The Answer is Blowin’ in the Wind

Take our advice and try these techniques to secure restrooms before you learn the hard way in a devastating windstorm

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Question: We operate in northern Louisiana and we are susceptible to high winds, occasional tornados and, especially in 2020, hurricanes. What are some strategies for securing units in such conditions?

Answer: Wind, regardless of the intensity, is an enemy to PROs and their portable restrooms. We will address your question in terms of the three weather conditions that you reference.

High winds

Windy conditions exist in most parts of the country and can occur most anytime during the year. The best advice is to be proactive. So here are some tips for unit placement:

Flat, stable land is an excellent foundation. A proper foundation allows for the unit to function as designed. The user can be comfortable inside the unit. The deodorizer and water solution are level and can maximize coverage of waste. The vent stack can allow odors to escape with maximum efficiency. Level paved or concrete areas are also excellent choices for placement.

Placing units near walls or similar locations can minimize the effect of wind. Placement near a large tree or a group of large trees is also an effective proactive measure.

Units placed next to each other in a line can be a stabilizing factor. As we will discuss next, knowing the predominant wind direction allows for the line of units to be placed perpendicular to these winds. Strong gusts would therefore hit the side of the first unit which would be backed up by the remainder of the units at that location.    

If your geographical area experiences most prevailing winds from 



a specific direction, take that into consideration. Some PROs operate in areas near the coast where prevailing winds come from over the water, while other PROs are in areas near hills and mountain ranges that generally produce winds from a specific direction. Some PROs operate in relatively flat areas where the weather and the winds normally come from a certain area. If prevailing winds are common in your area, know the “downwind direction” when placing units. 

Tips for securing units

If your area is prone to strong and sustained winds, other options are available to further protect your units.

Place the unit inside a warehouse or other enclosed structure. Please keep in mind that the unit must also be easily accessible for weekly servicing.

Skids can be staked into the ground. Depending on the type of unit, some PROs use stakes that go straight into the ground with a curved end that rests on top of the skid. Other PROs opt for a U-shaped stake that goes over both sides of the skid. In either case, all four of the exposed areas of the skid are staked.

Secure the unit to a more stable object. A tree, light post or other approved structure on the job site can allow for a unit to be tied, strapped or even chained in place by taking advantage of either the bottom of the unit below the door or the top of the unit above the door. Again, depending on the design of the unit, holes near the end of the skids can be used for the ends of the securing line. For example, a rope tied to one end of the back skid, wrapped around tree or pole, and then secured at the other end of the unit’s rear skid provides a great deal of stability in windy conditions.

Place heavy blocks on either side of the unit and connected with a rope. This may be a solution in an open area with no other way to secure the unit. Place the block on the ground in the middle of the side of the unit, connect the rope to the block and place it over the top of the unit and connect the rope to the block on the ground in the middle of the other side of the unit.   

With winds ranging from breezes to strong gusts and deadly winds, none of these strategies and techniques can ever be 100% effective but they represent some of the best techniques developed in our industry over the years. Some of you might recall the derecho, a widespread and destructive straight-line wind storm, that hit the U.S. Midwest last summer. This type of storm could damage portable restrooms no matter how they are secured. Consider these events more common to many PROs:

Tornadoes

Often, these deadly winds occur with little or no warning. Some areas of the country are more prone to tornadoes during certain times of the year, However, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about 1,200 tornadoes are recorded annually and they can occur in all 50 states.

According to NOAA, the peak tornado season is early spring on the Gulf Coast, from May into June for the Texas-Oklahoma-Kansas area, and in June and July in the Northern Plains and the Upper Midwest.

PROs in these areas should consider some of the securing methods that were discussed above during their tornado season and rely less on more passive strategies.

Hurricanes

With advanced warnings, PROs have the objective of not only protecting their equipment in the field but also protecting and preparing their equipment in the yard for use in the aftermath of the hurricane.

For units in the field

• With the customer’s permission, move and/or removing units in the field that may be highly susceptible to damage. This would include units in elevated areas such as on the top of hills or buildings. These units could cause damage when blown about. In addition, units in low lying areas or in other locations that would easily succumb to flood waters should be targeted for removal.

• Attempt to pump as many units as possible empty and place them “doors down” on the ground if no inside storage facility is available. If the doors on units can be held closed, this will make the unit less likely to be blown greater distances.

• For multiple units, pump empty and place together on the ground. If the units cannot be pumped, group them together with doors facing each other.

• If a unit can be locked on the job site by the customer, consider this option to make the unit more resistant to being blown wildly about.

• On construction sites with various pieces of large equipment that will not be moved in storm preparation, get permission to place your units between this equipment.

• For units already secured with stakes, ropes or other methods described above, attempt to have the doors locked either by your route service technician or by the customer.  

For units in the company yard

• Arrange the units together in large blocks or cubes with all doors facing inward.

• If any trucks are to be parked outside, place the vehicles in front of the blocks of units. If possible, surround the units with vehicles. Restroom trailers, transport trailers and even trash containers can add some resistance to these tremendous storms.

• The more units that can be protected in the yard, the more units are available for use in the community after the hurricane has passed.   

FINAL THOUGHTS

While Mother Nature is stronger than our equipment, we can attempt to mitigate potential damage to the equipment as well as damage to the surrounding area caused by the equipment. Try to be as proactive as possible. That is the best a PRO can do.  



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