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Facility Managers and Their Role in an On-Site Emergency

Facilities Management Emergency Response

While many facilities managers prefer to maintain a behind-the-scenes role in the buildings they oversee, there are times when your role becomes critically important. In an emergency, FMs must take charge. You know the space better than anyone, and are able to summon resources quickly and get people where they need to go.

The best emergency response comes from thoughtful preparation. In an emergency, the facility manager defines everyone’s role so they know what to do when the moment arises. It is his or her responsibility to define mission-critical functions and assess where vulnerabilities lie. The FM coordinates all of the parts of the preparedness plan that is in place for your facility; communicating that plan to all owners, managers and occupants; and running practice scenarios to identify breakpoints in the plan. The FM takes into account new circumstances, the changing needs of building occupants, and feedback from stakeholders to tweak the plan as needed.

How Facility Managers Can Best Prepare for an Emergency

The most important key to a successfully implemented building operations plan is preparation. All emergencies, from fires to natural disasters to terrorist attacks, can cripple a facility’s operations. It is vital that your facility management staff create a thorough emergency plan.

An emergency plan should cover four key issues:

It should identify the critical building systems that must be kept functional. There are state and federal regulations and standards that address the minimum basic requirements needed for communication, emergency power, water, fire protection, fuel storage, HVAC, and lighting systems. Covered under these requirements are the safety needs of the employees, residents and visitors of the facility. Keep in mind that these requirements do not necessarily cover the services many facilities will face after an emergency has occurred.

It should include a list of everyone who occupies the building on a regular basis. Maintaining a comprehensive list of anyone and everyone you can reasonably expect will be in your facility during an emergency. Include contact information, a cell phone number and a work email, so you are able to reach them if need be. Facility managers have an obligation to ensure the safety of everyone in their facilities.

It should have a list of all equipment and other property that needs to be secured safely. Items such as computer equipment, outdoor furniture, and lawn-maintenance tools must all be properly stored in an emergency. Dedicate this responsibility to one team member to avoid confusion and a breakdown in communication which can cost precious time in an emergency situation.

It should include a checklist for every action the facilities team needs to carry out during the emergency. As noted above, it is important that every member of your team knows exactly what their duties are in a crisis. Your emergency checklist should be prominently displayed in your facility’s staff room. It is also a good idea to have a few laminated copies of your emergency plan in various central spots in your building.

Improving Your Facility’s Emergency Preparedness

The best way to prepare for an emergency situation is to perform a mock disaster run-through every quarter. This can be anything from a natural disaster such as tornadoes or earthquakes, hurricanes, to a potentially life or death situation such as a terrorist threat or a potentially violent individual in the facility. Choose a scenario and act it out, having everyone involved role-play their own part. After the mock-crisis is over, evaluate your team.

  • How calm did your team remain in the face of this crisis?
  • How well did they gather the facts? Was any relevant data missed that would have aided you in your decision-making?
  • What decisions did you make and how effective where they?
  • What was your team’s reaction time?
  • Using a scale of one to five, how well did you rank in each of the above?
  • How well did your crisis plan work? What impact did it have on employee morale and/or the public’s image of you?

These trial runs will test your team’s ability to recover from unexpected events and highlight any flaws or weaknesses in your plan. It is also important to routinely check the maintenance and functionality of your property’s safety equipment such as sprinklers and alarms, and designing workspaces so that people can freely move to get to an exit.

Create a command center. Devote a space in your facility or off-site that is crisis-ready. Equip the room with supplies such as televisions, phones and computers. This is where your crisis team will gather to discuss developments, stay informed and devise your company’s response. Be sure everyone involved is aware of this space.

It is important that facilities managers communicate to occupants well ahead of time what they need to do in the event of an emergency. Make sure this information gets disseminated to everyone. Many building occupants report that they are not aware of the location of safety equipment or procedures. They believe that their workplaces are unprepared for power outages and natural disasters and they are unsure who to report to with a safety question or concern.

IFMA-Long Island Platinum sponsor Total Fire Protection has performed fire and life safety services for numerous corporate and government clients across the United States. Their professional technicians have decades of experience keeping facilities of all types and sizes up to code and ensuring that tenants are kept safe. They pride themselves in developing lifelong relationships with their clients and partners. Total Fire Protection offers, new and existing customers, comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for their fire and life safety services. In a dire situation, Total Fire Protection will dispatch our emergency response team 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Your team’s reaction in an on-site emergency can have a drastic effect on the outcome of the situation. If handled properly, the occupants and staff of your facility will emerge from the disaster unscathed and with a deepened level confidence in your management ability.

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Six Important Skills for Facility Managers

Important Skills For Facility Managers

The field of Facilities Management is one that asks a lot of those who work in it. As facility managers, you are expected to wear many hats. The responsibilities that fall on FM’s are significant, and they require a variety of skill sets. It goes without saying that a facility manager should be a skilled and experienced maintenance person, and should have a strong knowledge of industry standards for operational elements like energy efficiency, sustainability and construction. But the list of skills necessary to successfully manage a facility goes well beyond the obvious resume bullet points.

It is difficult to narrow down all of the strengths and skills that are in demand in the FM marketplace. These are six aptitudes and abilities that will empower you to be a productive facility manager.

1. Strong People Skills

First and foremost, Facilities Management is about the people you serve. Your ability to connect with, engage, and motivate those around you will greatly impact your performance as an FM. Facility managers must communicate regularly with their employees and work with others to make sure the job gets done. Managers must be able to clearly explain the task at hand to different people at all levels in an organization, from subordinates to executive leadership.

Whether it is replying to tenant complaints or managing personnel issues among maintenance staff, facility managers need to be as good with people as they are with tools. Respect is paramount in every successful working relationship. Communicating effectively with your staff means listening as much as you talk. Don’t just convey information. Make sure your meaning is understood and, in turn, make sure you understand others as well. Identify the objectives of the people you work with and make it a priority to build a professional connection that encourages each person to reach their highest potential.

2. A Capacity to Lead the Team

Facility Managers often double as Project Managers. It is commonplace for an FM to work alongside a designated PM. Whatever the task at hand may be, the buck stops with you. It is up to you to motivate your workforce, monitor performance, set goals, and measure results.  As an FM, it is your job to communicate the importance of professionalism and time management to everyone on the team. This will include directing your crew to other tasks to reduce bottlenecks or finding replacements in case of no-shows.  If your contractors aren't of the mindset that their deadlines affect the other members of the project, they need to be convinced.

3. Information Technology Know-How

FMs may not have a formal background in IT, but in today’s world, facility management is more technology-reliant than ever. The more quickly you familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of technology, the more valuable you will be in your field. Everything from time sheets to asset monitoring and facility maintenance is managed on the computer. IT plays an invaluable role in the way FMs communicate with their workforce, customers, and coworkers as well.

Your employer will look to you as the expert in facility management software. For this reason, it is imperative that you educate yourself on the latest developments to keep your facility on solid technological ground. Keep apprised of the latest trends in FM software updates and check regularly to make sure your IT platforms are situated to solve problems and eliminate waste.

4. A Go-with-the-Flow Attitude

Flexibility is an extremely valuable characteristic for FM’s. Your employees will look to you to see how you navigate difficulty situations. Are you generally easygoing, or are you naturally “on edge”? If you appear overwhelmed or stressed out, your staff will follow your lead.

The field of FM is ever-changing. Each day is different, and problems pop up without warning. Part of going with the flow means keeping cool in an emergency. Emergencies of any kind are far from uncommon when managing a facility. Whether it's responding to a burst pipe or addressing a budget that doesn't match up with expected figures, the best facility managers are the ones who are able to keep a cool head in the face of any unexpected problem and work toward a solution. If you have never faced a true emergency, you might not know how you may respond. Some people panic; others become instinctively solution-oriented and level-headed. As a general rule, it is always best to stay “cool and collected”, even the direst emergency.

5. An Eye on Sustainability

Sustainability continues to trend not only as a buzzword but also as a corporate value all around the world. That’s especially true in the facilities sector. The benefits of sustainability and green building practices in facility management are well established. Reduction in energy consumption, productivity increases, and waste reduction are just a few of the beneficial effects of sustainability. A sustainable building is a win-win for any company.

Successful and sustainable building operation and proper maintenance requires everyone on staff to take an active interest in preserving the life of the building and improving its efficiency. Your employer will count on you to keep your facility as green as can be. Make sustainability a goal and take proactive steps toward it.

6. An Aptitude for Networking

The most successful FM’s realize they can’t possibly know it all. Whether you have a deep knowledge of a particular area or a broad base of general knowledge, you must rely on experts or your professional network to quickly and easily find out about products, services, technology, techniques and tools. Networking isn’t just about socializing or trying to find the next job. It is a way for facility managers to surround themselves with resources that, at some point, will solve a problem, find resources or provide advice about an issue.

In facilities management, the physical workspace intersects with almost everything that happens inside it. FMs need the ability to network laterally across the entire organization with IT, HR, administration, and other executives. Make an effort to network with colleagues outside of company meetings. Attend trade shows and conferences. Join a professional organization. Network with suppliers and contractors. Join industry-related groups on social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Connecting with and talking to others about a problem usually leads to a better solution than solving it alone.

Facility managers oversee the numerous aspects of building management with a goal towards ensuring that all elements come together seamlessly. While the day-to-day tasks of facility managers can vary from operations and maintenance to project planning and management, the number one priority of FM’s is to make sure the facility functions effectively and efficiently. Surround yourself with trained, experienced colleagues and constantly strive to establish and maintain the highest level of customer satisfaction.

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