As Eastern Canada braces for the potential impacts of Hurricane Fiona, the Construction Association of Nova Scotia (CANS) is advising members to secure their construction sites as best as they possibly can.

“We’re recommending nothing be taken for granted,” Duncan Williams, president and CEO of CANS, told the Daily Commercial News today (Sept. 22). “We’re treating it, and advising members treat it, like we’re going to be a direct hit versus not preparing for that eventuality. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

“We’ve been cautious not to sound alarmist but at the same time I’m not 100 per cent convinced that people are taking it as seriously as we need to,” Williams said. “We’ve had experiences in the last 20 years. We’ve had some hurricanes blow through here and it’s done some pretty massive and extensive damage to Halifax and Nova Scotia.”

In a special update email to members on the inclement weather forecast, CANS stated Hurricane Fiona is expected to merge with a trough and transform into a hurricane force post tropical cyclone on Saturday (Sept. 24). The system is expected to produce heavy rain beginning Friday (Sept. 23) afternoon.

“We’re working with the Emergency Measures Office (EMO), occupational health and safety and our contracting community to advise them that they need to control their worksites and secure things that could potentially get blown around in terms of tower cranes and so on, making sure that they are operating to the manufacturers’ specifications in terms of wind load and making sure that they are weather vaned where necessary,” explained Williams.

Buildings under construction and those with tower cranes will be particularly vulnerable.

“Sites in heavily populated areas with large tower cranes are certainly of concern to the public and certainly a concern to the industry,” said Williams.

“Every site is going to be managed slightly different depending on where it’s located and whether it has cranes or how much material. We’re recommending as well that where there are risk of wind shears, looking at sites slightly differently around hoarding, and to make sure those are either taken down where it’s feasible and possible or they are reinforced.”

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Decisions will be made by those in charge of the sites.

“When the storm starts there will be minimal crews, if any,” said Williams. “I imagine today and tomorrow there will be a lot more time spent on preparing and making sure that sites are as secure as possible.

“For property owners, we’re recommending that they do their part as well in terms of securing their properties.”

It is unclear how severe the storm will be at this point.

“We see the eye right now heading right over Cape Breton but it has been slowly moving to the west as well, so it’s going to be really dependent on how much further west this moves,” Williams said. “It doesn’t look like it will make direct landfall on Halifax but a lot can change in the next 24 hours.”

CANS is also advising members to be prepared to mobilize following the storm if there are damages to buildings that need to be repaired.

“As the storm evolves and moves through, depending on the damages and what happens, construction is going to be onsite shortly after first responders,” said Williams. “Once the streets are clear and if it gets to a situation where hospitals have windows blown out, construction and restoration crews are going to need to get in there fairly quickly. We’ve been working with EMO to make sure there is this good standing list, an updated list on contractors as well that are capable of doing that type of work.”

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What are emergency response measures?

Typical preparedness measures include developing mutual aid agreements and memorandums of understanding, training for both response personnel and concerned citizens, conducting disaster exercises to reinforce training and test capabilities, and presenting all-hazards education campaigns.