June 18, 2015
Which Disasters Should You Prepare Your Facility For?
Facility managers and reliability experts spend their entire career trying to prevent bad things from occurring or at the very least prepare for them. This usually centers around machine breakdowns or property hazards, things that are, by and large, handled with a little preventative and proactive maintenance. But what about catastrophes beyond your control, such as natural disasters? What types of disasters should you prepare your facility for?
With hurricane season officially underway here in the United States and a couple of named storms already having formed, this year promises to be an active storm year. For those facility managers living near the coast, it is important to begin preparing the properties under your command for the possibility of tropical weather. Even buildings and warehouses that are several hundred miles off of the coast need to plan appropriately as well; if a hurricane strikes nearby, the effects of inclement weather can often spread far inland.
In addition to preparing for the harsh wind associated with such a storm, your crew must also be ready to handle other possible side-effects as well, including flooding, hail, and even tornadoes spawned during the storm or in the immediate aftermath.
Hurricanes and tropical storms are just one type of disaster that facility managers should prepare for, however. If you operate a school, manufacturing plant, or hospital in America's famed "Tornado Alley", then you know well the havoc a tornado can cause. They can strike with little warning, so having an evacuation plan in place is a must. Even if your building is not directly hit, you can be affected by power outages, road blockages that prevent workers and delivery drivers from performing duties, and supply-chain interruptions.
If you are hit directly, having a temporary center of operations available will help you keep your business up and running and may prevent a significant loss to your revenue.
Other disasters that can affect facility and property managers include floods, earthquakes, and even chemical disasters, such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan. It was triggered by an earthquake, the effects of this incident are still being felt today, more than four years later.
When these catastrophes occur, planning and training are pivotal not only from a safety standpoint but from an operational one as well. Before the beginning of each storm season, be sure to have a disaster prevention and recovery plan in place and have training or practice sessions so that every employee knows how to respond in the event that a catastrophe occurs. Assign specific employees for crucial tasks to avoid any confusion during what will be a chaotic situation.
For facility managers whose property handles hazardous chemicals or materials, knowing the OSHA guidelines for disaster cleanup is a must. Stocking the proper supplies and equipment is also important, so make sure you take inventory on a regular basis.
Some facilities are taking disaster preparation to a whole new level. The Japanese company Sekisui House has one such building. Designed to be "disaster-proof," this factory was not only built to withstand any natural disaster, but it has enough supplies on hand to shelter up to 250 workers for an entire week. It houses its own battery storage and smart power supply system as well as an off-the-grid gas engine capable of powering the facility.
To help justify the cost of such an endeavor, Sekisui House points to a second benefit: energy efficiency. Thanks to their innovative power system, they are able to reduce energy waste and even sell unused power back to the power companies.
Finally, when preparing for disasters, be aware that you also need to consider storms that affect facilities outside of your control. For instance, you may have an offshore supplier thousands of miles away. If a storm hits their location, it could affect your ability to get supplies to keep your operation running. With this in mind, always be mindful of disasters that can strike any part of your supply chain in addition to your own properties.