How to Navigate Natural Disaster Preparedness

Anticipating security and natural disasters.

As natural disaster season has seemingly become a year-round event in the United States, crane and haulage fleets are increasingly tasked with helping to reinforce the focus on safety during and after the events.

Not surprisingly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to disaster preparedness and/or relief. Construction and transportation companies should remain aware of the educational resources in place for different regions of the country to stay as safe as possible. Communication is essential.

Every year, amid floods, fires, hurricanes, and prolonged tornado seasons, construction and transportation continue to operate, and often in response to it. It would make sense for companies to step up and/or refine their communications to prepare accordingly.

In addition, many guidelines and regulations for operating during natural disasters are issued by state-level safety agencies. State DOTs will assess the weather and close roads or bridges if necessary. The governor’s office will work with local entities and expedite waivers for hours of service or overweight clearances. Passing this information to drivers and operators often comes down to relationships.

All the more reason to cultivate relationships with policy makers and leaders at the state level. It’s also wise to invest in applicable cabin technology, better cellular coverage, and/or any other tool your operators can connect to for real-time information, including social media.

Operationally, natural disasters often bring an odd mix of limitations for truckers, such as road closures and detours, as well as an easing of some of the usual regulatory constraints. Federal and state governments may relax or waive certain regulations to facilitate emergency response. For example, authorities can relax truck size and weight limits so that equipment and materials can reach affected communities. The government can also offer flexible hours of service so truckers can get home despite reduced road conditions and delays.

Overall, these operational limitations and regulatory relief are intended to preserve safety. However, no matter what the law says or what temptations a deserted road may offer, drivers should stay safely within the limits of their equipment and their own physical condition.

On the crane side, emergency response is crucial to deal with the consequences of natural disasters. But disaster recovery teams, which include riggers and crane operators, as well as construction and heavy-lift companies that supply lifesaving equipment, are equally essential. Disaster areas are initially unsafe, but the use of heavy machinery like cranes adds an extra level of security concerns. For example, mobile crane load charts use flat ground as a baseline for their success. In many natural disasters there is no stable ground or even stable ground, but crane operators must work quickly and efficiently to save lives and property. The type of natural disaster also dictates the type of crane used during disaster recovery.

SC&RA’s Severe Weather Guidelines for the Crane and Rigging Industry is an additional resource that could prove very useful. The guidelines were created for extreme weather conditions, including tornadoes, hurricanes, winds, thunderstorms and snow, and outline work preparation before, during and after extreme weather conditions and include timelines for preparatory work.

Ultimately, the type of natural disaster doesn’t really matter, as a range of safety and health hazards exist during each one. And whether you’re trying to avoid hazards pre-disaster or minimize them during a recovery operation, you have to push a button at some point and think about preparedness, coordination and safety.

Before, during and after a natural disaster, duties and responsibilities change and risk increases. Hazards must be properly identified, assessed and controlled in a systematic way to reduce or eliminate as many safety and health risks as possible, both for your staff and for the general public.