Last week, the eastern seaboard of the U.S. was hit by the effects of Hurricane Joaquin. As written in a previous blog, petrochemical-based products play a key role in keeping people safe during hurricane season thanks to sturdier building design, sea walls and emergency preparedness kits. However, what can be done after a hurricane hits and how do petrochemical-based products make a difference?

According to the Red Cross’ “Hurricane Safety Checklist,” there are a range of steps which one should take post-hurricane. These range from staying alert for extended rainfall and subsequent flooding even after the hurricane has ended, to using flashlights in the dark (do NOT use candles). When you look at the checklist and other guidance such as from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), petrochemical-based products have an important role in keeping you safe. Examples include:

• Letting your family know you are safe – use your telephone or your computer to register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well web site to let your family and friends know about your welfare. Phones and computers are made from petrochemical-based products from ABS (ABS – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) for the casing to polyvinyl chloride for electrical enclosures.

• Dealing with water damaged materials – OSHA’s “Hurricane e-matrix” recommends that you discard all water-damaged materials, materials that are visibly coated with mold that cannot be properly cleaned, such as porous materials (e.g., carpeting, drywall, insulation) and materials that have been wet for more than 48 hours. These items should be wrapped and sealed in plastic bags or sheets to reduce the spread of spores. Plastic bags and sheets are primarily made from polyethylene (made from the petrochemical ethylene).

• Using additional personal protective equipment to deal with any post-hurricane clean-up such as: 
o Respirators – made from polyurethane foam/polypropylene fiber filters and ABS casing (ABS – acrylonitrile butadiene styrene)
o Goggles – made from polycarbonate
o Protective clothing (e.g., disposable coveralls) to prevent cross contamination and skin contact with mold and chemicals.
o Long gloves made of material that will protect user from chemicals handled for surface cleaning
o Protective footwear – neoprene and polyurethane foam (insulation)

All of which can be seen in the image below:

Image credit: IHS
Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a hurricane. However if a storm hits, know that petrochemical-based products play a critical role post-hurricane as well.