Jul 2005

Windstorm Preparation Guide

Severe windstorm studies have shown that storm-related damage can be prevented or minimized. The keys to this are windstorm preparation planning in advance of the storm and organized action during and after the storm. A hurricane is a severe tropical storm that forms in the ocean. Hurricanes need warm tropical oceans, moisture and light winds above them. If the proper conditions last long enough, a hurricane can produce violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains and floods. Hurricanes rotate in a counterclockwise direction around an “eye.” A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when winds hit 74 mph. There are on average six hurricanes each year in the Atlantic Ocean; over a three-year period, approximately five hurricanes strike the United States coastline from Texas to Maine. The Atlantic Ocean hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30. The East Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity happening during the months of July through September.

It’s never too late to start making a plan. Start planning as soon as possible. This guide offers suggestions that you can work into your plan to minimize windstorm-related damages. If you need assistance in developing a plan or would like someone to double check your current plan, contact Risk Logic Inc.

Windstorm Preparation Prior to the Storm

  • Develop an emergency action plan and educate the key personnel (those who play a role in or are affected by the emergency action plan) in its aims and procedures.
  • Staff and train a team leader who is willing to stay on site during a storm. Be sure to arrange for support/assistance during the storm for the families of those employees who are going to remain at the facility. Be cognizant of the fact that employees may need to rush home to protect their home or family during a storm. Therefore make sure you have an alternate.
  • Designate an employee, who will monitor weather conditions and who will keep the team leader informed of the weather conditions before, during and after the storm. As an emergency manager, your idea of a good forecast would be to know the location and intensity with 100% accuracy 72, 48, 24, 12 and 6 hours ahead of time. These forecasts are the best information you have on which to base your decisions.
  • Give the leader the authority to initiate the emergency action plan based on predetermined checkpoints (e.g. when a storm is within a certain distance from a facility). This includes shutting down business operations and sending employees home.
  • The leader should make sure that operational managers perform predetermined tasks at each warning stage of the storm. Distributing checklists that must be returned to the leader upon completion is a good way to ensure these tasks are performed.

The ideal emergency action plan should include the following:

  • Identify all critical areas of a facility e.g. those with heavy processing equipment, critical processing equipment, data processing, etc. Make sure someone on all shifts knows proper shutdown procedures and has the authority to shut down equipment.
  • Keep the telephone numbers on hand for local offices of emergency preparedness and of Risk Logic (201) 930-0700. Contact your local authorities to plan and coordinate activities before the need for emergency action. That way, everyone will be better prepared.
  • Arrange for back-up communications (two-way radios or cell phones). Be sure to keep spare batteries and a diesel-driven emergency generator on site.
  • Arrange an off-site emergency communications center such as a hotel meeting room just outside the storm area, in the event that it becomes too dangerous to stay on site.
  • Determine which vital company records and make the appropriate plans to protect/relocate them.
  • Identify a hot site (an off-site data processing location where you can continue business immediately) or a cold site (an off-site location where you can set up your own data processing equipment). Also, consider a business recovery facility where you can resume general business operations.
  • Maintain ongoing agreements with contractors for both supplies and repairs that may be needed after a storm. If possible, use contractors who are outside potential storm areas. Local contractors may be over-committed or local authorities’ needs for contractor’s services/supplies may be given top priority.
  • Order emergency supplies and maintain them throughout windstorm season. Review working condition of emergency equipment, such as flashlights and battery-powered radios.
  • Have straps or other means handy to brace/anchor yard storage, signs, cranes and roof-mounted equipment. Purchase plywood or shutters to protect windows and doors.
  • Inspect and repair roof coverings and edges a few months before windstorm season.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Have facility personnel dry run the installation of windstorm shutters annually. If practical, leave them in place.
  • Prepare for storm-related flooding with sandbags and an adequate supply of brooms, squeegees and absorbents to help remove water.
  • Identify key equipment/stock that will need to be protected with tarpaulins or waterproof covers.
  • Consider the removal of any large trees that could fall and damage buildings, fire pump houses, or power and communication lines.
  • Arrange plans for site security following a storm.

Impending Storm

A hurricane watch indicates the possibility that you could experience hurricane conditions within 36 hours. This watch should trigger your emergency action plan. A hurricane warning indicates that sustained winds of at least 74 mph are expected within 24 hours or less. Once this warning has been issued, you should be in the process of completing protective actions and deciding the safest location to be during the storm. Use the advance warning to begin taking action consistently with your emergency plan.

The following steps will be helpful:

  • Map the windstorm front and keep up to date on the storm’s progress.
  • Initiate implementation of your emergency action plan. Take specific actions based on the predetermined checkpoints outlined in your plan (e.g. you have already determined you will begin shutting down processes when a storm is a certain distance from your facility).
  • Begin to shut down operations that depend on outside power sources.
  • Inspect and make emergency repairs to drains, gutters and flashing.
  • Anchor/strap to the roof deck support assembly (e.g. the joists) all roof-mounted equipment (HVAC units and exhaust vents).
  • Check/maintain (and double-check) all necessary back-up equipment such as emergency generators and communications devices.
  • Protect/relocate your company’s vital records.
  • Install shutters/plywood over windows and doorways.
  • Anchor/relocate things in the yard that could blow away, or blow into a facility and end up causing damage.
    – remove all loose yard debris
    – relocate all nonessential yard equipment to a safe indoor location
    – secure yard storage of flammable liquid drums, or if possible, move them to a sheltered area (However, do not move them into main facility areas)
    – anchor portable buildings (e.g. trailers) to the ground
    – secure any large cranes
    – brace all outdoor signs
  • Inspect the site’s fire protection equipment (sprinkler control valves and fire pumps)
  • Ensure that personnel who have volunteered to stay on site have adequate supplies and equipment such as drinkable water, nonperishable food, first aid kit, flashlights, battery-operated radios and walkie-talkies.
  • Repair and fill aboveground tanks with product or water.
  • Fill the fuel tanks of generators, fire pumps and all company owned vehicles.
  • Cover computers, machinery, and other stock with tarpaulins and waterproof covers.
  • Move as many goods as possible up off the floor, or ship them off site.
  • Isolate, neutralize, or remove from the facility any chemicals that can react violently with each other.
  • Turn off the gas in order to minimize fire loss.
  • Protect or shut off other flames.
  • Turn off all equipment that is non-critical and nonessential.
  • Disconnect the facility’s main electrical feeds (if possible) to prevent a potential fire caused by the short circuiting of damaged equipment.

During The Storm

Emergency response personnel should stay at the facility only if safe to do so. When hurricanes move onto land, the heavy rain, strong winds and heavy waves can damage buildings, trees and cars. The heavy waves are called a storm surge. Storm surge is very dangerous and a major reason why you MUST stay away from the ocean during a hurricane.

The following steps will be helpful:

  • Patrol the property continuously. Keep a watch for roof leaks, pipe breakage, fire or structural damage. During the height of the storm, personnel should remain in a place deemed safe from wind and flood.
  • Constantly monitor any boilers that must remain on line.
  • Turn off electrical switches during a power failure to prevent reactivation before necessary checks are completed.

After The Storm

  • Secure the site.
  • Survey for damage.
  • Survey for safety hazards like live wires, leaking gas, flammable liquids and poisonous gases. Also survey for any damage to foundations or underground piping.
  • Repair any damage to the automatic sprinkler system. Get sprinkler protection back in service as soon as possible.
  • Call in key personnel.
  • Notify contractors to begin repairs.
  • Begin salvage as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to your site.
    – immediately cover torn roof coverings and broken windows.
    – separate damaged goods, but be cautious of accumulating too much combustible debris inside a building.
  • Contact the Risk Logic for assistance in restoring fire protection and reporting the loss.
  • Remove debris from the roof and clean roof drains to prevent drainage problems.
  • Visually check any open bus bars, conductors and exposed insulators before the main electrical distribution systems are re-energized.

Hurricane and Cyclone Categories

(The following category descriptions are based on hurricane wind speeds.) Category

Category
Hurricane
Cyclone
1
74 to 95 mph (120 to 153 km/h)
less than 78 mph (125 km/h)
2
96 to 110 mph (154 to 177 km/h)
78 to 106 mph (126 to 170 km/h)
3
111 to 130 mph (179 to 209 km/h)
107 to 140 mph (171 to 225 km/h)
4
131 to 155 mph (211 to 249 km/h)
141 to 174 mph (226 to 280 km/h)
5
Greater than 155 mph (249 km/h
Greater than 174 mph (280 km/h)

Category 1

Possible storm surge 4 to 5 ft. (1.2 to 1.5 m) above normal. Damage primarily to shrubbery, tree foliage and unanchored mobile homes. No real damage to other structures. Some damage to poorly constructed signs. Low-lying coastal roads inundated, minor pier damage, some small craft in exposed anchorage torn from moorings.

Category 2

Storm surge of 6 to 8 ft (1.8 to 2.4 m) above normal. Some trees blown down. Major damage to exposed mobile homes. Extensive damage to poorly constructed signs. Some damage to roofing materials of buildings. Coastal roads and low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water two to four hours before arrival of windstorm center. Considerable damage to piers. Marinas flooded. Small craft in unprotected anchorages torn from moorings. Evacuation of some shoreline residences and low-lying islands required.

Category 3

Possible storm surge 9 to 12 ft (2.7 to 3.6 m) above normal. Limbs torn from trees and large trees blown down. Practically all poorly constructed signs blown down. Damage to roofing materials of buildings, some window and door damage. Mobile homes destroyed. Serious flooding at coast and many smaller structures near coast destroyed. Larger structures near coast damaged by battering waves and floating debris. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before windstorm center arrives. Flat terrain 5 ft (1.5 m) or less above sea level flooded inland 8 miles (13 km) or more. Evacuation of low-lying residences within several blocks of shoreline possibly required.

Category 4

Storm surge 13 to 18 ft (4 to 5.5 m) above normal. Flat terrain 10 ft (3 m) or less above sea level flooded inland as far as 6 miles (9.6 km). Shrubs and trees blown down, all signs down. Extensive damage to inadequately installed roofing materials, windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs on many small residences. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Major damage to lower floors of structures near shore due to flooding and battering of waves and floating devices. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before windstorm center arrives. Major erosion of beaches. Massive evacuation of all residences within 500 yards (457 m) of shore possibly required, and of single-story residences on low ground within 2 miles (3.2 km) of shore.

Category 5

Storm surge greater than 18 ft (5.5 m) above normal. Shrubs and trees blown down, considerable damage to roofs of buildings; all signs blown down. Very severe and extensive damage to windows and doors. Complete failure of roofs of many residences and inadequately designed industrial buildings. Extensive shattering of glass in windows and doors. Some complete building failures. Small buildings overturned or blown away. Complete destruction of mobile homes. Major damage to lower floors of all structures less than 15 ft (4.6 m) above sea level within 500 yards (457 m) of shore. Low-lying escape routes inland cut by rising water three to five hours before windstorm center arrives. Massive evacuation of residential areas on low ground within 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16 km) of shore possibly required.

Acknowledgements:

FMRC “Protecting Your Facility Against Windstorms”

FMRC “Severe Windstorm Planning Guide”