Second in Command

Sept. 13, 2006

Back in 2003, I devoted Issues 20 and 21 to preparing for roofing problems (should they occur).

I suggested using competent experts to survey roofs and to upgrade roof systems following their recommendations as funds permitted. More recent columns (Issues 52 and 53) provided downloadable attachments for tracking roof history and for conducting visual inspections.

Finding Unbiased Information on Maintaining Roofing Systems
Past columns emphasized that educational institutions such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison offers excellent continuing-education courses on roofing technology and that the Better Understanding of Roofing Systems Institute (BURSI) - founded in 1972 - was still conducting its excellent roofing programs as well. Major roofing manufacturers offer maintenance information either through on-site presentations or online Webinars as well. RCI-The Institute of Roofing, Waterproofing, and Building Envelope Professionals (formerly the Roof Consultants Institute) now offers a multitude of educational programs, as does the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Hopefully, you have taken advantages of some of these opportunities in the past. However, as autumn approaches, it is good to reflect on what you have accomplished and where you might still be vulnerable.

Communicating Emergency Roofing Plans to Staff
Since you are reading this roofing column, it is fair to assume that you know a fair amount about the roofs on your facilities and that things are generally under control. However, what happens if you are not personally available when a disaster strikes? Perhaps you are attending an industry convention or enjoying a well-deserved family vacation.

A few years ago, a severe hurricane/windstorm/tornado struck Charlotte, NC. So many trees were upturned that a leading roofing contractor was trapped on his own grounds and had to assign whatever crew he could put together to removing trees and debris before he could get crews out to serve his customers.

Just suppose a storm of equal ferocity were to hit your area. Perhaps you are not on vacation, but at home. Imagine a 100-year-old tree falling in your yard, damaging your home, and blocking your driveway. Naturally, power has failed, as has most landline phone service. Your family needs you at home, just as your job responsibilities tug you toward your business obligations.

You are able to reach your physical plant by cell phone or other means, but who have you left in charge? Is that person familiar with the emergency roofing plans you designed?

Issue 20 talked about excessive roof deflection. During the conversation with your deputy, he points out that several ceiling panels have dropped out of a hung ceiling in the office area. Is he aware that it is probably due to the roof deck being deflected from ponded water? Does he know where you stashed the emergency roof gear? Protective clothing and emergency lighting should be available, but will be useless unless your deputy can get a team up on the roof and open up the blocked roof drains before the roof collapses.

You may be way ahead on roof planning and maintenance if you have computerized your roofing files and know which roof systems are where, who has the warranties, and whether you have maintenance contracts with local roofing contractors offering 24/7 emergency roof service. But is there a back-up to the computer? Can you access it from home or does your deputy have some other way to access those digital files?

If your facility is subjected to an extreme snowfall of the 100-year variety, additional complications occur. As with fallen trees, one problem is just getting your personnel to the site. Snow removal is necessary to provide a place for employees to park. Even more importantly, if you have to remove snow from the roof, where are you going to dump it? Issue 20 suggested that, when a heavy storm is predicted, you should ban vehicular parking from the areas you may need. You should also spot snow-removal equipment at roof access points. If there is a power failure, remember that heating cables will fail; ice build-up is an additional threat.

Your deputy facility manager is your insurance plan. It can’t hurt to review the training of your second in command and to discuss emergency communication. Natural disasters happen all the time; the preparedness and competence of your staff will make a difference.

You should encourage your deputy to attend roofing conventions and expos at least one per year. You and members of your staff should support local consultant and contractor associations by attending their trade shows and regularly visiting their websites. You should each gather literature on the roofing systems installed on your properties and build a roofing reference library. The Manual of Low-Slope Roof Systems (McGraw-Hill) was updated this year; it addresses all the current roof membrane types. The Repair Manual of Low-Slope Roof Systems, a joint publication of NRCA, SPRI, and ARMA should also be part of your roofing library.

Take advantage of the Internet by visiting roofing sites and other online information resources like

Encourage your second-in-command to join RCI to work toward a registration and to enhance his or her career skills. Jointly develop a plan, formalize, and circulate it. Schedule a test or practice run. Who would call whom? Many institutions use a “telephone ladder,” starting with the head of the department and networking down so that all key personnel can be reached quickly. If you have a roofing contractor assigned to your building team, do you have access to that firm’s emergency staff?

Delegate responsibility so that should a crisis ever develop, you can be where your family needs you to be, knowing that you have your job covered.

Asphalt Roofing Manufacturers Association
Metal Roofing Alliance
National Roofing Contractors Association
Roof Coatings Manufacturers Association
RCI-The Institute of Roofing, Waterproofing, and Building Envelope Professionals
Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association (SMACNA)
Single Ply Roofing Industry
Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance

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