Assessing the jobsite after a hurricane

Hurricane Ian has brought dangerous winds and life-threatening flooding to millions of Florida residents. From 18-foot-high storm surges to record winds and widespread power outages, the Category 4 hurricane threatened both lives and property when it made landfall Wednesday.

While residents find ways to take shelter and prepare for the worst in a storm like Ian, construction sites in Ian’s path — already full of potential safety hazards — had to batten down the hatches in preparation for not only storm damage, but its lasting impact. Now that the worst of the storm has passed through Florida, returning to the jobsite to assess damage and find what progress, if any, was lost is the next step for contractors with active jobs in the state.

“You have to be prepared to go back to a terrible-looking jobsite,” Mike Langer, safety director for the Colombia, Maryland-based International Union of Elevator Constructors, told Construction Dive. 

But while picking up the pieces, contractors must also do a full round of inspections, ensuring that safety prevention measures like fall prevention guardrails are still secure. The jobsite may remain safe, but storm damage can weaken safety precautions that an inspection can uncover, Langer said.

Planning before the storm hits can also help with the cleanup and return to work.

“Preparation for post-hurricane damage is critical,” said Eric Anderson, CEO of Enviro Clean Restore of Rhode Island. “What is your company’s disaster response plan? Do you have one? How will you generate power? Are there agreements in place for response?”

Langer said there’s no set timeline, but knowing to expect the worst when the storm clears can help get work back to normal more quickly.

“In a major hurricane, it’s best to take a conservative approach and assume both wind and flooding/surge impacts,” Tom Nappo, vice president of property and marine risk control at Chicago-based insurance firm CNA told Construction Dive. “A comprehensive incident response plan and team is critical in responding to these types of events; those components need to be part of the project’s DNA from day one.”

Nappo added that incident response and severe weather plans need to be a part of the process, because they can happen at any time.

Langer said when it comes to those plans, learning from experience is the best way to prepare for climate threats in the future

“We can best learn from our past experiences, like Hurricane Irma,” he said.

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