Are you ready to weather this weekend’s storm?

Hurricane Preparedness: A Checklist for Your Construction Site

When severe weather hits, will your job site be ready? 

Buildings under construction are at high risk of catastrophic damage during a hurricane. Materials and debris can become projectiles, water can easily flood the building structure and expensive equipment may be lost or damaged. 

You need to be prepared. Don’t wait for the last minute to protect your project from an approaching hurricane. Developing an inclement weather policy for your construction sites will keep your team and your work safe in the eye of the storm. 

How to Prepare a Severe Weather Management Plan for your Job Site

Take the following steps and refer to these recommendations by the Canadian Red Cross to write a severe weather plan for your construction site.

1. Prepare Before Severe Weather Strikes

It’s important to have the right gear on hand to secure equipment and cover incomplete structures before a storm comes your way. Make sure each member of your team knows where they’re stored.

Hurricane Preparation Materials and Equipment:

  • Concrete Anchors 
  • Duct Tape
  • Garbage Bags
  • Generators
  • Ground Anchors
  • Fuel
  • Misc. Hardware and Fasteners
  • Netting
  • Plastic Sheeting
  • Plywood
  • Pumps
  • Rope
  • Sand Bags
  • Shoring and Bracing
  • Water
  • Wire

Consider keeping hard copies of contact lists, plans and other important documents in a safe place. These documents should include:

  • An emergency evacuation plan.
  • Emergency contact information for employees.
  • List of hurricane preparation materials, equipment and their sources.
  • A contact list of back-up personnel to call if recovery teams are unable to return to work.

2. Monitor the Weather Closely

Designate a team member to keep an eye on the weather once a Tropical Storm Watch is issued. 

  • Check sites like The Weather Network and Environment Canada for the latest severe weather alerts.
  • Invest in a weather radio powered by batteries, solar or a hand crank to receive weather information during power outages.

Environment Canada: Hurricane season runs from June to November each year.

3. Secure Structures and Equipment

Once Environment Canada issues a Hurricane Watch, it’s time to prepare your job site for the storm ahead. 

  • Use rope, sandbags, ground anchors and other items to weigh down materials that could easily fly away. 
  • Cover materials with plastic sheeting, netting or garbage bags to prevent water damage.
  • Stack loose materials together and secure them with rope or duct tape to keep them from dispersing.
  • Complete work on partially completed structures to minimize damage, if time allows.

4. Remove Materials and Equipment When Possible

If you’re able to remove loose materials or expensive equipment, do so immediately after a Hurricane Warning is announced. 

  • Have your construction dumpster picked up or cover the container with a tarp.
  • Remove or tie-down portable bathrooms.
  • Remove hazardous chemicals to prevent them from being released into the environment.
  • Remove materials, tools or equipment that can be damaged by rising water.
  • Move heavy equipment and machinery to a garage or other covered structure.
  • Tear down and store light-weight fence screens and job site signage.
  • Move any portable electronics, job site plans and other important documents from the construction trailer to a safe location offsite.
  • Turn off power to the site and make sure fuel is available for power generators.

Did you know? On average, 12 tropical storms, 6 of which become hurricanes, form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season.

5. Safeguard the Building Structure

Now that you’ve secured or removed materials and equipment, it’s time to defend the structure. Whether you’re working on a renovation or you’re constructing a new building, water can significantly damage the interior.

  • Board up door and window openings.
  • Tarp or board up any other large openings.
  • Place sandbags around the perimeter of the structure as reinforcement.  

6. Evacuate the Work Site

It’s important to have an evacuation plan in place for your construction site. To determine when you need to leave, you should be familiar with the warning terms used for hurricanes.

  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm watches mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is possible in the specified area.
  • Hurricane/Tropical Storm warnings mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is expected to reach the area, typically within 24 hours.

Stay tuned to weather alerts via radio, TV or social media and evacuate as soon as local authorities give the word. Before storm season, learn your community’s emergency plans and the location of nearby shelters so your employees have a safe place to go if they can’t make it home. 

Returning to Your Construction Site After the Storm

7. Carefully Assess Damage 

Once you get the announcement that it’s safe to return to the area, it’s time to assess the damage and start cleaning up. 

  • Be careful when walking in standing water, which may contain sharp or jagged objects.
  • Use caution when entering the building because structural elements may be weakened.
  • Rent a dumpster to safely dispose of materials that were damaged by the storm.

8. Plan to Remove Water

During a hurricane, water will inevitably flood your work site. Removing it is important for the safety of your property and neighbouring structures. Standing water can soften the ground, compromising structural stability.

  • Place pumps in excavations or basements before the storm hits.
  • Have dehumidifiers and fans available to dry out the space.
  • Discharge water to the stormwater system.
  • Have contact information on-hand for a tanker truck to haul away excess water.

Finally, the most important step is to keep your team informed about hurricane precautions. 

    • Discuss your hurricane action plan so your team knows exactly what to do when a storm hits. Ask your crew to read and sign off on the plan.
    • Establish who will take control in the event of a hurricane. This person will put the plan in motion and assign emergency responsibility roles. 
    • Designate two teams – one for hurricane response and the other for hurricane recovery. Whether this is necessary depends on the size of your crew and worksite.

Hurricane preparedness is essential for a safe construction site. We hope this list keeps you and your team out of harm’s way the next time severe weather hits.