Preparing for natural disasters and extreme weather events8
When it comes to natural disasters and how they impact the construction industry, it’s important for firms to be proactive rather than reactive. Doing so can help businesses mitigate the effects of natural disasters on their operations.
For many businesses, it’s not a question of if extreme weather will cause damage and disruptions, but when. As such, it’s crucial that firms understand how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and similar events:
- IDENTIFY EXPOSURES AND WORST-CASE SCENARIOS — The earlier a business prepares for extreme weather, the better equipped they will be to respond appropriately, should disaster strike. Firms should evaluate the different types of natural disasters that could impact their business. Above all, firms will want to examine worst-case scenarios related to how different weather events (e.g., wildfires, hurricanes, floods and tornados) could harm their operations.
- CREATE AN EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN — Once a contractor has identified their exposures relative to natural disasters, they should take proactive steps to safeguard their employees, tools, equipment and projects. This can be accomplished by creating an emergency plan. That plan should be in writing and address all of the steps the firm must take in the event of a natural disaster. Plans should outline employee expectations and assign responsibilities related to its execution. Put simply, everyone involved in the business should understand their role when it comes to disaster response. Furthermore, plans should be stored in multiple locations and in areas where employees and other stakeholders can easily access them. It should be noted that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires most employers with 10 or more employees to have an emergency action plan in writing.
- INVOLVE EMPLOYEES AND TEST THE PLAN — When it comes to creating an effective plan, firms should involve employees throughout every step of the process. Employee participation not only helps businesses identify potential exposures they may have otherwise overlooked, but it can also help them gain employee buy-in. Once workers have contributed to the plan’s creation, it’s important to test it. Firms should consider running drills with their workforce and allow them to provide feedback throughout the process. Remember, just because an organization has a plan doesn’t mean employees are going to be aware of it or even understand how to respond in emergency situations. Training employees on the disaster response protocols outlined in the plan will better prepare businesses and their workers, should the plan be needed.
- UPDATE THE PLAN — No two construction firms are the same, and plans should account for the uniqueness of different businesses, as well as the various equipment and technology they employ. Job sites change over the course of a project, and the way businesses respond to a disaster may need to change with the job site. In fact, change is constant in construction. Contractors are regularly hiring new employees, using new equipment, securing new materials and bringing on new subcontractors. Outdated plans that don’t reflect changes to the work environment may not be effective in responding to natural disasters. The key here is to regularly revisit emergency plans throughout a project to ensure they are appropriate for your evolving job site.
- WORK WITH EXPERTS TO REVIEW EXPOSURES AND SECURE THE PROPER INSURANCE COVERAGE — No matter how prepared an organization is to deal with natural disasters, losses can and will still happen. As such, it’s important for contractors to work with their insurance brokers before a project to ensure that they have proper insurance in place to address exposures related to natural disasters. It’s also vital for firms to have a solid understanding of their coverage, which ensures they secure the proper limits and have a sense of what may or may not be covered under their policy in terms of catastrophic events.
While the above strategies can help organizations prepare for natural disasters and other extreme weather, the truth is that emergency planning is not a one-and-done affair. In fact, emergency action plans are living and breathing documents that should evolve based on weather trends and lessons learned from previous disasters. Construction firms need to be agile and adjust their emergency plan following a natural disaster using post-event insights. Businesses must be willing to assess their performance in disaster situations, thinking critically about aspects of their plan that could be improved to assure stronger, quicker responses in the future.
- While the construction industry has always been affected by weather, severe weather events and natural disasters have become more frequent and intense.
- This has led to significant economic losses and created a challenging environment that contractors must now navigate.
- It’s important for firms to be proactive rather than reactive and understand how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters and similar events.