Yesterday, like many other east coasters, I braced the bomb cyclone blizzard that attacked much of the East Coast, dropping 12+ inches in the Boston area. It even walloped the South with an unprecedented 3-5 inches of snow. We know that Northeast winters can be harsh and yes, we are typically prepared for them, but yesterday was one for the books. So how do you prepare for what can be brutal and unpredictable winters?
Facility managers already work round the clock to make sure their properties are in good working condition, clean, and safe for building occupants, and during the winter months, this is amplified even more. Preparing your facility to withstand Northeast winters – or really, hard winters anywhere – will help you get through the next three months slightly easier. Here are a few tips to help you prepare your facility for winter – before and after the weather that comes with it.
Conduct additional equipment inspections.
Of course, inspections are already a critical process for day to day facility management, but they are even more important in the winter months and harsh weather conditions. Without proper inspections in place for the season, essential equipment can fail easier, pipes can burst, and HVAC units can break leaving your facility with no heat. Any scenario is far from ideal and can cause difficult and unsafe working conditions for your building occupants.
During the winter, you will probably find that you need to increase the number of equipment inspections you are doing to make sure everything is working right and to ensure it won’t malfunction during a snow storm or very low temperatures. These inspections could be anything from testing water flow and condition, to pressure and temperatures of certain equipment.
Some examples of inspections that should be on your checklist include:
- HVAC units
- Air distribution systems
- Roof top units
You should also increase the amount of inspections on any equipment that you would use in the event of a power outage. This would include making sure the equipment is in good condition as well as making sure there is sufficient fuel during the power outage and that there are plans for refueling if the power is out for a lengthy amount of time.
Doing additional equipment inspections might seem like over planning but you will be happy you planned everything out if anything detrimental did happen to your facility during the winter.
Maintain emergency egress plans.
During the winter, it is especially important to plan, document, implement, and practice emergency evacuation plans and routes to best prepare for the season. Maintaining this information as it relates to a storm or weather emergency will be key if an emergency evacuation is needed.
Snow or hail storms accompanied by high winds (like we experienced yesterday) are notorious for knocking down power lines and creating an unsafe environment for your building’s occupants. Yes, most large buildings have generators or other back up power systems, but you still should have an emergency back up plan if say the elevators aren’t working and occupants must take the stairs, or if the lobby is flooding from a storm surge (another fun thing we experienced yesterday in Boston) and the occupants have to be escorted out a different route safely.
You should account for each possible emergency scenario that could happen during the winter and document the processes thoroughly, so all staff members know the best way to keep your occupants safe. These well documented plans should be organized and stored in one central location – your facility management solution. If your facility management software is set up to be the central data hub of your facility, occupants, vendors, staffs, facility managers, etc., should all be able to access this critical information if needed through request portals, mobile applications, or desktop versions of the system – not just on pen and paper filed away in someone’s desk.
Increase building rounds.
You should conduct additional building rounds during winter to make sure your building is able to withstand any storm that comes its way – before and after. A few things during a building inspection round to be more mindful of during the winter months are:
- Foundations – make sure there are no cracks or critical damages to your building’s foundation because if there are your building will be more prone leak or flood during a snow storm.
- Roofs – identify areas on your roof that looks like it would susceptible to leaking more than other areas and be sure to fix or at least keep an eye on those areas. Also, make sure that if you do get a large snow storm your roof is in good condition to hold a given amount of snow. You should also have a snow and ice removal plan to make sure your roof is not holding too much weight and will not give out.
- Vents – inspect that vents are not blocked from any snow that may drift due to high winds to keep them working properly.
- Entrances (inside and outside) – regularly check that entrances both inside and outside your building are clean from snow, ice, or anything else slippery that could cause an occupant to slip and fall or injure themselves.
Add additional staff and resources.
Because many organizations do end up doing more inspections and building rounds during the winter months you should plan to staff accordingly. Chances are you will need additional help to run these checks throughout your facility.
You should also have staffing plans to ensure that your facility is covered for extended periods of time with properly trained employees because during the winter we all know how difficult it can be to get to work during a blizzard. You need to have enough staff with the right skills on the property in case there is an emergency that needs to be dealt with. Also, you should plan to give your staff the appropriate supplies like adequate food and water in case an emergency does come up and they must stay in the building for longer than expected.
All of this extra preparation, planning, and inspections will not only improve the safety of your building during the winter months, but it will also enable your facilities team to act in an organized fashion in the even of an emergency due to inclement winter weather. Be sure to implement processes to prepare your facility for winter – after all we are just getting started.