With Florida and Georgia in the projected pathway of Hurricane Irma, it’s time to act quickly to protect your employees and your property.

There are several key steps you should take now that will help keep your employees safe and minimize damage to your business.

Use the following steps to prepare your business for the potential for hurricane damage:

  • Monitor forecasts closely to know when to act; heed the instructions of emergency management services and never ignore evacuation orders.
  • Verify that your employee contact list is up to date.
  • Secure all interior and exterior doors in your facility and board up windows to protect from debris.
  • Clean out your floor drains and catch basins and ensure your sump pumps are working properly.
  • Fill the fuel tanks on your emergency generator and fire pumps. Fill your vehicles’ fuel tanks, as well.
  • Evaluate your fire protection equipment is storm ready by contacting a licensed fire protection company to inspect ahead of the storm.
  • Shut off any process piping carrying gas or flammable liquids in case a pipe breaks during the storm.
  • Shut down production processes safely and turn off the electricity for all non-essential equipment.
  • Evacuate your employees.

Plan for Recovery

Once the winds have died down, use your employee call list to make sure everyone is safe and secure. Then assemble a qualified recovery team to begin getting your business back on its feet once emergency service agencies say it is safe to return.

The recovery team should include people qualified, licensed, or certified to repair electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and fire protection systems, as well as general maintenance people for cleanup. Assign a recovery team leader who should make sure the team has cleanup supplies and necessary replacement parts and equipment. The team leader should also assess the damage and develop an action plan that addresses priorities including:

  • Safety hazards, including downed power lines, exposed electrical wires, and leaking gas.
  • Structural damage to buildings or damaged foundations.
  • Impaired or damaged fire and life safety equipment and alarms.
  • Completion of temporary repairs so people can access the building safely.

The recovery team should also follow these steps:

  • Require strict precautionary measures for any cutting or welding, including a formal hot work permit system such as found in NFPA 51B, Standard for Fire Prevention During Welding, Cutting, and Other Hot Work.
  • Eliminate any unnecessary ignition sources and enforce “No Smoking” regulations.
  • Establish a procedure for removing storm- or reconstruction-related debris.
  • Temporarily repair any holes or damage to building walls.
  • Assess and prioritize damaged contents to see what can be salvaged.
  • Photograph and/or videotape any damage.

In addition, the recovery team will need to assess and repair fire protection equipment, security alarms, and sprinkler systems, while notifying the fire department if any of those systems will be out of service. Only a trained and certified technician should handle electrical restoration and make sure that all systems and equipment have been checked, thoroughly dried, and tested before energizing electrical circuits. Also, the water supply should be checked for possible contamination.

Be sure to maintain adequate security by performing a continual fire watch until normal operations and fire protection are brought back online. Provide your employees with portable radios or cell phones and instruct them how to contact emergency response units.

Finally, keep your employees informed about any unsafe conditions and keep them updated on the progress of salvage operations.

If you require any assistance in evaluating the preparedness of your business’ fire and life safety systems or if you need help getting your fire protection systems back in working order after the storms, please don’t hesitate to contact The Life Safety Professionals at Integrated Fire Protection at [email protected] or by phone at 770-458-8828.