Windstorms can develop quickly and threaten life and property, occurring in all geographies and seasons across Canada (Public Safety Canada, 2018). Preparedness is essential to mitigate windstorm-related losses. Regardless of the location, strong winds and hail can cause property and business interruption losses for healthcare organizations. As evident in HIROC claims, inadequately or poorly installed wind resistant features coupled with an out-of-date emergency response plan can contribut to the severity of the losses.
Disaster resilience and capacity building is a common concept in the context of disaster risk management. Resilience to disasters involves addressing the root cause of an organization’s susceptibility to potential threats. There are a variety of considerations to resilience in risk management: the speed and ability to recover from disaster events; the capacity of current infrastructure to withstand storms or other external shocks; and recovery and rehabilitation components. Resilience also considers different forms of capital, such as human, social, physical, financial, natural, and political. As such, the concepts informing disaster resilience may be useful in the evaluation of risk mitigation strategies.

Expected Outcomes

Implement a formal evidence-based / best practice strategy to improve the healthcare organization’s (and building’s) resilience to windstorms.

Adopt an evidence-based windstorm emergency response plan. 

Maintain an updated list of the key contacts and telephone numbers in case of an impending or actual windstorm.

Definitions and Acronyms

  • Client – includes all persons who receive healthcare and related services including patients, residents and persons in-care
  • ERT – emergency response team
  • Healthcare organization - organizations engaged in providing, financing, improving, supervising, evaluating, or other activity related to health care.
  • HVAC - heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
  • UPS - uninterruptible power source

Common Claims Themes and Contributing Factors

  • Lack of emergency preparedness plans leading to delayed response and larger-scale property losses.
  • Inadequate design and maintenance of roofs: 
    • Inadequate roof inspections and preventative maintenance;
    • Inadequately securing roof-mounted and ground-mounted equipment, including critical equipment (e.g., electrical and HVAC equipment).
  • Failure to protect building openings (e.g., windows, doors, and skylights) where indicated with impact resistant and storm shutter systems.
  • Presence of diseased or dead trees and branches contributing to the extent of the property loss.

Mitigation Strategies

  • Implement a formal evidence-based / best practice strategy to improve the healthcare organization’s (and building’s) resilience to windstorms (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2007) (FM Global, 2015b) (FM Global, 2015a).

Additional Considerations

Examples of elements to consider within the organization’s resilience to windstorm strategy:
  • Schedule routine inspections and repairs to roof flashing, covering, drains, and gutters;
  • Verify sump pumps are operational and are connected to backup power systems;
  • Check / maintain accessible sandbags, squeegees, and absorbents;
  • Schedule preventative maintenance pruning (e.g. trees, shrubs);
  • Check / maintain appropriately securing yard storage, signs, cranes, and roof-mounted equipment (FM Global, 2019) (FM Global, 2015a) (FM Global, 2015b) (Public Safety Canada, 2018).

Incident / Emergency Response

  • Implement a formal evidence-based / best practice windstorm emergency response plan (HIROC, 2021) (FM Global, 2021).

Additional Considerations

Examples elements to consider within the organization’s windstorm emergency response plan:
  • Designate a trained emergency response team (ERT);
  • Notify preparedness authorities about your plans to have personnel on site (e.g., ERT);
  • Designate personnel to monitor and report weather conditions to the ERT before, during, and after a windstorm;
  • Provide ERT leaders the authority to implement the plan based on predetermined checkpoints (e.g., when a storm is within a certain distance from a facility). This responsibility includes shutting down operations, relocate clients, etc.;
  • Arrange backup communications (e.g., two-way radios or cellular phones);
  • Check / maintain all necessary backup equipment, such as emergency generators, uninterruptible power source (UPS), etc. Also, fill fuel tanks of generators, fire pumps, and all company-owned vehicles;
  • Specific steps to be taken for an impending windstorm (e.g., mapping the windstorm front and progress; activate windstorm emergency plan; if adequate time and resources, inspect / repair drains, catch basin, check adequacy of roof-mounted equipment; inspect fire protection equipment; fill fuel tanks for generators and fire pumps; protect computers, machinery, and stock with tarpaulins and water proof covers; remove / neutralize chemicals that could react violently with each other);
  • Specific steps to be taken during a windstorm (e.g., when safe to do so, patrolling the property for roof leaks, pipe breaks, fires and structure damage; monitor boilers, generators and other equipment that must remain online);
  • Specific steps to be taken following a windstorm (e.g., when safe to do so, securing the site and survey for damage; call key personnel, property insurer, and contractors)(HIROC, 2021) (FM Global, 2021).
  • Maintain an updated list of the key contacts and telephone numbers in case of an impending or actual windstorm (e.g., local emergency preparedness authorities, restoration contractors, and insurance provider) (FM Global, 2021).

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007). Design guide for improving hospital safety in earthquakes, floods, and high winds. Risk Management Series. Washington, DC.
  • FM Global. (2015a). Protecting roofing systems against windstorm damage. 
  • FM Global. (2015b). Protecting your facility against major windstorms. 
  • FM Global. (2019). Have you done everything possible? Commercial/industrial emergency windstorm/flood checklist. 
  • FM Global. (2021). Emergency checklist: Wind. 
  • HIROC. (2021). Emergency checklist: Wind. Toronto, ON.
  • Public Safety Canada. (2018). Get Prepared: Hazard and emergencies: Severe storms.