New York City Hurricane Preparedness Tips
Since Superstorm Sandy devastated New York City, it’s no secret that NYC is extremely vulnerable to storm surge and wind damage in a hurricane. We all lived through it and we know firsthand what can happen. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted 6-11 named storms, including 3-6 hurricanes and up to 2 major hurricanes for the 2015 season. And as we all know, it doesn’t even have to be called a “hurricane” to inflict severe damage.
So if you’re like most New York City business owners, you can’t help but be a little nervous when hurricane season rolls around again. But sometimes a little anxiety can be a useful thing, if it motivates you to get prepared.
We’re all familiar with the to protect our homes and families when an impending storm threatens: stock up on water and non-perishable food, get out the flashlights and weather radio, buy lots of batteries, bring in your lawn chairs and board up the windows. But did you know that you should also know the hurricane preparedness tips to protect your HVAC system?
Making the time now to take a few precautionary actions, and knowing what to do when a storm strikes, can make the difference between sailing through the storm with no damage and having to shell out thousands for new HVAC equipment. That’s why we’ve prepared this list of hurricane preparedness tips for your business and your HVAC system.
What a hurricane can do to your HVAC system
Knowing how to prepare starts with understanding the risks and the potential damage to your HVAC system a hurricane can cause:
Particularly if your air conditioning unit is located on the roof or in an outdoor space, you need to be concerned with the damage that can be caused by flying debris. Dirt, leaves and trash can become imbedded in the condenser. The high winds of a tropical storm or hurricane can also turn loose objects into projectiles. If something hits your unit, the coils or fins can easily be damaged. In the worst case, a rooftop unit that’s not properly secured can end up on the ground below.
Prior to Sandy, many people didn’t realize that so much of the damage caused by hurricanes is the result of flooding. And don’t think you’re safe if you’re in a high rise. When windows get blown out or roofing is torn off, many floors of office or living space can be destroyed by water.
If your HVAC equipment gets wet, there are many parts (such as wiring, controls and valves) that can become corroded. It’s even worse when salt water is part of the equation (don’t forget that New York City is surrounded by brackish water). That’s one reason it’s so important to shut off equipment prior to the storm. If the valve that controls gas flow to your furnace is damaged and fails to turn off, you could have a fire on your hands.
One of the most devastating hurricane dangers for your HVAC system is the power surges that can happen when lightning strikes or even when power lines go down. If a surge hits your system, your air conditioner’s compressor can be irreparably damaged. And you need to be vigilant before and after the storm as well, since system overload can cause brownout conditions that are just as damaging.
HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS TIPS to protect your HVAC system from hurricane damage
Hurricane Preparedness Tips: How to prevent wind damage
If your outdoor air conditioning unit might be exposed to winds in excess as 150 mph (or even higher if you’re on an upper floor of a high rise), it’s imperative that it be properly secured.
BOLTS: Securing your unit means making sure bolts to the base are intact and tight. If there is any corrosion, they might not hold, so be sure to inspect them and replace if necessary.
STRAPS: Your unit should also have hooks for hurricane straps, since building codes may require them. Make sure the hooks are in good condition, and if you don’t already have them, get the right straps for your unit.
CLUTTER: It’s a great idea to remove any loose objects from around your air conditioning unit, even before a hurricane is impending. Not only will you prevent wind damage, but you’ll improve the air flow to your unit and make it function more efficiently.
Related article: Crippling Air Conditioning Problems Caused by Poor Air Flow.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips: How to prevent water damage
You already know to board up windows to prevent water from getting in, but there are additional hurricane preparedness tips you can use in advance to protect your HVAC equipment from flood damage:
- If possible, have your equipment installed on elevated platforms.
- Purchase a cover designed specifically for your unit since a good fit decreases the chance of the cover being blown off.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips: How to prevent electrical damage
Turn off your equipment: Before the storm hits, it’s important to completely turn off the power to your HVAC equipment. That means at the circuit breaker and at all thermostats. This is the simplest step that you can take to avoid significant damage to your system including compressor failure or even fire or electric shock. Now is the time to consult your equipment manuals and find out how to turn the power off when you need to.
WAIT before turning it back on! We can’t stress this enough! If your system has been exposed to even a small amount of water (which may not be apparent at first glance) you can risk damage by restarting it too soon. Even if the outside looks dry and it seems to come back up with no problem, the unit could fail weeks later from damage caused by the storm.
Have your system inspected by professionals: This is the only way you can be sure your equipment is safe to operate. Your HVAC service professional knows how to inspect for any signs of water or electrical damage.
Hurricane Preparedness Tips: How to get priority service after a storm
With so many homes and businesses affected by a storm, how long will it take to get an HVAC service tech out to you? It could be days or weeks if you don’t have an established relationship with an HVAC service company.
Here’s a little-known tip: HVAC service companies typically provide priority service to their customers with ongoing preventative maintenance agreements. So, find a reputable company and sign up now. You’ll not only protect your HVAC system from storms, but regular maintenance protects you from unexpected breakdowns and comfort issues as well.
Related article: Q&A about HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts.
Other resources for hurricane preparedness tips for your NYC business
For more hurricane preparedness tips and information, consult these resources:
- Our free HVAC Emergency Preparedness Checklist
- Red Cross’s Hurricane Preparedness Tips
- Ready.gov’s hurricane planning guide