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7 Ways to Safeguard Facilities Against Tornadoes

Apr 18, 2023 | Public | 0 comments

 

2023 has already been a very active year for tornadoes, and facilities professionals should know how they can protect their facilities and their occupants from being victims. Tornadoes are the most destructive atmospheric phenomenon, and most tornadoes hit the United States in May and June, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

A tornado is defined by the National Weather Service (NWS) as a “violently rotating column of air touching the ground, usually attached to the base of a thunderstorm.” Winds can be up to 300 miles per hour, and these powerful storms can damage property exceeding 1 mile wide and 50 miles long. Hail is usually found close to tornadoes, as well.

While every state is at some risk for tornadoes, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) reports the area with the most frequent and strong windstorms is in the Midwest, an area that stretches from Pennsylvania northwest to South Dakota, southwest to Texas, and southeast to Georgia and includes major cities like Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, and Cincinnati.

It’s important that businesses be prepared for all types of natural disasters, including tornadoes. According to Ready.gov, 40% of small businesses won’t reopen after being impacted by a natural disaster, and 75% of businesses without a continuity plan will fail within 3 years.

Here are seven ways facilities professionals can safeguard their facilities against tornadoes:

1. Strengthen New Facilities

According to FEMA, those involved in the design of new buildings should consider using building materials that are resistant to tornadoes, such as reinforced concrete or reinforced masonry walls, as well as roofs with short spans. Additionally, an article in The New York Times says roofs should be tightly secured to walls and walls to the foundation. Impact-resistant windows with a special glaze to prevent them from being shattered should also be installed.

2. Create a Tornado-Safe Area in Existing Facilities

Consider hardening the structure of specific facility spaces like a training room or hallway by following guidelines specified by FEMA P-361 to serve as a safe area for building occupants. These safe areas provide “near-absolute protection” in extreme wind events. At the end of 2021, The New York Times reported that safe areas that can hold 100 people in commercial facilities could cost up to $100,000, but smaller safe areas in commercial buildings could be as cheap as $15,000. Additionally, FEMA recommends that the safe area have standby power, proper ventilation, access for the disabled, lighting, and emergency provisions like food, water, sanitation management, and emergency supplies.

3. Identify Safe Areas

Occupants should be educated on the locations of safe areas in their facility, and there should be clearly marked signs leading to and directly in front of these areas. If there are no safe areas or they can’t be accessed, occupants should relocate to a basement or the facility’s lowest level. If that’s not an option, they should find a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor and stay away from doors, windows, and outside walls.

4. Be Informed

When preparing for extreme weather scenarios such as tornadoes, it’s best to stay informed and updated on the latest news and information.

Stay tuned to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, your local television or radio stations, and online weather media resources such as the NWS for more information. Facilities managers should also ensure that all devices are charged in case of power loss.

Be aware that a “tornado watch” means tornadoes are likely to occur in the watch area, while a “tornado warning” means there is an imminent threat of a tornado in the warning area.

5. Know What to Look for Outside

Facilities and security managers should be aware of signs that a tornado may occur, such as rotating funnel-shaped clouds; large, dark, low-lying clouds; or approaching clouds of debris. Other signs include large hail and a loud noise that sounds like a freight train. If they see these, they should encourage occupants to take cover and tune into NOAA weather radio, local media outlets, or the Internet.

6. Secure Items

Move furniture away from windows, mirrors, and picture frames. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that top-heavy furniture like bookcases be secured with L brackets, corner brackets, or aluminum molding. Heavy items on lower shelves should be secured, and make sure hazardous materials are stored far away from the emergency food and water supply.

7. Develop an Emergency Plan

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that the plan be communicated in advance to occupants and that it include an alarm system that’s tested frequently. Additionally, the CDC recommends that a floor plan be drawn to show primary and secondary exits from each room or area that is posed and to mark where first-aid kits and fire extinguishers are located. OSHA also says personnel should be accounted for when an emergency occurs and hazardous materials should be addressed on-site.

Properly preparing for tornadoes can not only protect your facilities but also save occupants’ lives.

The post 7 Ways to Safeguard Facilities Against Tornadoes appeared first on Facilities Management Advisor.

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