HURRICANE IAN THOUGHTSPosted on Sep 28 in Member Blog
Dear FMCA Members,
As you know, Hurricane Ian is not pulling any punches and this storm will affect the majority of our state in many ways. Having been through many major storms living here in Pensacola and across the Panhandle, I firsthanded know what the impacts of this storm will be for the areas in the path. Especially knowing that it will be a CAT 4 or 5 when it makes landfall. Here are some of my thoughts for you to work with. No pressure and some of you will already know what to do but thought it can’t hurt to pass this info on to you just to be safe.
Here are my thoughts:
- Waterways may close down due to sunken boats and debris. In Hurricane Ivan, they closed the waterways to navigation for 30 days. This made it to where we couldn’t do any over water work for 30 days. Then they opened them to commercial work only which was when we could then move forward. Then shortly after, they opened up the waterways to the public once they cleared or marked all sunken obstacles.
- Bridges and roads may get damaged to a point that they will be unusable for a year or two. You will need to think about how you will travel to work and which jobs you will take based on site access. Boat travel may be your new way to get to places instead of the regular roads. In Hurricane Ivan, our main Interstate 10 bridge was damaged and all interstate traffic had to be rerouted. In Hurricane Sally, our main connecting bridge to Gulf Breeze was wiped out and we have been almost 2 plus years without being able to use that bridge. Everyone had to drive 45 minutes one way out of the way to get to their jobs and pay a daily toll to & fro once they were reinstated. I do believe they will suspend tolls for a while until things get back to some sort of order but they will definitely reinstate them before you are ready.
- Be careful of the contracts you take. For new contractors, taking anything you can get your hands on will make sense but for the contractors that have been around a while, you will need to strongly consider only working your existing clientele list because they will ALL call at the same time all wanting to be first and it will turn into a madhouse just trying to get them all lined up better yet taking any new clients and adding them to the list. Reassure all of your current contract load that you are committed to their work first. Also, call everyone of your current contracts and discuss how the storm will affect your agreement already in place. Will you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what needs to be done and then move forward with the new plan? Will they have house damage and want to put their marine project on the back burner? Or, will the house take so long that they will do the marine project first now to bring them to some sense of normalcy? You will just need to know where you stand with each commitment you already have in place befoer making new commitments. I would suggest hiring someone that specifically tracks your contracts and leads and include their salary cost in bidding the new work.
- This leads into your forward thinking commitments. It doesn’t do you any good to over commit and then not be able to get to the work for a while or perform it at all. You will get overwhelmed and your clients will not be patient. Make your list of crews that you have available. Also, categorize crews by their talents/skill. Then make a list of jobs for each crew and apply time frames to them. Add time buffers for weather and materials delays. Then fill in the scheduled spots with projects and don’t stray from it. Don’t tell people what they want to hear. Tell them what you are capable of doing. Be very Honest in your schedule and believe it or not, they will be willing to wait. You really need to manage this area hard. Don’t feel like you need to grab every project. The solid good projects will come and you need to be posotioned to grab them when they are ready and not be wrapped up in a bunch of clean up or debris removal contracts that are now going to weigh you down and keep you from getting to the nice profitable ones you have been waiting for.
- Labor resources are going to be very important. Make relationships with subcontractors, out of town marine contractors and employee leasing agencies. These will all come in handy and help you get the work done. Remember, people from out of town may need your license to work under. Be very careful of working with people you don’t know. Take the time to review their references. Bad workers will cause you more work for yourself which you don’t need when this is all going on at once. When Ivan hit, I went from a 6 person operation to 48 people in a matter of months. You will definitely need to ramp things up.
- Get with your permit agencies that you deal with and get very clear on what the rebuild requirements will be for each agency. Will permits be required or can you build back as was without having to get permits. Will they require “after the fact” permits? I am sure that the Governor will issue an Emergency Executive Order for the affected counties that will allow work to be built back without a state required permit. I will assist in reaching out to the Army Corp and FDEP and see what the plan is immediately after the storm. Photo document each project in it’s entirety and save the photos. Also, ask the client’s for any existing copies of permits or photos that will help you justify what you put back in place. It is good to have a file with as much data in it as possible for each project. The agencies will come knocking later and want to know why something was done if it didn’t meet new codes and you will need to explain this. Also, charge the client for this photo and documentation work.
- Evaluate what materials you will need to finish your current contract load as well as what you will need for new contracts. Consider buying in bulk. Consider trying new material approaches that are not widely used in your area in order to have access to materials faster which will help you to keep things moving forward. You will need to think about buying marine treated wood, composite and fiberglass pilings, vinyl & steel sheetpiling seawall materials, pressure treated framing and decking, composite & fiberglass grated deckings, screws, bolts, hurricane clips, erosion control fabric, turbidity curtains, rope, anchors, fish cleaning tables, aluminum dock ladders, pex and pvc plumbing materials, shingles and metal roofing, electrical conduit. Remember, supplies have already been tough to get so you will want to discuss these items with your suppliers right now.
- Consider that rental equipment will be hard to get. If you already have tractors and excavators on rent, you may want to keep them on rent cause when you let them go you may not be able to get them back. Consider getting large fuel supply tanks in order to keep your equipment, boats, pumps and generators running. I had to drive 2 states over in Ivan in order to get fuel in order to keep things moving. Same with oil.
- Go to the local county and city governmental agencies and let them know you are available to do emergency work if needed. This will be profitable work for you.
- Be prepared to operate in a system where there is no power for weeks. Generators will be your best friend and you will need a few of them. You will need them to run your homes as well as each job site and they will break down so having extra generators is not a bad idea. Same goes for tools. You will need to consider what you need to amp things up to multiple crews.
- Make sure ou have enough cash to operate if the power goes out. It may be that all credit card terminals are not working due to power outages and cash will be king to keep you moving!
- Any claims you may need to file, call and get a claim number even if you are not ready to submit your claim. Just establish your number right away. Then as soon as possible, file the claim. Get yours in the queue right away.
- Last, when approaching projects, before just jumping in the water to work, please make sure the environment is safe. One of the biggest things we learned was that there could be live power wires on land and in the water. You don’t want to just jump in the water without making sure there is no active live power in that project vicinity. They have meters to test the waters. Make sure when working with a client even if it is a year after the storm, that they have all breakers to the dock turned off. Even if there is no dock there. We have learned this as well. Don’t touch any metal in the water until you know it is 100 percent safe. We are almost 20 years past Ivan and still finding live wires in back yards. Crazy!
I will send more thoughts as I have them even if they are one liners but wanted to get this to the membership to start thinking about how to deal with a storm of this magnitude. I hate to say it but this is looking like it will be one of the worst storms to hit Florida so it’s time to go ahead and get your plans in order. Please be safe and remember to let us know if any of you need anything at all and we will rally together to help as possible. I hope all of you make it through this unscathed!!!
President of The Florida Marine Contractor’s Association