As the second major storm of this year’s hurricane season makes its way toward the U.S. coast, ACC member companies with operations in Florida, as well as other southeastern states are taking Hurricane Irma extremely seriously and have begun preparations for its landfall.
In preparation for Irma, ACC has initiated contact with member companies in the storm’s potential path to facilitate cooperation with relevant federal regulators and emergency response officials, as we do in advance of any major weather event.
Weathering the storm
Our industry’s first priority when preparing for a hurricane is supporting employees and their families and helping to ensure their safety and that of our neighbors.
Preparedness and process safety are key elements of Responsible Care®, the industry’s global environment, health, safety and security program. Compliance with Responsible Care, including third party audits and certification, is mandatory for all ACC members.
ACC member companies have comprehensive and well-rehearsed emergency plans that are activated in close coordination with local, state, and national authorities; other businesses; and distribution networks in the path of storms.
As part of their plans, companies may reduce operations, shutdown a facility, evacuate personnel in advance of a hurricane. To ensure that this is done as safely as possible, special regulations and emissions limits apply to periods of start-up and shut-down.
In addition to emergency planning and procedures, chemical facilities are designed and built with safety features to help withstand the impact of a major storm. Specific construction elements can include reinforced manufacturing equipment that helps improve the overall structural integrity of a facility in accordance with industrial building standards for hurricanes. Dikes and levees are incorporated to reduce the risk of chemical releases.
Recovering from the storm
After a storm passes, specially trained teams visit the site to evaluate damage before response crews or other employees are allowed to return. Once it is deemed safe to return, employees begin the delicate process of restarting operations, which can take several days depending on the size of the facility.
Restoring chemical production following a storm can be further complicated by damage to the local infrastructure making it difficult for employees to access the facility or block the flow of key supplies, like electricity and natural gas. Furthermore, damage to ports, roads and rail lines can prevent or delay the delivery of chemicals that are essential to producing important everyday necessities like fuel, clean drinking water and life-saving medicines.
Of course, helping communities and employees get back on their feet is just as important as restoring manufacturing operations. Recovering from a hurricane is no small feat for communities and typically requires a tremendous amount of resources.
This is certainly going to be the case with recent Hurricane Harvey due in large part to the massive and unprecedented flooding that resulted from this historic storm. As they have done in the past, ACC member companies are working with the Red Cross, the United Way and numerous local organizations to provide assistance and much-needed supplies. This industry-wide effort includes companies and facilities from all parts of the nation. ACC members stand ready and prepared for a similar large scale effort once Irma passes.
While the timing and path of hurricanes can be unpredictable, we know that future storms are inevitable. ACC and our member companies are committed to applying the lessons learned from Harvey, Irma and other past storms to help protect the safety of their employees and neighbors and assist in the recovery when the next storm hits.