Structural Panel Window and Door Opening Protection in Hurricane Regions
Cyclic Testing of PlyloxTM Clips for Installation and Fastening of Wood Structural Panel Window and Door Opening Protection in Hurricane Regions
Product testing reports written for PlyloxTM.