How to Prepare Your Workplace for Hurricane Season

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey battered the Gulf Coast causing an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Plastics manufacturer Inteplast Group was caught in the storm’s path, but it was not the company’s first experience with a natural disaster. After 25 years in manufacturing, all 2,000 workers were aware of site evacuation, company-provided transportation availability and post-storm shift arrival times.

“Once we have a storm warning in effect, we start thinking about what needs to be done. It’s second nature for us now,” said Peter Zamarripa, general plant manager.

Preparation for the category 4 storm began 72 hours prior to landfall. The following procedures helps Inteplast Group secure equipment in the case of natural disaster:

  • Have plastic tarps, tape, and rope on hand to cover the equipment.
  • Cover windows.
  • Have flashlights and batteries.
  • Have diesel for generators.
  • Secure all loose equipment and materials that are outside on site.
  • Back up all digital files.
  • Make sure silos are full.
  • Have enough resin* on hand in case there is a shortage or delivery issues post-hurricane.
    *or relevant product resources

After the Storm

Inteplast management returned to the site to assess Harvey’s impact as soon as storm conditions subsided.

“It is critical that needs are identified as early as possible so that a recovery plan can be created, and the resources needed can be retained,” said Senior Director of Texas Administration Dan Martino.

Assessing structural damage is crucial to keep business operations intact. Management identified power issues so that emergency generators are put in place and the company can rent others as needed. Then, they determined what was needed to get power back online.

Building structure is paramount to protecting equipment. Once repairs were completed, employees were able to re-enter to begin clean-up and start-up activities.

The key overall was to prioritize issues. Waiting too long jeopardizes the timeline for normalcy, according to the company.

Communication is a Must

During the recovery period, communicating via phone, email, or texting was near absent, Martino said.

Inteplast’s radio system allowed for effective on-site communication during the recovery process.

“Information management remains as integral to the process as anything else,” he added.

The company initiates five steps to maintain communication in an emergency:

1.     Update contact lists.

2.     Communicate any sales- or marketing- specific updates.

3.     Use a digital communication tool. Inteplast’s ITV system provides plant-specific information on monitors in its plants’ breakrooms and lobbies.

4.     Utilize an emergency update hotline with prerecorded information for staff.

5.     Telephone numbers for expedited health insurance-related needs were distributed.

Company-Wide Fundraising

A positive company culture can make all the difference when a natural disaster occurs. Martino, whose home was undamaged, helped to coordinate recovery efforts for workers and the community in need.

Staff members who were not negatively impacted by Harvey helped others through volunteer efforts. In addition, human resources set up an online portal for company-wide donation funds.

Should a company chose to go this route, Inteplast suggests the following:

1.     An online portal for funds should be established, if possible, and determine what, if any, the company will match.

2.     Keep staff abreast of donation totals throughout drive.

3.     Create a physical location on site for storing and distribution of clothing and food. This should be where family members can access the donations when employees may be working.

4.     Allow donation recipients their privacy. Do not post names or items/amounts received.

Source: EHS Today

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