It’s a Small Tropical Storm: Why You Still Need Facility Storm Readiness

Facilities management is in a continuous state of flux. The level of planned maintenance does not necessarily always reflect the level of maintenance performed. In addition, Facility Managers must consider the risks of adverse weather and accidents. The recent news surrounding tropical storm Barry emphasized the storm's role as a small tropical storm. This put Facilities Managers at ease, which would indicate storm surge and damage would not rise to the level of severe hurricanes. Unfortunately, the storm strengthened and blew ashore with winds just below hurricane status and dumped record-breaking rainfall. This event signifies why the assumption that a tropical or small storm isn't something to take note of or prepare for is a fallacy in facilities management. Facility Managers need to understand they will always need facility storm readiness.

What’s Wrong with Subpar Facility Storm Readiness?

Any storm can quickly worsen into a monster, and failure to plan sets your organization up for failure and significant disruptions. More importantly, changing weather patterns suggest tropical storms and hurricanes will continue to grow in severity, and while the National Hurricane Center predicts a below-average season for the 2019 season, next year could be worse. Storms may spiral out of control, and predictions may fall short of actual statistics. Look no further than the massive hurricanes of 2017, which brought widespread devastation to the Gulf.

How Does Facility Storm Readiness Minimize Risk?

As explained by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, all businesses must prepare for facility storm readiness, including the conditions that will activate an evacuation plan and reduce the loss of life. Depending on your area, local authorities may order evacuations, and failure to evacuate promptly may result in the assessment of fines and penalties against the business. Facility storm readiness focuses on preparing both the people and the facility to take the hit or get out of the way of a storm, regardless of what storm it is.

After the storm passes, facility storm readiness moves into the response and recovery stage. At this point, Facility Managers begin to focus on addressing the damage, correcting system settings, and avoiding disruptions. The reality is simple; most businesses will see some disruption following a significant or even minor storm. However, a thorough facility storm readiness program can reduce your losses.

How to Prepare for the Next Storm

Believe it or not, the steps for preparing for storms and natural disasters are similar for businesses and residents. Facility Managers should follow these steps to reduce the impact of storms and mitigate risks:

  • Assess your needs and prioritize them. Focus on the basic necessities for your business, such as electricity, air-conditioning, mold-free areas, Internet access, and more. Identify what your business will do to ensure it has access to these necessities immediately following a storm.
  • Inventory your assets at the start of bad-weather seasons. While this article focuses on hurricanes, it is best to prepare and inventory your assets in advance of severe weather seasons. For instance, businesses in the Midwest should take steps to prepare for tornadoes and extensive hail. Those along coastlines should prepare for hurricanes and tropical storms. This includes identifying assets in your level of responsibility if they are damaged.
  • Revisit the flood zone map for your area. Just because your area has not experienced a flood in the past, it is vital to assess risk based on both fact and new information. The past two years reveal flooding that went far beyond the boundaries of established flood zones.
  • Fortify your locations. This may include addressing areas of risk to your business, such as cracks, foundation problems, or unsatisfactory grading of your grounds. Depending on your location, evaluate your fortified areas, including hallways and locations within your facility that are designed to withstand the extreme wind.
  • Create checklists. The checklists should follow everything from prep work before a storm to ensuring your generator is primed for the season.
  • Review contracts for emergency facility services. When a storm strikes, there will not be time to review available field service vendors and find one at a moment’s notice. Establishing a partnership with an emergency facility services vendor in advance is crucial.

Empower Your Organization With a Thorough Readiness Plan

While advanced forecasting models and new technologies can help people know where and when a storm will strike, they are susceptible to error. Instead of waiting until an event occurs, Facility Managers should take the steps necessary to understand and plan for the next tropical storm, hurricane, tornado, or other incidents. It is not a question of if but when it will occur.

Eric Crabb

Eric Crabb