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After Florence: 10 safety steps for hurricane recovery

September 18, 2018

Post-disaster recovery starts with protecting your company’s most valuable asset – the human supply chain.

Technical Director, Property

Michael D. Widdekind has more than 25 years of experience in the loss control profession. As... About this expert

Florence blog

The anxiety of an approaching severe weather event like Florence is only exceeded by the reality of its aftermath, when the devastating toll on people and property becomes clear.

At Zurich, our thoughts are with all those impacted by Florence’s wrath, especially our customers, colleagues, family and friends, where the storm hit hardest. We have Claims Catastrophe Operations and Risk Engineering teams available to help our customers with safety guidelines and claims processes.

As cleanup and recovery efforts begin, businesses are naturally eager to get back on track, particularly when addressing the storm’s impacts on their supply chain. But there is another side to that network to keep in mind…your human supply chain. That includes not only the accessibility of your products and services to customers, but the well-being of your employees who make that accessibility possible. So when it comes to your workforce – that dynamic link in the human supply chain – it’s safety first and safety always.

Here are 10 safety practices to put into action:

  1. Conduct an internal site assessment with properly trained personnel. Bring cameras to document conditions.
  2. Use extreme caution when entering the property following a disaster, and only after the qualified assessment mentioned above has been completed.
  3. Survey the site for damage and hazards, including:

    • Live electrical wires
    • Broken glass and sharp metal
    • Leaking fuel gases or flammable liquids
    • Damaged building features
    • Paved or hardscape areas with damage that might cause a collapse
    • Flammable atmosphere in vapor space of flammable storage tanks
  4. Look out for animals and pests that may have relocated during the disaster. Aside from potentially carrying diseases, frightened animals may be more likely to bite or scratch people who encounter them.
  5. Retrieve necessary insurance documents that provide contacts and may clarify coverages.
  6. Begin the restoration process, starting with essential equipment and systems, but only after they have been cleared for use by qualified personnel.
  7. Verify the status of protection systems, including:

    • Water supplies
    • Fire pumps
    • Automatic sprinklers
    • Fire alarms
    • Security systems
  8. Contact reputable contractors and schedule their work when outside restoration needs are confirmed.
  9. Perform emergency repairs as needed.
  10. Always prioritize protection of employees and maintain communication with them during cleanup and recovery work.

 

In carrying out the steps above, there are related concerns to address. Here are a few vital considerations as your business gets ready to rebound:


Monitor physical stress on employees.  
More effort than is typically required may be exerted during flood cleanup and other disaster recovery tasks. Overdoing it can result in avoidable injuries.

Keep on top of specific types of hazards. Flooding and wind damage can create new structural, chemical and electrical hazards. Make sure properly trained personnel are on site to manage these risks.

Be cautious when removing debris. Wreckage and rubble can hide structural damage and other changes. Workers removing debris must also use proper lifting techniques to avoid potential injuries.

Prevent hazardous exposures. Depending on the extent of damage and type of business, a disaster can expose employees to toxic environments and disease.

Providing protective masks may help reduce these risks, but properly trained health and safety specialists should survey the damage as soon as possible.

There is another population in your human supply chain – citizens and officials in the community where your business is based. Government agencies, in particular, are crucial partners in both disaster recovery and storm preparedness for the next major event.

Recent history tells us that next event may occur soon. Zurich’s Post-Event Review Capability (PERC) resources provide insights gleaned from past catastrophes that can help in building resilience. Any damage prevented before the next weather-related emergency strikes will ease the burden of recovery efforts and help reduce risks to your employees.

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