After a hurricane, facilities managers have a critical task on their hands: Prepare the property for efficient but safe re-entry so everyone can get back to work. Even if damage is limited, you’ve got to ensure everything is up and running as it was before the storm.
“Facility managers are the go-to people for everything building-related, from HVAC to the roof to whether the electric is still working,” says Neal Duffy, senior manager of facilities solutions technical training at Staples Facility Solutions. “It’s a huge job; everything is coordinated through them and their staff.”
Use this checklist as a guide while you assess damage, clean up and improve your plan for the next time disaster strikes.
Keep Safety Top of Mind
- Walk the perimeter of the building before entering to look for any structural damage that might make going inside unsafe, and proceed with caution. If the structure appears damaged, contact a building inspector or an appropriate government authority to determine whether it is safe to enter.
- Observe any nearby tree branches that could be dangling and look for downed power lines.
- Don’t drive through floodwater; it’s often deeper than it looks and could be “hiding” damaging objects. If floodwater touches your skin, wash thoroughly with soap and water because it may carry illness-causing bacteria.
- If you find wet electrical equipment that’s still plugged in, turn off the power at the main breaker before touching any equipment. If there’s standing water near the main breaker switch, call an electrician to handle this task.
- Check your carbon monoxide detectors (make sure yours are battery-operated in case the power is out), and always be alert for potential gas leaks.
- Use flashlights to light your way, never candles.
Make a Post-Weather Analysis
- Take extensive notes and photos of any damage for your insurance providers.
- Determine which vendors or technicians will need to do repair work.
- Contact insurance agents and schedule repairs as soon as possible. Vendors are likely to be busy after a hurricane.
- Hire a professional inspector or engineer to assess any safety concerns.
Check on Utilities and Equipment
- Power is likely to be out after a hurricane. Make sure that your backup generator is running properly and that you have enough fuel for the amount of time the electric company expects power to be out. Never plug the generator into a wall outlet.
- The generator should be at least 20 feet from any windows or doors to prevent carbon monoxide from leaking into your building.
- Once the building is dry and secure, restore any equipment or utilities you may have moved to higher ground before the storm.
- Confirm there are no drinking water warnings in place before allowing employees to drink water on site.
“Facility managers are the go-to people for everything building-related, from HVAC to the roof to whether the electric is still working."
Start the Cleanup
- In case of mold or other serious damage, consult with a professional disaster cleaning or mold remediation service.
- If you’re doing your own cleanup, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend equipment such as hard hats, goggles, masks rated N95, heavy work gloves, waterproof boots with steel toe and insole, and at least two fire extinguishers.
- Going to be around sewage? Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and goggles.
- Separate any “normal” garbage (food, takeout boxes, napkins, tissues) from storm debris such as tree limbs, fencing, shingles, siding and carpet. This allows waste removal services to pick up both kinds of garbage more efficiently.
- Floodwater can attract disease-carrying mosquitoes. Wear insect repellent.
Ask How You Can Help
- If your building is in good shape but others nearby aren’t, consider volunteering your space and time to help. Your facility can serve as a distribution site for relief supplies or food. Or, if you have electricity, you could provide a charging station for emergency responders and community members who need a place to charge cellphones, tools and battery-operated wheelchairs.
Grade the Effort
- Complete a post-hurricane assessment of your facility’s storm preparedness plan and actions taken during recovery. This will help you improve for the next time a storm hits.
Sources: cdc.gov/disasters, disastersafety.org/hurricane