Preparing Commercial Buildings for Natural Disasters: Essential Steps

On Aug. 30, President Donald Trump proclaimed September to be National Preparedness Month. In his statement, he brought attention to the destruction that natural disasters have caused over the years, and the ways Americans can anticipate and plan for dangerous situations.

But it’s not just individuals, families and governments that must be mindful of the dangers over the horizon. Companies are just as affected by natural disasters as any other entity, and must take the proper precautions to mute the impact of major storms and other damaging events. Installing weather-resistant building features and keeping current equipment and systems well-maintained may help reduce storm-related damage.

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September 2017 came with a trail of hurricanes

Hurricane Harvey hit the U.S. Aug. 25 full of force. Extensive flooding, torrential rainfall and powerful winds caused destruction throughout Southeast Texas and Louisiana. It was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the country since Hurricane Charley struck Florida in 2004, according to the Washington Post.

Even as people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana continue in relief efforts, other parts of the Southern U.S. are keeping close eyes on three more hurricanes nearing the coast. Floridians evacuated their homes to avoid the destructive path of Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose increased to a category 4 hurricane and Hurricane Katia behind it was declared a category 2, according to the Washington Post. The trio has the potential to affect land in the U.S. and Central American simultaneously.

Though not unheard of, three concurrent hurricanes in the Atlantic is unlikely, especially coming on the heels of as destructive a storm as Harvey. While the impact on human lives is great, these natural disasters has also left their marks on the U.S. supply chain, Material Handling & Logistics reported.

Harvey’s impact reaches across the US

Hurricane Harvey primarily caused destruction in Texas and Louisiana, but just because the flooding, rain and winds were primarily centered in this area doesn’t mean the storm’s impact won’t be felt throughout the rest of the U.S.

“Let’s not kid ourselves—this is going to be a big supply chain disruption,” Bindiya Vakil, CEO and founder of Resilinc, a supply chain risk and resiliency solutions provider, told MHL. “Even if a supplier’s factory is not flooded, the infrastructure (power, water, transportation, etc.) needed to operate is not going to be there for weeks.”

Vakil noted that the Houston region is responsible for close to $600 billion in economic activity. Further, manufacturing plants across the country may rely on certain items produced in this area for their own products. In these cases, even plants out of Harvey’s reach will still feel its effects.

Disaster planning can help reduce impact of future events

Four consecutive hurricanes headed toward the Southern U.S. isn’t a phenomenon that happens all that often. However, companies that prepare for even the most unlikely natural disasters may find efforts to address post-storm damage much more manageable. One of the most harmful and costly mistakes a company can make is a failure to invest in sufficient preparation to their facilities.

A building’s exterior is undoubtedly the first feature a storm will impact. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure the building envelope, roof, doors, windows and vents are all prepared to handle the impact of winds, rain, hail, flooding and other weather. If doors and windows aren’t reinforced with storm shutters or another strong, sturdy form of protection, facility managers will want to invest in this.

Flooding has been the dominating force of destruction in Texas, and rising waters can cost a warehouse greatly. Not only is inventory at risk of ruin, but equipment on the ground level is in harm’s way. Outfitting a building to prevent water infiltration, with particular focus on valves, vents, doors and windows, is important to keeping the warehouse interior secure and dry.

Building systems like the heating, ventilation and air conditioning, warehouse fans and communications systems should all be evaluated on a regular basis to determine their risk of failure under weather-related stress. Regular inspections and maintenance will help ensure these are as strong as can be. On the other hand, an HVAC system or fan that’s neglected and then faced with high winds or heavy rains could be more at risk of damage or total failure.

Whether recovering from natural disaster or preparing for one, companies that are working to improve their facilities should partner with an expert to ensure all new building features and pieces of equipment are installed correctly and inspected by an experienced professional. The experts at Miner can travel to facilities across the U.S. to assist in improvement efforts – reach out to learn more.