A Conversation with Dean Ruark About Preparing for Hurricane Season

June 17th, 2020 by Jordan Scott

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be above-normal according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, which predicts that there will be three to six major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger). Dean Ruark, vice president of engineering at PGT Innovations in North Venice, Fla., told [DWM] Magazine how door, window and glass and glazing companies can prepare for the upcoming season and what’s new with hurricane codes.

To prepare, Ruark suggested companies ensure that they have updated contact information for the entire team and consider messaging services that can reach all employees via text to keep them up-to-date.

It’s also important to create a hurricane leadership team that meets regularly and keeps up-to-date on the latest cases, forecasts and warnings to ensure an aligned message to all team members, he recommended. In addition, companies should communicate with customers as well as suppliers to ensure they understand its plans.

Ruark also addressed how to prepare a company’s facility for a storm.

“Take a team walk to look for opportunities regularly and develop a plan for any material or items stored outside to be secured and tied down if it cannot be brought inside. Fortify and harden your facility’s openings to avoid rapid internal pressurization and damage to the building’s interior,” he said.

Codes Analysis

Ruark, who often assists in post-storm damage assessments, is an advocate of expanding the Miami-Dade hurricane testing protocols to other areas in Florida. Miami-Dade’s codes require multiple strikes to the glass by a large missile in order to assess whether a glazing system or window can stand another impact before beginning the cycle assessment. Ruark said this step is important because he and other experts have seen evidence of missile impacts to framing members as well as multiple debris strikes to the glazing when assessing post-storm damage.

“These requirements only exist in the Dade County testing criteria and have been removed from ASTM’s mandatory criteria,” he explained.

Although many companies offer fenestration and glazing products that meet the Miami-Dade requirements, Ruark said they are prevalent in Southeast Florida but become less prevalent in Southwest Florida.

“They become significantly less prevalent as you move north along Florida’s coastline and toward any interior parts of the state. Though probability for a hurricane may be slightly lower in these areas, over time, we can be certain that all areas in Florida are ultimately susceptible to major hurricanes,” he said. “In addition, as a result of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Building Commission has [created] a work group to look at water infiltration in hurricanes in high-rise buildings. On a positive note, we’re building stronger structures, and they’re standing up to hurricanes. Now it’s time to evolve and improve beyond weathering the storm, to mitigate against less severe but very real challenges. Water infiltration has stood out as the biggest opportunity.”

According to Ruark, discussions have taken place around the Miami Dade standards, which require manufacturers to test a product structurally to the design load prior to a storm. The American Architectural Manufacturers Association (now the Fenestration and Glazing Industry Alliance) also has stringent criteria on architectural window (AW) rated products, that require significant testing prior to completing the water testing.

“The thought here is to put significant stress on a unit prior to water testing and it does have merit. In addition, the group is looking to develop best practices and design guidance to improve building performance, including forensic testing requirements in the field to ensure that the entire system performs where it truly matters, in the actual installed opening,” said Ruark.

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