By Evan Williams, Cambridge Companies
September 30, 2019
Developing a plan before a disaster hits ensures that you can resume operations as soon as possible.
Natural disasters—be they floods, tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, etc.—can do great damage to any building, including a solid waste facility. Having plans in place for continuity of operations and setting up a clear plan for reconstruction can help recover faster after a disaster. To that end, we will focus on two parts of this response: the continuity of operations plan and approaches to physically repairing and reconstructing your facility.
Continuity of Operations
Once a disaster has passed, it is time to start picking up the pieces. Solid waste companies often have a critical role in this process, so getting back into operation is very important. Facility operators should have measures in place that allow them to re-start their operation if their facility is damaged. Certainly, available resources will impact this, as a larger company with multiple locations and built-in redundancy will likely have an easier time re-starting their operation, rather than a single-site company. These measures can include keeping backups of all personnel and company files in the cloud, so if onsite servers are damaged this information is preserved. The backup information should include scans of your facility drawings. This item is often overlooked but having good quality up-to-date facility drawings will save time and money if a disaster hits your facility.
Not all disasters are a complete surprise. Several, such as hurricanes or flooding, may provide some advance warning. While there might not be an abundance of time, you may be able to relocate hauling trucks to higher ground if your facility is low-lying, or make sure a recycling center/transfer station is cleared out of material. With available time, you can work to minimize the environmental impact of your facilities and preserve your assets, so they are available after the event.
The local GM should be in contact with local emergency services to confirm when it is safe to re-start operations. Often, priority is given to waste services companies, but this coordination should be one of the first steps. Whether it is with some advance warning or as a complete surprise, the next step in re-building after a disaster, once access to the site is feasible, is a complete facility and fleet assessment. This assessment should look for two things: What is needed ASAP to restart operations? and What will be needed in the longer term to restore the facility to how it was before the event? Once the assessment is complete, the management team should bring all available resources to produce results quickly and continue operation as allowed. Other unaffected facilities can provide rolling stock and drivers, while volume from damaged transfer stations could be diverted to other facilities. In addition to this coordination, there may be critical facility repairs that need to be performed. This can include repairs to the electric infrastructure, the building roof or siding and similar repairs.