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Panel of Experts: When the Floodwaters Start to Rise

“The past few years, it seems like more storm-related flooding is going on. How can I help protect my facility, my equipment and textiles, from this? Help ensure my operation keeps running?”

Hotel/Motel/Resort Laundry: Phil Jones, Vistana Signature Experiences, Orlando, Fla.

Working in Orlando provides heavy rains and potential flooding almost daily throughout the summer and early fall seasons. We also have to be prepared for the potential for hurricanes every year that can produce more than a foot of rain.

Our resort has an engineering team dedicated to checking and clearing storm drains around the operations area on a regular basis, as items can quickly stop up drains and cause flooding into the laundry. This team will also periodically check the gutters to prevent water buildup on the roof, as we have flat roofs instead of sloping roofs.

We closely monitor with security the weather radars and local media to coordinate ahead of potential heavy storms the needs of the operation. I have direct weather radars and warnings on both my office computer and my cell phone. All bay doors and other doors will be secured as a storm is approaching. In addition, we will move any vehicles, such as golf carts or trailers, away from potential flooding areas.

The laundry operation has a small storm-related safety team that proactively looks at what we can do to protect the laundry from flooding, and they provide insight into having a plan ready at all times. They would actually stay on site in the hotel in the event of a major flood event or hurricane and be responsible for shutting down the operation and protecting the laundry equipment with plastic if necessary.

That team would then be first on scene to evaluate and safely determine any recovery effort needed and report back to management. This is also important to look at, as during heavy flooding many of your laundry team may be unable to get to work even though the laundry may be intact and ready to operate.

Every laundry has different situations based on location, but careful and complete guidelines and continual training are important to have in place. We have an annual simulation and readiness evaluation for different potential disasters, including flooding or hurricanes.

It is too late to think about what to do when something actually happens.

Healthcare Laundry: Richard Engler, John Peter Smith Health Network, Fort Worth, Texas

There is nothing like an easy answer for this type of question. As the water rises around, and then into, your facility, you know that there is nothing that can be done to stop the water from rising until it decides to recede.

There are a number of things you can do to discourage the water from entering and taking up residence, and most of them require preparation and experience at your facility.

One thing to consider is having pre-arranged plans to shunt your processing to another facility (preferably several others) while you are inoperable. If you don’t have a Memorandum of Intent or reciprocal agreement with other facilities, both local and further away, consider doing so now and have the peace of mind knowing your “plan E” is prepared and ready—if it comes to that.

Consider asking your equipment manufacturer about these kinds of events and what to expect with your gear and from their support. Incorporate what you learn into your plan.

If the facility is on grade and the water is of a flash-flood nature, things as simple as sandbagging one level high at the entrances can help reduce the amount of clean up you will have to do afterwards.

Making sure that all storm drains on or near your facility are free of debris and trash help the drainage flow better and will increase the amount of water they can channel away. Reporting any drains that flow poorly or are blocked now will give your municipality time to address the issue before it is too late.

Keeping unnecessary traffic from coming and going can keep the water from spreading from the waves. Blocking off the paved areas outside to limit vehicles creating wakes is helpful. If you have sumps, be sure to have backup power for the pumps in case of interruption in electrical service.

Once the water is about to rise over your defenses, be sure that you are ready and able to cut the utilities to your facility and equipment to avoid shorting, fire and electrocution hazards.

Boilers and thermal equipment will react poorly to cold water, so be sure that they are not only turned off, but are as cool as possible. Be sure you have all of your linens picked up and preferably in carts as well as in the highest areas of the facility.

Now is the time to activate your reciprocal agreements and complete your alternate plan execution. If you have planned to distribute from an alternate location, begin moving your product.

Check your spare parts stock and ensure that your electronic components are on the highest shelves. If water rises to engulf your control equipment, go ahead and call your manufacturer or the technician and share the news so they can prepare for an effective recovery time on your equipment.

When I experienced a hurricane, the biggest issue in our cleanup was the lack of power to operate greatly needed equipment to do the job.

Many things that are not only unexpected but arise contingent upon something else not considered will keep you adapting your plans; don’t be daunted and stay focused. One day you will have another opportunity to capitalize on how much you have learned from this event.

Equipment Manufacturing: Keith Ware, Lavatec Laundry Technology Inc., Beacon Falls, Conn.

Thousand-year floods seem to be occurring on a regular basis in many parts of the country. Unfortunately, these storms cannot be prevented, so how does a laundry owner prepare for an event that is not supposed to happen on a regular basis?

When determining to build a new facility in your market, the flood plain data provided by the government is often outdated. It will require utilizing an engineering firm to evaluate the site, look at elevations, distance from major rivers, creeks, bays or ocean to determine the potential risk of flooding.

In the event your property is in a small risk location, you can always look at the cost of elevating the building to dock height to help in the event of minor flooding. In real estate, remember the old adage: location, location, location.

For existing plants that now find themselves in flood-prone areas, this designation may have changed due to population change, roadways creating more runoff flowing into rivers, and rising sea levels can turn what was once a safe location into one that is now at risk for flooding. Since moving your business is often not feasible, a good disaster plan may help alleviate losses.

Utilize your insurance carrier to assist in loss-prevention plans and develop an emergency operating plan for your business in the event you lose the ability to operate due to flooding. Evaluate your insurance coverage to see if in the event of a flood your business is covered—not just for immediate physical losses, but loss of business, inventory, etc.

Often in flood-prone areas, insurance carriers will not insure your business for flood. You may need to obtain national flood insurance coverage.

While major flooding cannot be prevented, you should be prepared to service your customers, protect your assets and maintain the integrity of your business after the event.

We will certainly hear of operators who recently went through Hurricane Florence. It has been almost two weeks since the storm has passed and towns that were not immediately affected by the rains are now under extreme, sunny weather flooding, due to the immense amount of water flowing from upstate toward the coast. Land that was dry four to five days after the storm passed are now under water.

You cannot prevent flooding, but in future choices, you can lower your risks by selecting sites with low flood risk or preparing your emergency plans in the event, and finally reviewing your insurance coverages so in the event of a catastrophic flood, your business is properly insured.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].