Preparing Construction Teams For Emergencies and Natural Disasters
September is designated National Preparedness Month by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to raise awareness of the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that could happen at any time.
We recognize that construction projects are vulnerable to natural disasters and unpredictable emergencies year-round, so it is crucial to be proactive and prepared to ensure the safety of your teams.
In 2022, weather events resulted in 813 deaths and 1,718 injuries, according to NSC’s injury facts. And unfortunately, this year, we’ve seen a fair share of emergency events and natural disasters worldwide. From the devastating fires in Maui to the destructive forces of Hurricane Idalia and tropical storm Hilary, to name a few, these events are a stark reminder that continuous risks are present to our communities.
In light of the ongoing threat of emergencies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides information on protecting workers before and after hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, floods, and other natural disasters.
To stay proactive in your response to emergency events, we suggest the following:
Conduct Job Site Risk Assessments
One of the first steps in preparing for potential emergencies is conducting a comprehensive risk assessment that includes extreme weather and natural disasters. Take note of the potential dangers specific to your location, such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and more.
By identifying these risks, you can customize your preparedness strategies and educate your team with realistic expectations for your area. For example, if you are working in an area prone to flooding, you can establish protocols for securing equipment and materials, as well as implementing effective drainage systems to reduce potential damage.
Create an Emergency Preparedness Plan
An emergency preparedness plan should incorporate elements such as:
- Evacuation routes
- Communication strategies
- Emergency contacts
- Emergency equipment availability
- Leadership roles
By clearly outlining these aspects, you can ensure that everyone on the construction site knows their responsibilities and can act quickly during an emergency. Regular drills and training sessions could also be conducted to familiarize your team with emergency procedures and identify any areas that may require improvement.
Emergency events and natural disasters are very unpredictable. Staying informed on recommended preparedness plans and current events allows you to anticipate potential risks and quickly take action. There are several ways to stay informed, including subscribing to weather alerts, following local news outlets, monitoring social media platforms, and regularly checking emergency service websites. Here are a few resources contractors and construction professionals can use to stay informed and safe:
- FEMA Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) Locator to find a safe place to go in a disaster
- DisasterAssistance.gov provides information regarding what to do before, after, and during a disaster. As well as recent disaster resources
- OSHA provides a Disaster Site Worker Trainer Course
- OSHA’s emergency preparedness and response resources for general preparedness and natural disaster
- OSHA’s guide on how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for 24/7 weather information
- Alert Apps listed by the National Weather Service
Overall, National Preparedness Month is a powerful reminder that natural disasters and emergencies have unfortunately become all too common. As a result, the construction industry must adapt its approach and treat them with the same level of importance as other job site risks.
This entails adhering to recommended procedures, harnessing the power of technology, providing comprehensive training to teams, and maintaining a proactive stance. Embracing this shift presents contractors with a unique opportunity to enhance their current operations, becoming more proficient builders and ultimately gaining a competitive edge in the long run.