Hurricane Debris, Plan for It !

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By Mike Marinan, Director of Member Services – Public Risk Underwriters of Florida, Inc.

Debris created by storms can often times be overwhelming in its magnitude. Debris management and removal are invariably among the most complex and costly problems following a disaster. Over 1,000,000 cubic feet of debris were created by Hurricane Matthew in Flagler and St. Johns counties alone. When asked if he had any advice regarding the post hurricane debris, Joe Meyer, the recently retired Risk Manager at Flagler County responded; “Make sure you know where your going to put it, plan for it!”

The cost of debris removal can mean the difference between successfully managing the post hurricane or not. Cleaning up this debris can be time-consuming and costly, extending the recovery from the disaster. According to FEMA, Hurricane Katrina, one of the most catastrophic natural disasters in history, resulted in more than 99 million cubic yards of debris, totaling greater than $3.7 billion in debris removal costs.

In 2017 there were 17 disasters of over $1billion dollars; the total cost of the 17 was $306 billion dollars, a record. According to the 2014 National Climate Assessment, which is a detailed report on climate change impacts on the US, climate change is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of some natural disasters. The amount of debris generated by natural disasters, and the costs to manage it, will likely increase as a result.

After a natural disaster strikes, a community, working with federal and state officials and other stakeholders, must conduct many debris management-related activities before it can fully recover. These activities can include:

• Estimating debris quantities;

• Assessing debris management options;

• Triaging debris management;

• Segregating debris into different material and waste streams;

• Identifying debris management sites and facilities and their available capacities;

• Collecting and hauling debris from the field and/or curb;

• Removing debris from waterways and sensitive habitats;

• Sampling and analysis of debris;

• Characterizing debris for proper management;

• Obtaining emergency permits;

• Processing debris (e.g. Volume reduction, refrigerant removal);

• Packaging and labeling debris for transport;

• Transporting debris to debris management sites and facilities;

• Managing debris through reuse, recycling, treatment, and/or disposal;

• Monitoring incoming debris at the debris management sites and facilities;

• Tracking debris from the original deposited point to final destination;

• Conducting debris management oversight activities, including site visits, inspection and environmental monitoring at debris management sites;

• Communicating with the public about debris collection and other management activities.

Pre-incident debris management planning by communities including forecasting debris volumes and types, identifying available capacity, developing debris management options and defining roles and responsibilities for all debris management-related activities can go a long way in mitigating the cost and time of recovery.

Pre-incident debris management planning can provide significant benefits:

• Saves valuable time and resources during a response to a disaster;

• Allows more efficient, effective, and environmentally responsible waste management decision-making during a disaster;

• Encourages stakeholders ( state, local, owners of private storage, treatment and disposal facilities, residents) to work together before disaster occurs;

• Boosts the community’s resiliency in the wake of a disaster and positions it for a quicker and less costly recovery to its pre-incident state;

• Enhances the community’s adaptation to the debrisrelated impacts of climate-change;

• Minimally detracts from, or otherwise impacts, the broader response and recovery efforts due to the efficient implementation of debris management activities.

Based on lessons learned and insights from community officials who have conducted debris cleanup after a natural disaster, the Environmental Protection Agency developed a comprehensive, pre-incident planning process to help prepare communities for effective disaster debris management. This recommended process guides communities through four steps:

1. Conduct pre-planning activities;

2. Develop a comprehensive pre-incident debris

3. Keep the debris management plan updated;

4. Implement the debris management plan during a management plan; natural disaster;

Florida is unique in it’s vulnerability to Hurricane’s. There is hardly a community that hasn’t been effected in recent years by one. The storms are getting more severe and the costs and clean-up post disaster more profound. Planning for what needs to be done post-disaster has never been more important than now.

Mike Marinan has a degree in Industrial Safety Engineering and over 35 years experience in the Safety and Risk Management field. He has been employed by Public Risk Underwriters of Florida, Inc. for 17 years. He holds an RMPE designation, holds a General Lines 220 and 218 licenses, is an active member of Central Florida PRIMA, as well as an active member of ASSP and numerous related Safety and Health organizations. He was a Governor appointee to the Task Force on Workplace Safety