Powerful winds can cause significant damage to a building — broken windows, leaks and even roof tearing. While buildings are constructed to withstand strong winds, there are still steps that you, as a building owner can and should take to ensure that your property does not suffer significant damage during a catastrophic wind event.
Just because you may live in a city that doesn’t experience hurricanes, that doesn’t mean you won’t have disastrous winds in your area. Thunderstorms and high winds can also damage your property. Therefore, you should learn what types of wind events are likely to occur in your area and at what times of the year they’re more likely to occur. Contacting a professional to inspect your property can help you determine your risks. Another great resource is the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Map, where you can learn how susceptible your building is to storm damage. You can find it on their website here.
In a catastrophic wind event, the most susceptible part of your building is the roof. In most cases, you should hire a roof contractor to inspect your roof and ensure that emergency preparations can be performed correctly.
You should also, however, conduct regular roof inspections. There are several things in particular that you should look for during your inspection. Examine the roof for any loose or missing materials and debris, and secure or remove these items. Be sure to also check for loose perimeter flashing. In a catastrophic wind event, loose perimeter flashing increases the possibility of roof cover failure, and it can allow water to seep inside as well. You should also check curbs, roof-mounted equipment and roof hatches for loose flashing. Gutters, downspouts and drains should all be examined as well. You should also note the age of your roof. If you have a roof that is 10 years or older, it may be in poor condition and could need significant repairs or may even need to be replaced.
And remember that when doing roof work, always keep safety in mind. Roof work should only be done if the weather permits.
You should ensure that your windows and doors are protected and secure as well. Check that your exterior windows and doors are pressure rated. The pressure rating should meet the requirements of the International Building Code for your area. Many windows and doors will have the pressure rating label or sticker in the corner of the glazing or inside of the frame itself. If not, you can contact the manufacturer for the information. If there is no sticker, contact the door manufacturer to determine if there’s a retrofit that they can install that will bring up the door’s resistance. Alternatively, you could replace the door with one that is appropriately pressure rated.
When inspecting your windows, you should check the sealants. Look for any pealing or cracks and repair these. For your doors, there are a few more factors to take into consideration during the inspection. Install head and foot bolts on all inactive exterior double doors. Alternatively, you can replace these doors with those that can be secured to a lockable center post. Property owners in hurricane-prone regions should replace exterior entry doors with pressure impact rated doors or pressure and impact rated shutters. During a storm, at least one protected entry door should be kept operable from inside the building should anyone be there during a storm. Those in hurricane prone regions should also install a shutter system that is rated for the wind pressures and large missile impacts required by your area’s building code.
Many pieces of the landscape can become a wind hazard, so be sure to remove or secure anything that may become a projectile. Remove bricks, pallets, or any other debris before high wind storms. If you’re in a hurricane prone region, you should consider replacing gravel or rock landscaping with shredded materials. Rock and gravel landscaping materials are a major source of windborne debris and can cause significant damage as they can break unprotected windows. Outbuildings, fences, garbage cans, outdoor furniture and awnings should be secured or removed as these can also become projectiles.
Having a plan in place will ensure that when a wind event occurs, you and your team will be prepared to be sure that the property will be protected. While most have a disaster response plan in place, it’s vital to also test the plan. Ensure that all staff is aware and educated about all wind-related procedures. Inform employees about their specific roles and responsibilities in the event of a wind emergency. And make sure that you have all emergency supplies stocked and ready—including generators, sandbags, hand tools, and any other items your building might require. It’s also important to protect any computer files to be sure that data is secured through a backup system in the case of a power outage.
The main takeaway is to be aware and prepared before a catastrophic wind event. By following the above tips and taking steps to secure your building, you can make sure that your building will be safe and protected from damage in the event of a catastrophic wind event.
High Wind Protection for Commercial Property. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.uno.edu/chart/documents/HighWind.pdf
How to Prepare Your Commercial Roof for Hurricanes & Other High-Wind Events. (2018, October 01). Retrieved from https://disastersafety.org/ibhs/prepare-commercial-roof-hurricanes-high-wind-events/
Preparing Commercial and Industrial Buildings for Hurricane Season | Market Monitor Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.engieresources.com/preparing-commercial-and-industrial-buildings-for-hurricane-season