Disaster Strikes! Do you have a Recovery Plan?

Waste Management After a Natural Disaster

Your mind probably doesn’t jump straight to waste management when you think of natural disasters. But natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires can produce hundreds of tons of debris in a relatively short period of time, and significantly disrupts the day-to-day waste removal process in affected communities.

The 2020 hurricane season was one for the record books with an extraordinary 30 named storms – the highest on record – and 6 major hurricanes which is tied for second highest on record. Storms battered the Southeastern U.S., the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean, causing billions of dollars’ worth of damage. And with warming ocean temperatures due to climate change, many experts believe that hurricanes will more consistently be classed as ‘major’ in the years to come.

While you can’t control when natural disasters will strike, you can control how prepared your business is for those disasters. From hurricanes pounding the coasts, to tornadoes affecting the Midwest region, businesses need to have a formal disaster preparedness and recovery plan in place for their waste management.

Planning Ahead

Removing debris as quickly as possible, while ensuring environmental and public protection is challenging. The whole process can be made much easier if your business has already developed a preparedness plan and ensured that key personnel know how to put this plan into action. A step-by-step process for sufficient debris removal includes:

  • Collection of debris
  • Determining the contents in the debris
  • Evaluating potential hazards and toxins
  • Sorting and separating the debris
  • Recycling all possible material
  • Disposing the residual waste

Keeping up-to-date accurate records and well-developed plans is a crucial aspect of waste management planning, as well as a list of available nearby landfills, recycling centers and storage infrastructures with sufficient space. In the event that you don’t have sufficient space for all your waste, there are often temporary storage areas available. Some temporary storage areas may consist of vacant lots, parking lots, existing large-scale industrial storage buildings, or any space designated by your city.

As well as developing a plan for your business, it’s important to be aware of what your city’s disaster preparedness plan is. To ensure maximum efficiency and minimum business impact in the event of a disaster affecting your community, it is vital that employees are well informed in advance about both preparedness plans.

Waste Management Disaster Preparation Checklist

A waste management disaster preparation checklist is a key part of your business disaster plan to ensure environmental and public safety. If a natural disaster affects your community, it’s not only important to have open communication with the public, but also with your employees, so that everyone can achieve their goals.

Below is an example of a waste management disaster preparation checklist your business can follow so you can address all the basic concerns before a disaster affects your community:

  • Become familiar with federal debris removal criteria and guidelines: Support your management and provide necessary resources. Next, determine the type and scope of debris removal and diversion programs to be established during the recovery phase.
  • Develop removal strategy: For maximum efficiency, prioritize the debris removal operation into two phases.
    • Phase 1 – roadway debris removal for emergency vehicles
    • Phase 2 – public right-of-way debris removal

Depending on the industry or location of your business, these phases may switch in priority. Coordinate debris removal by developing an initial assessment of the disaster, communicate with your waste removal company about your waste removal needs, and evaluate any damaged utility systems or buildings.

  • Evaluate the disaster situation and select appropriate debris management program(s):
    • Set program goals – determine the recycling rate in the area, your facility’s needs and landfill space. Enforce illegal dumping regulations on your employees
    • Define labor needs – predict the staffing requirements for removing the debris and enter into mutual aid agreements before the disaster
    • Identify equipment needs – compile a list of equipment needed to support the waste removal
    • Define method of operation and timeline – determine who is implementing the program, how the materials will be collected, and how long the entire removal process will require to complete
    • Look into funding options – research any local or private funds that can be used to start the removal process until your business has received FEMA reimbursement
  • Communicate your plan: Your waste management company and key clients should be aware of your waste removal plan in the event of a disaster, so that they know what their resources are for acting out the plan.
  • Implement the plan: Put the specific steps into action to remove the debris in a timely manner.
  • Develop a contingency plan: In the event your local landfill or recycling center is at full capacity, know where the nearby temporary storage locations are, or make arrangements with neighboring counties, if applicable, to use their facilities. Be aware of the timeline for FEMA reimbursements and make an agreement with a waste management company ahead of time to remove any excessive waste after a disaster.
  • Set up a tracking system for your debris removal program: Verify payments to waste facilities and document recycling rates for your records. Some of these records may be beneficial if the city or state requests them following the disaster.
  • Develop an employee training program: Provide written removal guidelines for employees involved in the process and educate your waste management provider with any special instructions related to your business’ waste removal needs.
  • Create a final report: It’s important to prepare a final report because one might be required for FEMA reimbursement, plus it allows jurisdiction to evaluate the success and areas of improvement for the removal program. This is also a helpful process to feedback into any future disaster preparedness plans.

A reputable waste management company should work with a plethora of different vendors nationwide to resume service as quickly as possible and to provide resources from outside the affected community, should local infrastructure be damaged, destroyed or inaccessible. Securing the proper resources, partners and planning today makes tomorrow’s potential disasters less impactful for your business and the community.

Download our waste management disaster preparation checklist as a great resource for your business to address all core concerns, before a disaster affects your community.

For more information on how to prepare a waste disaster recovery plan for your business, contact us today at 1-888-692-5005 x 6 or email sales@nationalwaste.com.

© 2021 National Waste Associates