Portland Demolition & Disaster Response: How Can Contractors Prepare?

hurricane matthewAfter a disaster, a major component of the recovery efforts is the demolition that must take place before rescuing and rebuilding can commence. Portland demolition contractors are instrumental in removing debris, hazardous materials, and damaged structures, making them invaluable resources when the unthinkable occurs. By knowing how to prepare and be vetted as a disaster response resource, you’ll maximize your response capabilities so you can jump in and provide vital support services.

Portland Demolition Contractors to the Rescue

Portland demolition companies are uniquely equipped to aid in disaster response activities following catastrophic incidents. In fact, many municipal disaster preparedness and recovery plans include collaborating with demolition firms to help save lives and property. Check out some real-life stories about how demolition crews aided in recovery efforts.


When a magnitude 7.0 earthquake and its strong aftershocks hit Haiti in 2010, it didn’t just affect a few towns. It rocked the entire country. Members of the National Demolition Association flew to the Caribbean country to provide safety-related demolition training to the government. Haitian workers also received training about demolition processes and safety.

Christchurch, New Zealand

In 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake rocked Christchurch, making it one of the largest disasters to affect a major city. The city’s infrastructure and historical buildings were greatly affected, including the Heritage Status building. Rebuilding efforts, which included tearing down several buildings that became unsafe after the quake, took more than two years.

West Palm Beach, Florida

After two consecutive hurricanes battered a 30-story, waterfront high-rise in West Palm Beach, it remained vacant for five years. Demolition crews tore down the building to make room for new construction.

How Demolition Companies in Portland Can Prepare to Be a Disaster Response Resource

When a disaster strikes, whether it’s natural or man-made, first responders rely on the support of experts like Oregon demolition specialists to help make rescue sites safe enough to enter, clear hazardous materials, assist investigators and use specialized equipment to help victims. Later, demolition services are required to tear down buildings and recover value from affected areas.

Special Skills Required

earthquake rubbleWhen members of the public think about demolition services, they might image a wrecking ball plowing through a building. The reality is that 99 percent of Oregon demolition work is performed using manual techniques and specialized equipment.

Skills demolition crews assisting with response and recovery efforts should possess include:

  • Knowledge of the physical and mechanical aspects of buildings
  • The ability to help navigate regulations
  • Helping with decisions regarding engineering and structural stability
  • Identifying, removing and disposing of toxic, hazardous and regulated materials with the appropriate agencies
  • Identifying unknown hazards
  • Knowledge of the best personal protective equipment to use in different situations
  • Familiarity with decontamination, remediation and waste handling procedures
  • Environmental remediation
  • Having access to specialized demolition equipment
  • The ability to move large amounts of debris to allows for faster and safer site cleanups

Additional Considerations

The National Demolition Association recommends training staff members and providing them with experience regarding compliance with federal and state regulations, as well as regulations outlined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. The training will prepare crew members to work in potentially unstable environments.

OSHA urges demolition companies to create emergency response partnerships before a disaster occurs. Such a partnership would make it simpler to mobilize after an emergency and streamline processes. Demolition contractors that serve as a disaster response resource should have the skills required of a first response team. It is also a good idea to provide first responders with training at a demolition site to mirror a disaster for preparation and evaluation purposes. OSHA’s Disaster Site Worker Training Program can assist with such efforts.

How to Be Vetted as a Portland Disaster Response Resource

electrical stormWhen first responders vet demolition companies in Portland as skilled support providers before a disaster, they will want to know information, such as:


  • Proof of insurance
  • Availability: Are you available 24 hours a day, every day of the week? Are there emergency contacts in place?
  • Can you respond within a specific period?
  • Do you have established T&M and equipment rental rates? Can you guarantee the rate for a certain period?
  • Do you have a pre-arranged emergency contract and purchase order?


  • Do your safety guidelines and training curriculum include incident command systems?
  • Is your crew well-versed in command and control procedures in regard to:
    • Hazardous materials
    • Awareness
    • Respiratory protection
    • Hazard communication standards
    • Fall protection
    • Skid steer safety
    • Evidence preservations and spoliation consequences
    • Entry into confined spaces
    • Confined space rescue
    • Hazardous material abatement


  • Can you provide prearranged escorts for overweight and over-sized equipment?
  • Do you have experience working with a range of hazards and unstable structures?
  • Do you know how to recognize hazardous conditions?
  • Is working in PPE standard?
  • Can you provide assistance with investigations, including:
    • Ongoing assistance during an incident
    • Post-fire public safety efforts
    • Pre-investigation debris clearing and access to critical areas
    • Post-investigation debris removal, demolition and evidence storage


  • Do you have support contacts and supply vendors, including security companies, engineering specialists, and access to equipment?
  • Can you provide small tools and equipment first responders might needs, such as generators, power tools and mobile tool cribs?
  • Can you provide heavy equipment that might be necessary, such as backhoes, loaders, skid-steers and cranes?

Portland demolition contractors can serve as an invaluable resource in the wake of a disaster. In addition to assisting with cleanup and recovery efforts, they work in tandem with first responders. Establishing a strategic partnership with first responders before an incident occurs will position you to be on the front lines when rebuilding communities.

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