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Do You have a Disaster Plan for Your Woodworking Shop?

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The experts tell us that we should have a disaster plan for our homes, so we're prepared in the event of a weather-related emergency or other natural disaster. The likelihood of certain events certainly varies depending on where you live. For instance, the chance of a hurricane in Florida certainly is much higher than in, say, Nevada, but the opposite would be true were we discussing earthquakes. As such, one should prepare for the likely weather-related emergencies in their locale.

There are a number of things you can do to help protect the tools in your woodworking shop from a natural disaster.

Hurricanes:

Probably the best thing about a hurricane (when compared to other natural disasters) is that you typically have some time to prepare. The problem is that there are a number of possible issues with which to deal (wind, water, flying objects, etc.).

Should you find your wood shop in the path of a hurricane, begin by preparing for the worst that could happen to your shop as best you can. High winds or falling trees could cause you to lose your roof, (or the whole structure, in which case not much we'll discuss here will really matter), or you could have to deal with high water.

To prepare, begin by boxing up everything you can. Start by putting all power tools and their accessories in their cases. Then, pick up any remaining hand and small power tools and put them into drawers, tool boxes, or, if you have no other options, cardboard boxes. Try to stack or position all of the boxes and cases together and off of the floor.

Next, you may want to put tarps over your woodworking machines (table saw, band saw, radial arm saw, jointer, etc.) in the event that your roof springs a leak. Additionally, unplug all of the machines and turn off the shop's power at the electrical panel.

Flooding:

Most of the aforementioned items would also apply to an impending flood. If you won't have time to get your tools out of your shop before the water gets to your neighborhood, try to get them as high as safely possible and hope the water doesn't rise to that level.

Tornado:

One bad part of a tornado is the lack of preparation time. Tornadoes can form and strike within minutes. How can one prepare for such a disaster?

Try to keep your shop clean and organized as a matter of habit. When you're finished with a tool, put it away (rather than leaving it on a table top. A sharp chisel would be less likely to become a dangerous, deadly projectile if it is safely tucked away in a tool box or chest. (Sure, the toolbox can become a projectile, but I'd rather have one large projectile than a considerably greater number of smaller, sharper projectiles).

Lightning:

If you live in a lightning prone area, you may want to consider employing quality surge protectors for your outlets in your shop. However, if lightning strikes your house, particularly the electrical system, it's unlikely that a surge protector will be able to protect your tools adequately.

As such, it's a good idea to get into the habit of always unplugging those tools that you can unplug, and for those that you can't unplug, turn off the breaker at the electrical panel when you aren't working in the shop. This won't guarantee that your tools are protected from a lightning strike, but it will increase the odds.

Earthquake:

If you live in earthquake country, you know that there is seldom any warning before a sizable earthquake. Once again, this means one should practice good habits on a regular basis.

Begin by storing large, bulky, heavy objects (such as power tools) low to the ground. Should a quake be strong enough to knock items from the shelves, there will be less damage from heavy falling objects if those objects are closer to the ground to begin with.

Additionally, you may wish to employ drawer latches, stronger latches on cabinet doors and maybe even lips on the front of open cabinet shelves (as you might see in a boat galley).

This is by no means an exhaustive list. In many natural disasters, even the greatest amount of preparation may not be enough. However, by developing the habit of keeping a clean, organized shop, you'll increase the odds of protecting your tools. This will have the added benefits of helping prevent injuries when you're working in your shop, too.
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