Winter Wonderland, But No Vacation for Facilities Teams
Staying Ahead of the Curve Inside and Outside Your Facility
Heavy rain and snow, high winds, and icy conditions demand regular maintenance and proactive planning for effective winter facility management. Now is the time to prepare for winter-related emergencies such as power outages. Having an emergency kit stocked with essentials like flashlights, batteries, and blankets is recommended. December is a good time to remember to update your emergency response plan and share it with staff, outlining procedures for evacuations or sheltering in place.
Snow and ice make entering and exiting schools and hospitals treacherous. Developing a comprehensive snow and ice removal plan is wise, including clearing walkways, parking lots, and entrances promptly after snowfall. Experts recommend stocking up on ice melt or sand to prevent slips and falls or hiring a reliable snow removal service if necessary and ensuring they're on call for emergencies.
Pipes are exposed to the elements. It’s advisable to prevent frozen pipes by insulating exposed pipes and sealing any gaps or cracks in the building. It's essential to drain any outdoor hoses and shut off exterior water sources to prevent freezing. Educate staff on how to prevent pipes from freezing and what to do if they suspect an issue. Pipe identification and mapping via mobile devices is a feature of ARC Facilities, used by many facilities.
Not every winter facility management activity needs to be outdoor-focused.
Based in Washington, DC where snow is rare, Diana Burns-Ortiz from the Meridian International Center said that her team will be working on painting and office moves this month.
Meanwhile, Nico Viola’s team at Holden Forests & Gardens are busier than Santa’s elves this time of the year. The garden, entirely indoors, was created to simulate the tropical environments of Madagascar and Costa Rica, complete with plants and animals from those areas. Check out our Facility Chat with Nico Viola.
“With frost bringing thousands of visitors through our doors daily, it’s all hands-on-deck six days a week with the expectation of being available for on-call for any after-hours issues that may arise between now and the ball dropping in Times Square. We’ll rest in January!,” said Nico.
A more serious scenario -- theft -- was offered by Samantha Howell from EMCOR FAGAN, who provides comprehensive mechanical contracting and maintenance services for commercial, industrial, and institutional projects.
“If there is one thing you can expect during the holidays, it’s that people do unexpected things. The desperation to provide for families leads to increased thefts, particularly of valuable items that are regularly sold to scarp yards,” said Samantha. “Copper, electrical wiring, and catalytic converters are all relatively easy to steal in the right conditions and have very little chance of getting caught when selling. A person equipped with the right tools can cut a copper coil out of an HVAC unit and sell it for a couple hundred bucks the same day. Add to it the fact that this time of year sees longer nights and that gives people more opportunity to use the cover of darkness,” she said.
“Make sure roof access is secure and areas around your facility are well lit to deter would be bad actors and don’t leave tools, or other items out where they can easily walk away. I’ve seen people get into an empty or abandoned building and strip it of anything copper and pull all the wire in less than 2 days, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage,” she added.
At colleges and universities, winter breaks are the ideal time for completing the semi-annual or quarterly tasks including HVAC maintenance, focusing on commercial kitchens and snack bars, attention to athletic centers, and leaf clean up and pruning.
Higher education facilities professionals work with their teams to ensure that heating and ventilation systems are in optimal condition.
“Replace air filters regularly to improve efficiency and prevent breakdowns. Schedule professional inspections to identify and address any potential issues before they become major problems,” said Patty Smith, Director of Facilities, Cabrini University. “To aid in indoor air quality, fan coil units in student rooms get a filter change, inspection, and a wipe down,” she added.
Finally, at Cabrini University, commercial kitchens get their steamers, hot wells, stoves, ovens, mixers, etc. disconnected from their power source and every inch of these units are steam cleaned. They’re dealing with stabilizing wobbly tables and chairs, touching up paint in key areas and extracting and cleaning carpets, and shower clean-up.
Facilities often operate 24/7/365, and their care, maintenance and management are much more than a full-time job. For all the facilities teams out there working hard to keep our buildings in tip-top shape, we offer our heart-felt thanks!