Because of their destructive power, hurricanes present an enormous risk to homes and businesses – especially those in Atlantic coastal regions or other flood areas. Hurricane season in the U.S. runs from June to November. In the last 30 years, an average of six hurricanes have made landfall per year, with an average of three developing into major events.
For 2016, Colorado State University has predicted a total of 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Hurricanes can cause power outages
When a hurricane hits, it’s common to lose power. The loss of electric power will stop most machinery. But it can subsequently raise the possibilities of perishables spoiling due to inadequate refrigeration, damage to piping or damage due to overheating and loss of control.
If loss of electric power represents a serious threat to your business, and particularly if you know when a hurricane is likely to occur, effective preparations can mitigate damage.
- Prepare generators. So you have a generator? That’s great, but it won’t do you much good if it doesn’t start up when you need it. If you do have a generator, make sure to perform pre-operational checks and test by starting it up. If possible, run it under the load you would be running in the event your business lost power. Train operations personnel in procedures for a safe transition to on-site power generation. A written procedure is necessary, and it should cover various power loss scenarios.
- Top off fuel tanks. If a generator is supplied by fuel stored on site, make sure this fuel is fresh. Many instances of failure are caused by aged fuel. So how old is too old? Never use fuel which has been in storage for more than 12 months. This is just as true for diesel as for any other liquid fuel. In addition to quality degradation, stored fuel can accumulate algae, which can quickly clog fuel strainers and filters, stopping the generator. Fuel stabilizers can be used to extend the useful life of gasoline and decrease phase separation, which is when water in the ethanol separates from the petroleum based products in the gasoline.
- Anticipate power surges. Hurricane winds often blow trees onto power lines. This can cause power interruptions and accompanying voltage surges. We recommend surge protection for sensitive circuits, especially those serving electronic power supplies associated with computers and automation controls. If you have such equipment which is not adequately protected from surge damage, consider shutting it down when power outages are expected. Better yet, ask your electrical engineer or contractor about installing power quality hardware and an effective grounding system in your facilities.
Floods can devastate equipment
We all know that flooding can occur from hurricane rain. But it can also occur as a result of power outages as mentioned above, or machinery failure that interferes with continuous pumping necessary in some types of property located at or below the local water table. We recommend the following to address flooding from any of these causes.
If flooding is expected, these steps should be taken to minimize damage to equipment and to make post flood recovery as rapid as possible:
- Make sure all personnel are evacuated from the property before the rise of floodwater.
- Move as much property and equipment as possible to high ground storage, if available. Move the highest value property first.
- If time permits, construct flood barriers with sandbags or other materials. Even if these do not hold back flood waters, they may resist flood currents sufficiently to prevent destruction of structures.
- When flooding is imminent, shut down all fuel burning equipment, such as water heaters and boilers. In the case of steam boilers, it is best if these can be allowed to cool before the water hits.
- De-energize all electrical circuits prior to flooding.
- Move all vehicles to high ground if possible.
If your equipment, machinery or electrical systems have been exposed to flood waters, you risk their loss even when the water level has dropped. Equipment and machinery may have water, silt or other contaminants in them. Your equipment could be damaged or destroyed if you attempt to start or test it without adequate cleaning and preparation.
Do not attempt to operate or test your equipment without properly restoring it. Even when your equipment’s exterior appears normal, residual moisture and contaminants can lead to permanent damage.
For more information on protecting your equipment and property from hurricane damage, read this tip sheet we prepared.
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© 2015 The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This article is intended for information purposes only. All recommendations are general guidelines and are not intended to be exhaustive or complete, nor are they designed to replace information or instructions from the manufacturer of your equipment. Contact your equipment service representative or manufacturer with specific questions.