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March 4, 2022

Avoiding Flood Risks on Utah Contracting Job Sites

If you're the owner or primary operator of a contracting business in Utah, there are a number of safety- and hazard-related themes you'll need to be cognizant of on job sites. One of these that can be relevant in various seasons, but particularly the spring season we're in now (largely due to snow runoff from the mountains), is flood prevention.

At Contractors School, we're here to offer numerous resources to both contractors and would-be contractors in Utah. From our contractor's license exams and related programs to many areas of assistance we offer to active contracting businesses, we're here to help across the board. What are some of the themes contractors should be keeping in mind for flood-proofing their workspaces and ensuring no flood- or water-related issues take place? Here are several to consider.

Advanced Research on Flood Zones

One major resource available to contractors for this purpose is the presence of flood zones. Interestingly enough, these actually came about based on insurance -- decades back, the US government created the National Flood Insurance Program, which was meant to provide insurance opportunities for people who live in flood zones. This required the formation of such zones, which can be used for a few different purposes.

Flood zones refer to geographical areas that have been determined to be at risk for flooding. The most common type of flood zone is the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), which is an area with a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year. You can learn more about SFHA's on FEMA's website .

Contractors should be evaluating these zones not just for safety and flood prevention, but also for insurance coverage and related purposes. As always, it's important to stay proactive and understand your surroundings as much as possible when it comes to contracting.

Roof Inspection

If your contracting job site involves any kind of structure with a roof, inspecting and maintaining this roof is critical in preventing water damage and related issues. Even a small hole in a roof can let in a great deal of water in a short period of time, so it's important to keep an eye on things like shingles, flashing, and gutters.

Inspections can be done either by the contractor or by a specialist, and should be done on a routine basis. If any damage or deterioration is found, it should be repaired as soon as possible to avoid further issues.

Drainage System

One of the single most important areas for contractors to maintain on any job site is drainage for any water that does come onto the site. This means ensuring gutters and downspouts are clear and directed away from the job site, and that any drainage ditches or swales are free of debris and in good condition.

Contractors should also take care to avoid obstructions to drainage systems, such as piles of materials or equipment. If water can't drain properly, it will likely end up causing damage to the job site or even making its way into the structure itself.

One component that's often important for consideration here is the sewer backflow valve, which is present on most commercial properties. This valve is designed to prevent wastewater from flowing back into the building or job site in the event of a backup or other issue. It's important to make sure this valve is functioning properly and that contractors are aware of its presence and purpose.

Property Grading

One area that should be evaluated in advance, and then monitored regularly when work begins, is the grading of the property itself. Contractors should ensure that all surfaces slope away from the building or job site, as this will help to prevent water accumulation.

In some cases, it may be necessary to bring in additional soil or gravel to properly grade the site. If this is the case, contractors should take care to do so in a way that doesn't impede drainage.

In certain situations, hiring a property grading specialist may be a good idea. This specialist can evaluate the site and make recommendations for any necessary changes or improvements.

Distance From Waterways

Another theme that should be considered well before any work begins is the distance of the job site from any waterways. This includes both rivers and lakes, as well as ditches and streams.

Ideally, contractors should maintain a buffer zone of at least 100 feet between the job site and any waterways. If this isn't possible or if it's not safe to do so, contractors should take other precautions to protect the site from flooding.

Past Issues

Finally, you should be taking the time to research whether or not the job site has ever been affected by flooding in the past. This information can be found on both FEMA's website and the Utah Division of Emergency Management website.

If there have been any past issues, it's important to take steps to prevent them from happening again. There are a few things you might do in this case:

  • Barriers: If there is a chance that flooding could occur, contractors can put up barriers to help keep water out. This might include things like sandbags, levees, or retention ponds.
  • Pumps: If water does get into the job site, it's important to have pumps on hand to remove it as quickly as possible.
  • Monitoring: It's also important to have someone on site who is responsible for monitoring the situation and taking action if necessary.

These are just a few of the things contractors should be aware of when working in a potential flood zone. By being proactive and taking the necessary precautions, you can help to ensure that your job site stays safe and dry.

For more on this, or to learn about any of our services for Utah contractors, speak to the pros at Contractors School today.

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