How to Rebuild when Mother Nature Strikes


On April 28, 2014, an EF-3 tornado struck the US Foods’ distribution center in Pearl, Miss. The tornado, which spanned 400 yards and traveled with winds of 155 miles per hour, produced serious damage to the warehouse’s walls, roof and overall structure. Fortunately, all employees were safe and accounted for.

Fast forward to today, just over a year later, and the new facility is up and running. Here’s how design-build firms such as ESI Group USA, Hartland, Wis., help customers respond to a crisis and rebuild for if, and when, Mother Nature strikes again.

When Mother Nature Strikes

“Mother Nature will always find a way in, be it air, water, ice or wind,” says Tim Gibbons, vice president of ESI Design Services.

“The best way to combat this is to assume she will get in and be prepared with a backup system to combat this intrusion. Also, educating clients on how to properly maintain the building and what to look for during the life span of the building is extremely important to assure [the building’s] longevity.”

In order to swiftly formulate next steps, ESI was on site four hours after being notified of the incident by US Foods to assess damages and mobilize a field construction manager and small carpentry/iron crew to stabilize structures and help with product removal.

“When a facility is affected by Mother Nature, it is most important to account for all employees first and then activate your business continuity plan,” says Gibbons. “This plan lays out the step-by-step process for notifying the proper parties, corresponding with clients and handling media inquiries.”

Going the extra mile

“The central Mississippi area has a history of being affected by strong thunderstorms, tornados and hurricanes,” says Art Roman, director of design and construction of US Foods. “Given this history, it made sense to go the extra mile with our new facility and utilize a higher wind-resistant roofing design, lightning protection and equipment anchoring.

“We also installed a full electrical generator backup system, which is a very valuable option, especially for a business storing perishable items,” he adds. “US Foods regularly acts as an important resource for food during widespread disaster situations, so having a generator backup system is vital to our business.”

In addition to safe guarding its building, US Foods consulted with FEMA and local governmental authorities to identify safe zones within the building for employee protection during fast-developing storms and evacuation plans for storms with advance warning.

Regardless of the event, ESI Group helps customers develop sites that can withstand excessive snow loading, high winds and even disastrous Mother Nature elements

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