Planning for When Disaster Strikes

Last year, wildfires ravaged the West Coast as hurricanes pounded the East. We saw mudslides decimate numerous properties across the nation and families lose their homes to flooding. The total cost for all this damage and loss? $91 billion – according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.<br />Source: National Centers for Environmental...

Last year, wildfires ravaged the West Coast as hurricanes pounded the East. We saw mudslides decimate numerous properties across the nation and families lose their homes to flooding. The total cost for all this damage and loss? $91 billion – according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Source: National Centers for Environmental Information

The above statistics could send anyone running. However, it’s not to instill fear of a possible disaster – “Oh, no! What am I going to do?” – but to move beyond it, in spite of the difficulty in predicting exactly when a disaster will strike. For most in the construction industry, the severity of damage from a disaster can put a halt to new projects and derail existing projects. On the brighter side, these events can be a catalyst for newly implemented strategies to stay ahead of natural disasters. But why put it off? Instead of waiting for a disaster to be the catalyst, become the catalyst by instituting a plan to recover as fast as possible after a disaster, thereby safeguarding your projects, employees and business.

Understand the Impact of Natural Disasters on Your Business

The severity of a natural disaster and the type – tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding, mudslides, wildfires, blizzards – that your construction projects are most exposed to will vary greatly depending on your location. Statistically, close to seven hurricanes strike the U.S. every four years, with a significant rise in this number in recent years. Major earthquakes happen less often, but can also be devastating. Inland flooding is also becoming a more common occurrence, while persistent drought – especially in the West – puts a lot of states at risk for wildfires.

We’re intentionally stressing the point here to emphasize the importance of planning ahead to anticipate the potential damage of such events, protect your projects and ensure you are equipped to bounce back in the aftermath.

Does creating a disaster plan feel like a massive and complex undertaking for something that may not happen? Maybe so. On the other hand, when it comes to natural disasters and keeping your team and projects safe, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. That said, take note of the guidelines below to help you plan for when disaster strikes.

Constructing an Emergency Action Plan

To make the process less daunting, we’ve mapped out an action plan divided into small, actionable steps you can easily follow:

1. Create a team.

Source: Bigstock Photo
Source: Bigstock Photo

Start by creating a team comprised of representatives from each department in your construction company. This usually entails members from the administrative side of the business, the on-site construction team and management. Select individuals who will be able to contribute different perspectives as your plan comes together; doing so will identify all of the business’s possible vulnerabilities during a disaster.

2. Plan ahead. 

Source: Bigstock Photo
Source: Bigstock Photo

Not every natural disaster can be predicted. Even those that have some form of technology available to anticipate the event can be unreliable. Fortunately, there are early-warning systems that at least provide a heads up for when a major disaster is approaching. Hurricane and winter storm warnings are a good example. They may not be a hundred percent accurate, but the information can be used to create a workable plan that ensures the safety of your projects, while minimizing potential damage.


3. Cascade your emergency procedures. 

Source: Bigstock Photo

The key to the successful implementation of your business’s disaster plan is hinged on effective communication with your team.

Construction deadlines are tight. Given the risks you’re facing, it’s critical that everyone is on the same page – especially in the event that disaster strikes. Take the time to keep your team in the know by discussing and cascading the emergency plan you’ve created. Construction sites heighten the risks that people face during natural disasters, and materials on site can become dangerous debris. Minimize those risks in the midst of already unsafe circumstances by making sure your materials and equipment are properly stored. Securing them prior to a natural disaster can save your business thousands in potential damages and losses.

Review your procedures with the subcontractors you’re working with, as well as your suppliers. Additionally, be cognizant of any regulatory rules that must be followed while your plan is being implemented.

4. Reevaluate your recovery plan in the disaster aftermath. 

Source: Bigstock Photo
Source: Bigstock Photo

A disaster recovery plan is essentially an open-ended “It’s not over yet.” Once the natural disaster has passed, your next step is to assess where you stand in the aftermath. Start by making sure your team is safe. Ensure that the site is safe to return to, before your team evaluates the area. Then, take stock of the damage the event has caused in order to schedule repairs. As soon as possible, take immediate steps to stabilize and secure your projects and address urgent safety issues.

Once all of these issues have been addressed, it’s time to reevaluate your recovery plan by asking yourself and your team the following questions:

  • Was the recovery plan effective?
  • What parts of the plan were ineffective?
  • What could have been done better?
  • What was missing?
  • Were there loopholes due to communication gaps?

Be as thorough as possible. Safety should never be underrated.

Technology Can Help Make the Planning Process Easier

Just like any project or plan, disaster planning can get complicated. Ensuring teams are able to communicate during an emergency, or keeping track of all your project documentation, may seem easy. However, it can be like searching for a needle in a haystack in the middle of an emergency. Just tracking all your equipment and materials alone can become very tedious and time consuming.

Beat the odds and gain more planning control utilizing the convenience of a construction management software.

With a centralized, cloud-based system, all your important documents are filed safely, instantly accessible and safe from natural disasters. It’s easy to pick up where you left off in the aftermath of a disaster when you have been regularly tracking and monitoring your paperwork and timelines prior to an emergency. And, in the context of mapping out your emergency disaster plan, you have a big picture overview of what equipment needs to be moved, which materials need to be protected, and other action steps critical to minimizing potential damage to your site.

So, why do all the disaster planning legwork manually when you have the option to implement an automated and reliable construction management platform to make the whole process easier? A construction project management software can streamline this typically tedious process. Empower your construction teams to communicate, minimize damage, cost and risk, while effectively planning just in case disaster does strike.