The past few years have seen their fair share of extreme weather. There were dozens of hurricanes (some hitting the same region in fairly quick succession), countless wildfires, and even freak snowstorms and freezes.
The events certainly threw off residents in the areas hit. But home builders? They were particularly caught off guard.
Take Joshua Correa, owner of Dallas-based Divino Homes, for example. His company was one of the many impacted by the dayslong freeze that hit Texas in February 2021—one that took much of the state’s power grid down with it.
“The freeze was eye-opening,” Correa says. “I think it caught a lot of us unprepared. We never thought it would happen—especially the power going out.”
Fortunately, Correa and other Texas home builders lived and learned. Though the unexpected freeze did pose a unique challenge (and required some serious restoration and cleanup work once it ended), it also offered valuable lessons about weather preparedness and just how vital it can be in today’s changing climate.
As Jonathan Falk, disaster relief field specialist at the NAHB, puts it, “Natural disasters and weather events can strike anywhere, at any time, often causing severe damage that can cause disruption and delays. Preparedness is extremely important.”
Watching the Weather
Staying on top of weather forecasts is one way builders can ensure they’re prepared. Correa says 10-day forecasts play a big role in his team’s weekly planning efforts. While the forecasts are not always 100% accurate, they typically can point builders in the right direction.
“It at least gives us an idea, especially with rain,” Correa says. “That’s one of the biggest factors that slows down our projects—if we’re not prepared for rain.”
When rain’s expected, builders can dry-in a project. Correa’s team also brings in crushed concrete to ensure site access (and easy material delivery) both during and after the storm.
If the forecast points to freezing temperatures, other preventative actions can be taken. According to Michael Turner, owner of Classic Urban Homes in the Dallas area, this might include shutting off the water, draining the water lines, and making sure the home has temporary heat.
“We pay very close attention to the weather,” Turner says. “I try to be proactive so that I’ve got it prepared to where we could work through cold and freezing temperatures and not delay the overall timeframe of the project.”
Planning and Preparing
Forecasts can only get you so far, though—and many times, they’re too little, too late. To ensure builders are truly prepared for anything (and to protect their workers), Falk says they need more comprehensive strategies in place, too, including an emergency action plan and a continuity of operations plan. Then, as Falk notes, “should the worst occur, they’re prepared for both emergencies on the worksite and to minimize potential business disruptions that follow.”
To create these plans, Falk recommends what he calls “an all-hazards approach. Consider all risk factors for the worksite or workplace such as historically common types of disasters in the area, proximities to coastal or waterfront areas, proximity to unburned fuels or unmanaged forest area, topography, and seasonal weather patterns specific to the region.”
The plans need to cover the builder’s physical approach—things like securing the jobsite, covering up vulnerable work, removing loose or combustible materials, and providing the appropriate PPE, communication devices, and tools (tarps, tie-downs, etc.)—as well as their behind-the-scenes strategy.
For the latter, Falk recommends builders ask questions like, “How do I continue operations and business functions during or after an adverse weather event? What can be done to ensure financial viability in case of decreased cash flow? How will I ensure my stakeholders are aware of and understand my plan in case of an emergency or pending event?”
That last bit is particularly important because when bad weather hits, clients get concerned about their investments. Alleviating those fears can help keep the project on track and moving in a positive direction.
As Erik Cofield, executive business coach for the Association of Professional Builders, notes, “The important thing is communicating with the homeowner that you have a plan, what those plans are, and what the homeowner can and should do and be doing.”
Unprepared Isn’t an Option
Unfortunately, as recent years have proved, adverse weather events are increasing at alarming rates. If builders want to reduce losses, keep employees safe, and ensure long-term business viability, preparing for these potential disruptions is critical.
“No matter where the project is located, it is of the utmost importance to plan ahead and to have a response plan in place to ensure the safety of those on the worksite and minimize business disruptions,” Falk says. “When it comes to weather events and natural disasters, an ounce of preparedness is worth a pound of response.”