For some areas of the country, the chances of a landslide may seem slim to none. In others, such as the West Coast, such a sudden and hazardous event is more common. A recent landslide in Washington state should serve as a reminder that maintenance management is as much about preparing for disasters as it is keeping up daily, routine work.
A muddy situation
The mudslide occurred March 22 in Snohomish, Washington, destroying at least six homes and damaging others, according to reports. Heavy rainfall over the past month is seemingly responsible for the incident, according to CNN, as embankments near State Route 530 became saturated with groundwater. Rescuers have used helicopters and heat signatures to help find people caught in the slide, but the conditions don't make it easy.
Travis Hots, Snohomish County's Fire District 21 Chief, told reporters that the landslide is 15 feet deep in certain areas, and that the flow acts much like quicksand, making it hard to carry out rescues, CNN reported..
The difficulty of those operations speaks somewhat to just how hazardous a mudslide can be, as buildings are leveled, debris is carried downstream and navigating is made all but impossible. Even with the mudslide having subsided, people were still advised to beware of crossing bridges downstream from the landslide.
Preparing for disaster
Facility managers in areas prone to landslides should take the necessary steps to prepare their buildings in case of a sudden event, and learn how to evaluate the damage afterward. This is important given that landslides can occur rapidly, intensely and with little to no warning. Spring conditions may lend themselves especially to landslides, given the occurrence of rainfall and snow melt in some parts of the country.
Ready.gov, a website from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that provides disaster advice and guidance, recommends that property owners get a ground assessment, as well as a professional consult on the appropriate preventative measures, including special pipe fittings that can better resist breakage. Managers may also want to plant ground cover and build channels to help mitigate and direct debris flow. Afterward, it's important to check utilities, foundations, chimneys and other areas of a facility for damage.
Even if you don't live in a mudslide-prone area, the overarching lesson is the same: Disaster preparedness is key for facility managers. Tools such as computer maintenance management software can help in this regard, allowing users to develop disaster maintenance checklists for preparation, as well as cleanup.