Disaster Contracting 101

Filed under About Ryan & LMGC

Disaster Contracting is a important and necessary service.  As many of the more experienced contractors are aware the US encounters hundreds of disasters annually.  Typical causes of natural disasters are hurricanes, landslides, severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, floods, Ice storms, and earthquakes.  Disruption and economic impact caused by these disasters can vary greatly depending on the type and intensity of the disaster.  Some factors that often effect a disasters affects are size of the event, intensity, location, type, and amount of human infrastructure affected.   Recovery efforts and resources needed to respond to a disaster can be hard to predict and plan for.  These disasters are never totally predictable and their location and intensity make it very difficult to prepare for every situation.

Contractors who do disaster recovery work often struggle to maintain a state of readiness.  A good disaster response plan requires a lot of thought  and pre disaster preparations.   Many times contractors who lack experience in disaster contracting greatly underestimate all of the details that make for a successful response plan.  I want to take a minute to discuss some things you need include in any company storm readiness plan.  First decide what type of resources you have available to use in the recovery work.  You need to take inventory of everything you can spare from your regular work load at home.  If you have made major construction commitments at home it can greatly limit your resources available to help at a disaster.   As a company if you can not let any of your equipment or resources go due to prior obligations and deadlines for projects at home you will need to put rental agreements and other contingencies in place.  Keep in mind if you are planning on renting equipment at your destination it is highly unlikely it will be available.  Also many rental equipment companies will not allow you to take equipment across state lines.  If you are planning to travel with equipment rented from your home base remember to discuss this with the rental company in advance.  If you do travel with rented equipment from your home location keep in mind that any equipment issues will not be fixed since you have taken the equipment out of the area.  In addition you will not be able to trade equipment that goes down with another piece since you rented it hundreds of miles away.  You will likely be responsible for rental fees even if the equipment goes down on you since you can’t return it till you return home and the equipment is in your possession while inoperable.  These are just a few of the nightmares you can encounter managing equipment and logistics of traveling outside of your home base to assist in the recovery efforts.

Once you arrive at the location you will have to determine how to keep your equipment and trucks fueled.  Most stations will typically have lost power and fuel deliveries will often be limited.  Depending on your fuel requirements you may need to schedule fuel deliveries.  Some contractors will bring fuel in containers you will have to check with local regulations before transporting fuel.  Certain permits may be required depending on type and quantity of fuel you are transporting.

Accommodations will typically be unavailable in any close proximity to the disaster.  Most of the local residence who have damaged homes in addition to thousands of power company crews and many hotels themselves may be damaged.  It is always important to consider the working conditions heat or cold.  You should always be prepared to sleep where ever possible and bring appropriate clothes for heat or cold and sleeping bags.  It can often be counter productive to travel 100 miles each morning and evening to find hotels so you and all crew members should come prepared to sleep in vehicles or tents.

Food is another major consideration,  lines to resturaunts can be hour wait times minimum.  With power out to the town the few resturants open will often be feeding most of the town.  You will need to bring enough food for the entire company for at least a week.  Your crew members will be dealing with long work hours and marginal conditions.  It is important that all members traveling in as first responders are well trained as to what to expect and mentally prepared.  Curfew and martial law are almost always in affect immediately after a major disaster and you will not be allowed to move around after dark.  Most disasters will be under lock down by national guard in attempts to prevent looting.  Be prepared to get to a stopping point by dark and be settled with all needed provisions.

As you can see there are more details to consider than can be discussed in one article.  But it is important to remember at least the basics before jumping in your truck as a beginner and traveling to a disaster to help.  If you do that you could instead add to the problem.  Other quick things to remember all company vehicles and equipment should be clearly marked and identified for authorities and all personnel should have company issued identification identifying them and their position.  It can be very hard to learn all the things you need to know to work disasters becuase the experience is hard to come by.  If you are on the road working a disaster one month per year it can take you 12 years to gain a years worth the experience in the field.  For this reason if you are new to disaster contracting it is very advisable to work a few years with a established disaster contractor first and learn the ropes before heading out on your own.


ryan @lmgc.com