Storms swirled off Hurricane Joaquin in early October, dumping historic levels of rainfall on South Carolina, flash-flooding populated areas, and overwhelming dams. On Oct. 3, Charleston recorded rainfall that ranged from 10 to 13 inches – record levels, according to the National Weather Service. The state is facing a possible $1 billion in cleanup and will be receiving federal disaster aid.
The storm’s death toll reached 17 in South Carolina, where 250 roads and 100 bridges are still closed. Coastal areas of North Carolina were also affected by the devastating storm.
The evening news covers these storm stories in detail. But the intricate planning and preparation that goes into such emergency responses often gets scant coverage. Behind the scenes is the unfolding of a process, carefully crafted to ensure minimal disruption and loss of life.
The key is preparedness
When states, counties and communities are faced with natural or manmade disasters, preparation is essential. That’s why these governing entities have supplies and equipment in advance of the storm. It better enables emergency personnel to enter harm’s way and respond to the profuse human needs in the disaster’s wake.
Items that help safeguard infrastructure from floating debris, water contamination and other storm hazards are already in storage long before the event’s forecast. Planning allows emergency personnel to help survivors, keep infrastructure in place, and pave the way to recovery.
Among the first considerations is ensuring that potable water is available when a storm fouls existing supplies. One solution is to bring in a reservoir or tank for setup in an easily accessible area. Open-top or self-contained flexible tanks are a popular option among many emergency response teams because of their compact storage, lightness and small number of moving parts. The onion tank, named for its shape, is an open-top tank. Flexible and collapsible, the tank stores easily. When emergency response teams send in tanker trucks of potable water, the hose connects to a fitting on the onion tank. Its walls rise automatically to contain the water as the tank fills. Once drained of water, the tank’s PVC material won’t rot or grow mildew, and can be returned to storage safely.
The drinking bladder water tank is another option. These flexible “pillow” tanks lie flat and can store up to 210,000 gallons of drinking water. Because both the bladder and onion tanks are collapsible, they require only minimal space for storage, making them an optimal choice for disaster preparedness.
Booms and absorbents
Floating booms are also important for the control of debris headed into flooded areas, water intakes and bodies of water. Debris booms are an effective means of either deflecting or containing buoyant trash. Absorbent booms are deployed to control the spread of hydrocarbons or chemicals that can be released during a flood, further minimizing the negative impact on the environment.
Dealing with the aftermath
Once the flood waters recede, a host of challenges remain. Low-lying areas where pooling remains will need to be pumped out. But simply pumping stormwater runoff into storm sewers or area waterways can introduce contaminants and high sediment content. This creates turbidity and other pollution problems that disrupt fragile ecosystems. Cleanup teams can pump large dewatering bags full of the sediment-laden water. These bags are made of a filtering geotextile that permits water to escape, leaving the suspended materials in the bag for disposal. Dewatering tubes function in the same manner but can accommodate much greater quantities.
Geotextile filters protect grates and stormwater drains from contaminants that are all-too-easily transferable into surrounding waterways. These best-management practices are another critical component of environmental protection after a storm.
When the rebuilding process begins, a supply of erosion-control products can help with the growth of vegetation and prevent the washout of new soil trucked in. One part of a sound, land-stabilizing strategy is the use of naturally based coir products – logs, soil blankets, wattles and other sediment control solutions made of biodegradable coconut fiber. They impede erosion, allow vegetation to grow from underneath, and nourish the soil after finally breaking down.
Having silt fencing and geotextiles ready to go can provide much-needed support and retention for exposed areas. This prevents delays and helps response teams get started on the many tasks at hand.
Planning makes the difference
So be sure to consider exactly what your region might need in case of a disastrously “rainy day.” Prepare yourself and get a jump on the event so you can help lessen its catastrophic impact before it strikes. Call the experts at GEI Works for more information. Call (+1) 772-646-0597 or toll free at (888) 701-9889.