Tropical Storm Isaac is about 4-5 days away from hitting the Gulf coast of the U.S., it is forecasted to turn into a hurricane sometime on Monday, August 27. It is not too late for facility management to get your facility ready and here is what you can do based on my experience with emergency preparedness and storms (I live in Florida).

For this storm in particular, there is a high probability of flood damage. This is because the last two months have seen parts of Florida under a constant deluge that started just before Tropical Storm Debby and continued unabated. Flood damage includes water seeping in not only from the ground level but also from rooftops.

Breakout the Inspections Checklist

Whether you are responsible for an office facility, hotel, hospital, school or any other type of operation it is important to quickly access where damage and in this case flooding might occur. With retention ponds already full and roadways already partially flooded it is critical that facility managers do a visual inspection now (before the weekend).

The fastest way to do this is to pull out your pre-storm inspection checklist and look for:

  • Roof debris such as small twigs and leaves that block gutters. Clear all gutters immediately. The water that builds up behind a gutter can backflow into unsealed or cracked caulking into buildings, down the walls and if Murphy’s Law is applied it will go where it is least wanted including finding electrical outlets and/or dripping on expensive assets.
    In addition, the weight of the water in a clogged gutter can cause it to break bringing rainwater to areas ill prepared making them subject to washout. Lastly, water on ceiling tiles has a tendency to form a sticky, messy paper mush that when it finally fails is a complete nightmare to clean up.
  • Check guttering near the water’s exit. Facility guttering is designed to steer water away from the building. It often does through a series of elbows close to the ground. Make sure these elbows are securely attached to avoid having water directed at the base of the building where it can collect and seep in.
  • Inspect storm drains for debris buildup. I have seen a single clogged storm drain in a parking lot flood entire parking lots and roads. This should also be checked during and after the storm.
  • Identify where there is already standing water. Clear/dig a trench if possible to an area where it can drain better.
  • Inspect emergency assets such as generators, lighting, fire extinguishers and exits. Everything should be in working order.
  • Identify power and fuel shutoffs for the facility. Should waters start to rise, turn them off.
  • Use your inspections checklist to secure all exterior assets. This may be rooftop HVAC, outdoor patio furniture, hotel pool assets, school playground equipment or even cigarette cans.
  • Inspect exterior caulking especially around awnings or overhangs. Do this because wind can drive rain into almost any opening.
  • Have facility tenants check all windows to make sure they are closed and sealed (weather stripped or caulked).
  • Make sure all facility, organization vehicles are secure. It only takes a few inches of water to float a car or golf cart.

If you do not have an inspection checklist or a CMMS that can provide you a list of assets then make one. Make sure you use this list to perform inspections immediately after the storm has passed.

Huge hurricane over Florida and Cuba. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Lastly, the most rain from storms comes to areas to the east and northeast of the center. The current track of Isaac puts most of the west coast of Florida at risk. But even if this storm misses us, we are now approaching peak hurricane season so your inspections checklist will be used again.

The staff at Mintek hope that you remain safe and dry. If I have forgotten anything please add the item in a comment below.