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The 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1st and runs thru November 30, 2015.  Hurricanes, a form of tropical cyclones, are capable of devastating damage to workplaces, communities and lives.

Some business are required to have an Emergency Action Plan which meets the requirements in 29 CFR 1910.38.  Even if your workplace is not required to have a plan, it is important to have, distribute and practice a thorough emergency evacuation plan to ensure that workers can get to safety in case a hurricane is projected to impact their work areas.

Your evacuation plan should include the following elements:

  • Conditions that will trigger implementation of the plan
  • Chain of command – who is in charge during an emergency
  • Emergency functions and whom will provide them
  • Specific evacuation procedures such as routes and exits and potential shelter in place areas
  • Procedures for accounting for personnel – employees, and visitors
  • Required equipment for personnel

Everyone should be familiar with the warning terms used for hurricanes as well as any local response plans, signals or safe areas that may be available.  Hurricane or tropical storm “watches” mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is possible in the specified area.  While hurricane or tropical storm “warnings”mean that a hurricane of tropical storm is expected to reach the area, typically within 24 hours.

Don’t be caught off guard, take the time now to ensure that all of your workers know what to do in case of an emergency. 

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating scale based on a hurricane’s sustained wind speed.  The scale estimates potential property damage.  The table below provides some indication of expected or likely damage based on the category of the hurricane or tropical storm.

Category

Sustained Winds

Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds

1
  • 74-95 mph
  • 64-82 kt
  • 119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2
  • 96-110 mph
  • 83-95 kt
  • 154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage: Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3 (major)
  • 111-129 mph
  • 96-112 kt
  • 178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur: Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4 (major)
  • 130-156 mph
  • 113-136 kt
  • 209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur: Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5 (major)
  • 157 mph or higher
  • 137 kt or higher
  • 252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur: A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

Don’t be caught off guard, take the time now to ensure that all of your workers know what to do in case of an emergency.  Practice, practice, practice your plan frequently.  More information on hurricane preparedness including hazards associated with response and recovery efforts and recommendations for protecting your employees, work practices and precautions to implement can be found on the OSHA website.