Post-Disaster Site Re-Entry Tips

September 11, 2017

Working in construction is tough enough, but lately Mother Nature seems bent on making it even tougher.

Because many projects are currently dealing with issues caused by major weather events, the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) has brought together a collection of TCA members with experience in these situations who wanted to pass along some ideas and comments to consider before you evacuate a job site prior to a storm and what to do prior to reentry to that job site following a disaster.

While these tips are presented for the tilt-up concrete industry, they make good sense for any construction site: TCA says the following items are not requirements or specifications, and are simply suggestions from TCA members who have worked through similar conditions.

Prior To Forecasted Event

  1. Identify a designated company-wide contact in charge of leading coordination efforts for disaster related issues.
  2. Identify a project-specific designated contact in charge of leading onsite efforts and communication for disaster-related issues.
  3. Prepare site reentry toolbox. This may include suitable ladders, cordless drills and impacts with proper sockets and bits, brace bolts (approved by panel engineer), caution tape, ropes, fall-protection equipment, panel drawings, contact lists, etc. Place the toolbox in a location that is secure and easily accessible, away from where the storm may blow large debris.
  4. Prepare a complete contact list. This would include the general contractor’s info, fellow sub-trades, design team members, and corporate staff members.
  5. Meet with the general contractor to discuss post-disaster site-reentry events such as:
  6. Establish a site reentry hierarchy such as who enters first, where to enter, and what to look for.
  7. Establish a safe return to site location for everyone.
  8. Review post-disaster site-reentry events with entire site crew.
  9. Communicate safety plan and zone development to all emergency response teams as well as the nature of the construction zone they may be entering.

Post Event - Prior To Entering The Site

  1. Follow the reentry hierarchy program established for whoever enters the site first. All trades/staff should remain in the identified safe zone.
  2. Alert any first responders present of the safety zone.
  3. Gather established reentry team at job site in previously identified location to assess all damage from a safe distance. The use of a drone could be used to safely get a closer look.
  4. If panels have fallen over, do not enter the site until approved by engineers.
  5. Immediately report damage to the company’s designated contact so he or she can evaluate the manpower and equipment available, reviewing and adjusting to best remedy damage.
  6. Immediately report to authorities any damage that is causing risk of personal injury or property damage outside of secured area.
  7. Have any structural damage reviewed by a structural engineer as soon as possible.
  8. Have any serious soil displacement or damage reviewed by a geotechnical engineer as soon as possible.
  9. Temporary shoring of suspected structural damage may be implemented prior to engineering inspection; however, this should be done under the direction of the design engineer.

While preparation is the most efficient and effective tool for saving lives and property, there are unknowns and unavoidable consequences of major natural disasters that must be dealt with. Acknowledging this, and arming yourself with the information and tools you need to deal with it, may help you safely and successfully navigate post-disaster project issues.