Storms Ahead – Are You Ready?

When it comes to summer storms, it’s hard to predict what could happen. However, you can advocate for your facilities (and people) by instituting a proactive plan. As we enter a period of seasonal storms, including hurricanes and tornadoes, it’s imperative that safety managers help their teams be prepared. 

First, it should be mentioned that certain regions are more vulnerable than others. It’s estimated that 1,200 tornadoes hit the United States on an annual basis. The Plains and Midwest are most at risk from May to July. Although such events can prove to be disastrous, with the right protocols, safety managers may be able to minimize risk and damage. 

We all know that the most dangerous place to be during a windstorm is in a scrapyard. This is exacerbated by the fact that lightning can cause fires. Certain parts of the country might need to employ lightning rods or have other measures in place to help keep lightning from causing fires.

I know of one site that had a pile fire right in the middle of a severe storm. Although the cause was not determined, I’m nearly certain that the winds associated with the storms helped it build. It could have been a pile fire that was beginning to occur and the wind conditions helped it grow. It also could have been started by lightning, but there were no signs of that. We all need to be aware of lightning and winds and how they contribute to fire cause, growth and spread.

But, fires aren’t the only concern related to storms.  Power surges and outages can bring operations to a halt or create other hazards. Power surges can make their way into a facility through various routes, one of which is your building’s alarm system.  A direct hit isn’t the only way to experience the damaging effects of lightning. If something around your building becomes a conductor, it could easily become a vector for a potential power surge. 

Now for the good news: You can avoid the detrimental effects of a power surge.  The key is to be certain a fire alarm professional has installed surge protectors on your alarm system. Regarding power outages, it’s important to know if your building’s fire alarm system has an adequate backup power source that automatically works in the event of a power outage. Most fire alarm control panels rely on batteries to keep them working when something goes awry. Fire alarm control panels must be equipped with fully charged and functional batteries that can provide standby power for at least 24 hours. Whether the system will still work in case of a power outage is a matter of whether or not the fire alarm system has been properly maintained.  That’s why you should be certain that you are scheduling the required annual maintenance of your system.

Regardless of what happens, a well implemented emergency action plan is critical during inclement weather and related fires. You don’t want to be in that position where you’re looking back and saying, “I wish we had had a better plan.” Hindsight is 20/20 and you don’t want to have regrets when you could have taken action.

As always, please reach out with any questions or concerns. If you’re not sure you’re ready for the storm, I’m here to help.


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