04/03/2006

Disaster Recovery: Confidence in Crisis (3 of 7)

 

With a duration of only 15 seconds and a moment magnitude of 6.7 (considered moderate), the Jan. 17, 1994, Northridge Earthquake that occurred in Los Angeles was the most monetarily costly quake in U.S. history ($44 billion in direct and indirect costs, and $800 billion accorded to the replacement value on taxable property). Damage occurred up to 85 miles away, with 51 people killed and 9,000 seriously injured. This quake was unusual since the epicenter was within a major metropolitan area. Although several commercial buildings collapsed, loss of life was minimized because of the early-morning hour of the quake, the fact that it occurred on a federal holiday, and because California building codes dictate that structural design of facilities reduce the risk of collapse.

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Before Clean-Up Begins

In the moments following a disaster, it’s easy to panic. However, it’s important that you, the building owner or facilities management team, maintain composure, contact your insurance carrier, and begin to prepare for recovery. Your response will largely be dictated by the scale of the disaster - whether it’s a leaky roof or damage from an F5 tornado. Immediately following a disaster, you should assess the level of danger and ensure that all individuals in and around the building (the facilities management team included) are safe.

As the first course of action, assess and determine the cause; when possible, prevent further damage. “If the cause is a sprinkler head, turn off the sprinkler. If it’s a broken toilet, turn off the water,” explains William A. Begal, president, Begal Enterprises Inc., Rockville, MD. Most insurance policies contain a general duty clause requiring that the insured take necessary steps to mitigate the loss and prevent further damage. St. Paul, MN-based property casualty insurance provider St. Paul Travelers Co. Inc., in its Disaster Recovery Guidelines, provides the following advice:

  • Look for safety hazards such as exposed electrical wires, leaking gas, etc.
  • Evaluate buildings for structural damage or undermining of building foundations.
  • Complete temporary repairs and minimize hazards to ensure that personnel can safely access the building.
  • Use caution in opening fuel control valves. Check to ensure that piping and equipment is intact, properly supported, and not leaking.
  • Cover any damaged doors, windows, and skylights immediately. Assume that the covering will be in place for 4 to 6 months. Coverings should be substantial enough to resist expected wind, rain, or snow, and should not allow moisture penetration.
  • Damaged utility-owned electrical service equipment and downed power lines should be cordoned off until the utility’s representative can complete repairs and restoration.
  • If it is suspected that wind-driven rain or flooding has contacted electrical system components, or if there has been significant wind and/or flood damage to the building structure or foundation, de-energize the system at the service entrance until inspection, cleaning, drying out, and testing are completed.
  • Check all gas, steam, and flammable liquid piping systems and associated tanks for leaks and damage.

In all situations, document the damage. “Keep a digital camera on-site. A picture is worth a thousand words - and insurance adjusters can’t fight or argue with that,” says Begal. If the disaster is weather-related, obtain a dated copy of the conditions (i.e. temperature, winds, rain, hail, etc.). Keep a record of all relevant information pertaining to the disaster - dates, times, damages, etc.

Make sure that members of the property or facilities management team are on-site to direct the third-party restoration crew. If clean-up begins before they arrive at the site, facilities professionals should avoid direct skin contact with water by wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing. “Store respirator and Tyvek® suits on-site for some of your building personnel. They should be properly prepared to deal with and walk [through the site] with a service provider,” says Begal. “Make sure they have a fit-test for their respirator. Make sure they have all the appropriate gear.”

Jana J. Madsen (jana.madsen@buildings.com), Managing Editor

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.


 
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