Preparing for Natural Disasters Mid-Construction

Preparing for Natural Disasters Mid-Construction

Natural disasters like floods and hurricanes cause life-altering damage and take an economic toll on homeowners and business owners. The global cost of natural disasters equals billions of dollars each year. Many contractors and construction companies want to protect their projects from such damage.

With advanced planning, your business can limit the damage if a natural disaster arises during construction, deal with its effects and ensure a smoother return to business-as-usual operations. Following these natural disaster prep tips for construction sites will help ensure you can recover quickly from a natural disaster.

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How Do Natural Disasters Affect Construction Projects?

Natural disasters affect construction projects differently depending on the type of disaster, how directly the calamity hit the site and how the site was prepared beforehand. For example, fatalities from hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other related weather events in the U.S. have decreased over time. This change is partly due to improvements in infrastructure and disaster preparedness. Preparation can curb some of the damage natural disasters cause.

Here are a few of the effects of natural disasters on construction sites:

any damage to your construction site can cause costly delays

1. Delays

Natural disasters are one of the causes of construction project delays that is beyond your company's control. Any damage to your construction site, materials or the project itself can cause costly delays while you rebuild or restock. Extreme heat and rain make it challenging for construction crews to complete their work comfortably. Improperly protecting your construction site against weather-related damage can also cause a delay.

2. Unsound Conditions

Whether pouring concrete in the winter or preparing your site for construction, ensuring optimal conditions is essential to the project's success. Natural disasters can create unsafe conditions that make it impossible to continue a project.

Extreme precipitation can create unstable ground conditions and standing water. Construction teams must wait for the ground to dry before beginning work. High winds make it dangerous for crew members to stand on lift platforms. These conditions must clear up before work can resume.

3. Damages

Worldwide data indicates that earthquake and volcanic eruption severity has increased in recent years. Natural disasters damage construction sites by destroying half-finished projects or harming equipment. Excess water from heavy rains or flooding could make the ground unstable and cause an excavation to collapse. Construction companies will have to repair these damages to return to their projects.

4. Price Surges

the increased need for construction materials can disrupt the construction industry supply chain and cause a rise in material costs

When natural disasters damage homes, businesses and other structures, people want to rebuild. The increased need for construction materials like lumber, concrete and steel can disrupt the construction industry supply chain and cause a rise in material costs. For example, one study found that hurricane activity in the U.S. caused price surges as demand for construction materials rose. Recovering from a natural disaster may be costly because of these price hikes.

10 Tips for Preparing Your Construction Sites for a Natural Disaster

Construction companies need to prepare their sites and projects for natural disasters. Taking steps to protect your construction projects can reduce damage, limit financial losses and make recovery easier.

Follow these natural disaster prep tips for construction sites to prepare your projects:

1. Create a Natural Disaster Preparedness Team

Carefully prepare your business for dealing with a flood, fire or tornado long before it experiences one. Many companies develop a natural disaster preparedness team to handle these preparations. This team's goal is to create a comprehensive plan to prepare your construction projects and keep all your employees safe.

A natural disaster preparedness team will help you develop and refine a plan for maintaining safety on your construction site during a natural disaster. Select people from your business who will help you cover every potential scenario. For example, choose workers from your construction team, administration and management. An employee from a construction team may have different insight than one from management, and vice versa. Including various viewpoints as you plan helps you create a strategy that suits your business's unique needs.

2. Write a Natural Disaster Readiness Plan

Once you've selected your natural disaster preparedness team, you can start writing a readiness plan. Outlining steps for your business to take in preparation for a natural disaster helps you identify the best response. A natural disaster readiness plan also creates a process for your teams to follow and ensures everyone is on the same page regarding safeguarding your construction sites. Your plan can be as detailed as your business needs and should provide clear instructions for everyone.

Although natural disasters are unpredictable and storms can change at the last minute, a readiness plan can make preparation and recovery more manageable. Have your team brainstorm potential risks on the construction site and think of the best strategies for reducing them. Assign tasks for different workers to complete in preparation for a natural disaster. Your natural disaster preparedness team can also help you design site-specific evacuation routes.

3. Select Durable Materials

select more durable building materials for your structures to provide additional support

The materials you select for a construction project affect the project's durability. Though you can't predict exactly how a fire, tornado or flood will impact your construction project, you may be able to minimize the damage. Select more durable building materials for your structures to provide additional support. For example, using steel and reinforced concrete rather than wood may help a building withstand earthquakes or flooding. Building with more durable materials is especially helpful in areas that regularly experience natural disasters, like Florida or Kansas.

Durable materials may come at a higher cost, so discuss the option with your clients. If natural disaster preparedness is a high priority for a client, you may have more flexibility in choosing materials. Look for high-quality materials to strengthen the building against outside forces like heavy winds and flooding. Cement blocks, concrete and hurricane shutters offer increased protection.

4. Secure Materials and Equipment On-Site

Securing any loose materials or equipment is an essential step. High winds and heavy rainfall could carry materials away or turn them into dangerous debris. Natural disasters can also damage equipment on-site like cranes, excavators and backhoe loaders. In addition, construction crews often work with hazardous chemicals that could damage the environment if spilled because of a natural disaster. It's vital to properly fasten or store materials and equipment off-site before a disaster arrives.

Create a process for securing materials, tools and equipment at the end of each workday, and ensure construction crews follow it. You should also have a strategy for securing tools and equipment off-site in case of an impending natural disaster to prevent loss and damage. Assign someone the task of moving any hazardous chemicals off the project site before a storm or other disaster occurs.

Depending on how much notice you have before a natural disaster occurs, your team may also have time to secure the building. Cover windows and other openings with plywood boards, place sandbags around the structure's perimeter, and cover piles of materials with a tarp.

5. Communicate With Your Team

Quickly relaying information is essential when responding to a natural disaster. Communicating effectively can help you protect your workers and your construction project. As you inform your team about your natural disaster preparations, you keep everyone aware of the changing situation. Communication also motivates them to maintain safety at the construction site.

Spend time discussing your natural disaster response plan with everyone in your company. Designate someone on each team to be in charge of communicating evacuation measures to their workers and handling material removal. When natural disasters arrive, everyone will know their role and be able to carry out their assigned tasks safely.

6. Monitor the Weather

knowing the major weather events and patterns your area experiences also helps your team stay ahead of natural disasters

Although forecasts are never entirely reliable, modern weather forecasting technology and alerts often warn construction crews and contractors about the possibility of a natural disaster. This information is valuable for taking a proactive approach to natural disaster preparedness by monitoring the weather. It can prevent your teams from being caught off guard.

Download a weather app to your phone and have other essential people in your business — like a construction team manager — do the same. Check weather updates every morning and more frequently if severe weather is in the forecast. Knowing the major weather events and patterns your area experiences also helps your team stay ahead of natural disasters. You may be able to schedule most of your projects during times when natural disasters present the lowest risk.

7. Plan for Water Removal and Backup Power

Different natural disasters bring unique safety concerns and obstacles. For example, floods or heavy rainfall can fill a basement with water, making it impossible to complete a project. Placing portable pumps in strategic areas around your construction site is essential to preparing your site for hurricane season and extreme rainfall. Install these pumps in basements and other excavations before a storm arrives to get a head start on water removal.

Another way to prepare for the unique challenges of a natural disaster is by installing backup generators on your construction sites. Power outages are common during or after natural disasters, leaving you without the power you need on your site. If you have time before a storm arrives, supply your sites with portable generators and enough fuel.

8. Supply Workers With Safety Gear

Your workers' safety should always be a top priority, especially during a natural disaster. Taking quick and decisive safety measures can save lives. The first step is to supply your teams with the proper safety gear like weather-proof clothing, footwear and personal protective equipment. Rainjackets, slip-proof boots and hard hats are essential for construction safety on the job site.

Your construction teams can work through hot, cold or rainy days, but when a natural disaster is on its way, knowing when to evacuate is crucial for keeping them safe. Have an evacuation plan for each construction site and a transparent process for knowing when to evacuate. Managers should know the most effective evacuation route and be able to alert their crew members to evacuate the site quickly.

9. Reevaluate After a Disaster

After a natural disaster, look around your construction sites to evaluate the damage. As soon as possible and when local authorities have given permission, return to each site to examine the ground conditions, take stock of materials and tools and review the status of your structure. Use caution as you navigate the site, especially if the damage is severe.

If your site experienced flooding, activate your backup pumps as soon as possible. Stabilize structures to prevent further damage and create a schedule for repairs, prioritizing urgent safety issues. When repairs are underway and your construction schedules return to normal, reevaluate your natural disaster preparedness plan. Were your workers able to secure materials and structures effectively? Were there gaps in communication that led to unnecessary delays? Consider any improvements you can make to your plan and be as thorough as possible.

10. Use Rental Equipment

A vital part of any natural disaster plan is having the right equipment at your disposal. Construction projects require an array of specialized equipment for various jobs. Your construction teams need quality machines they can count on to get the job done, whether preparing a job site for a natural disaster or cleaning up when one has passed. Having the support of a reliable, hard-working equipment fleet provides unparalleled peace of mind when disaster strikes.

When you rent construction equipment for natural disasters, you have a wide selection of machines at your disposal. Choose rental equipment based on ground conditions, space constraints and other factors that a natural disaster could affect. From power generators to earthmoving machinery, equipment rentals give you the flexibility to get the power you need right when you need it.

Prepare for Natural Disasters With The Cat® Rental Store

To protect your construction projects and recover after a natural disaster, you need the right equipment and machinery. While owning natural disaster preparedness equipment can give you the machine support you need for the long-term, space and price may factor into your decision. That's where The Cat® Rental Store comes in.

At The Cat Rental Store, we take our job seriously to help you weather any storm. We provide a large fleet inventory you can access even at the last minute and offer support services you can rely on to get you through any disaster.

Renting Cat machinery from your local The Cat Rental Store dealer gives you access to an extensive selection of Cat machinery and tools so you can find what you need for any job. With cost-effective equipment options and flexible rental terms, we're here to help you ensure your business is adequately protected, whether you're preparing for inclement weather or recovering from a storm. Browse our selection of equipment or find the nearest location today.

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