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The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Industrial Technologies Program (ITP) is joining with other national, regional and local groups to help industrial plants plan and prepare for hurricanes. The deadly
Plants need to know how to prevent such devastating human and financial losses in the future. Here's what some of them have been doing — and others can do — to weather another hurricane.
Many plants are back in operation. For example, a Domino Sugar refinery east of New Orleans had been producing about 6 million pounds of cane sugar daily (nearly 19 percent of the nation's supply) before taking in 9 feet of floodwater. To get back on its feet, the company helped set up a trailer park nearby to temporarily house most of its 300-plus employees.
Tom Beardon of the Public Broadcasting Service interviewed Mickey Seither, Domino's vice president for operations, in the aftermath of the storms. Seither said, "We can fix anything; we can rebuild anything. If it's broken beyond repair, we can buy another one and put it in its place. But if we don't have employees, it's for naught."
Many of those employees worked long hours along with local electricians to repair or replace damaged equipment. As a result, the refinery was up and running again in time for the winter holiday baking season.
Some plants have been assessing their vulnerabilities and taking steps to minimize them. After Hurricane Katrina sent a wall of water roaring over an earthen levee and into a large DuPont plant in DeLisle,
A number of companies are including energy efficiency in their recovery work. When Katrina caused severe flooding at a ConocoPhillips plant in
Manufacturers can try to weather severe storms — and help save lives — by planning and preparing for them. Planning helps plant managers know when and how to shut down operations and start them up again. Being prepared helps to speed evacuations and minimize downtime, property losses, and damage to assets.
The Louisiana Chemical Association has been coordinating with member companies in the Gulf region to document and share the lessons they learned in 2005. For example, to keep lines of communication open, many companies are establishing in-plant or mobile emergency operations centers and keeping important contact information up to date. Many others have purchased satellite phones and set up toll-free numbers outside the region for all employees to use. Some have installed satellite dishes to maintain Internet connections during emergencies.
To house employees and keep critical operations going, companies are stocking up on portable generators, cots, tents, water, non-perishable food and first-aid items. One plant installed showers in some bathrooms and purchased a washer and dryer for its administration building. Another plant plans to stock emergency supplies at the beginning of each hurricane season. And, some plants that set up emergency housing in 2005 are keeping electricity and water connections in place even after returning the borrowed trailers, just in case.
Companies are also hiring employees skilled in making electrical and other repairs. And they are creating checklists needed to restart key equipment in case trained staff are not available. They are also stocking as much inventory and as many spare parts as possible and coordinating with key suppliers on emergency plans.
Here are some basic guidelines emerging from the lessons learned:
Knowing your plant's vulnerabilities can help you minimize them. First, assess your plant's current situation. Then, determine how and when to obtain emergency backup power, supplies, and parts; coordinate with local emergency teams on evacuations; and shut down and start up operations.
Many federal, state, and local resources can help you plan and prepare. A guide produced by the Federal Emergency Management Agency helps plants, industries, and businesses prepare specifically for hurricanes. It recommends ways to establish a planning team, analyze capabilities and hazards, and develop and implement a plan. Here's a summary of these guidelines.
If your plant produces materials needed for restoration and recovery, be sure to let local emergency operations centers know how you can help. And if you haven't already, please start planning today!
For more information on hurricane preparedness, please see the ITP "Hurricane Ready" Web site and the related links: www.eere.energy.gov/industry/hurricaneready/.