Preparing for Mother Nature’s Dark Side

Most of us prefer to believe that a natural disaster will always target some other building. Statistically that’s true, leading many businesses to be nonchalant about being adequately prepared. SSOE has found in helping clients recover from disasters that taking precautions to avoid damage is neither hugely expensive nor time consuming. It’s more a matter of doing it. When measured against the brutal cost of repair, lost productivity, and rebuilding, it’s wise to have a plan.

This article shares some specific suggestions that can protect your people and your assets in case of a flood.

Develop a disaster plan that covers both what to do at the time a disaster strikes and recovery procedures. Update it regularly and after any alterations to the structure. Finally, conduct periodic training and tests.

The plan should include who will respond to the disaster and how; a protocol for notifying employees whether to report for work; and options that will allow employees to work remotely until repairs are complete. If your staff has a team of critical personnel, develop a plan for getting them to the facility even if the roads impassable.

If flooding is a potential, identify the 100-year and 500-year flood levels in your facility so your company would know what is at risk in a given situation. Often the National Weather Service will give notice of the potential flood level by feet or categorize it as a 100- or 500-year flood. Flood waters recently crippled an industrial complex and major operations center that was safe at the 100-year plain, so it’s wise to plan for the 500-year flood plain.

Controls for power sources and utilities need to be accessible and protected. Having a back-up sump pump or generator is more effective if its controls aren’t under water.

In new construction, locate electrical systems well above the flood plain. If your existing building has utilities in risky areas and moving them is not an option, consider one of many systems designed to minimize flooding locally. One system, “door dams,” works like a child’s protective gate by sealing off a specific area and holding back water. Another product is a large, collapsible tube-like dam that can be positioned around an entire structure to prevent or reduce flooding.

Meet and contract with service companies and contractors you can rely on during and after a flood to clean, replace, repair and test flooded equipment.

Be sure the building’s sewer and storm water systems are separated to minimize water intrusion.

Identify air intakes or grates and have a plan to seal them prior to a flood.

Identify those companies that specialize in clean up of facilities after a flood. Having a prearranged agreement can give your organization priority over others that may be seeking the same emergency services.

Outdoor electrical equipment should be either protected by a dam, raised to above the flood level, or sealed to prevent water intrusion. In some cases, outdoor electrical equipment can withstand some water, but be sure the associated controls are also sealed.

Be sure everyone understands that water conducts electricity. Flooded electrical equipment can be energized and water at great distances can also be energized. Have a plan in place to completely de-energize the electric supply to a facility during a flood.