Hurricane Preparedness Resources
Most buildings and facilities along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts have been designed to resist the effects of high wind damage sustained during hurricanes and coastal storm surges. Building codes require that glazing and garage doors are impact-resistant or are provided with impact-resistant coverings in wind-borne debris areas and that the roof structures are continuously tied into the foundation to limit uplift. These provisions prevent the most vulnerable portions of the building from being compromised by strong winds and water intrusion, which can significantly impact the ability of the building to be utilized after a storm.
There are a number of additional steps building owners can take to further limit the damage that buildings are susceptible to during a hurricane. As soon as tropical storm or hurricane warnings are issued, property owners should begin inspecting areas on the exterior of the building and determining which objects should be secured or moved indoors to prevent them from becoming wind-borne debris (such as trash cans, recycling containers and exterior furniture). Property owners also should advise tenants to secure interior spaces in the event that the building envelope should be compromised. Computers, telecom equipment and other electronics should be turned off and sensitive documents should be filed, relocated and stored in rooms or spaces away from windows and exterior offices where they can be protected with plastic or other coverings.
During the preparation phase, it is important that the emergency team remains aware of the storm’s projected path and whether any emergency evacuations have been ordered. If a state or local emergency evacuation order is issued, the emergency team should make sure that all occupants secure their personal belongings and vacate the premise immediately if it is safe to do so. Once the team has verified that all occupants have left the premises, the next steps should include shutting down non-critical building systems, securing elevators at floors above any anticipated flood levels and confirming with emergency vendors any intended plans to be implemented during and after the storm to maintain operations.
Preparations should also include establishing a method of communicating with tenants about the processes and procedures that will need to take place prior to allowing people back into the building. The emergency team will need to conduct a damage assessment of the building or facility by identifying any structural issues or hazardous conditions that may exist and need to be fixed prior to reentering the building. This may require the assistance of the local fire or building departments if there is significant damage to the building that will require permits. Additional building security personnel and temporary on-site or off-site work facilities may be needed if the recovery process will last for an extended period of time.