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Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restroom Operation Tips For Facility and Property Managers

Restrooms are important for the comfort of employees and visitors, but can also require a lot of time and resources to keep clean, stocked, and maintained. The novel coronavirus has made an enormous impact on how people react when confronted with the possibility of infection, and this has caused many to view public restrooms with suspicion. As a place that potentially hundreds of people may visit daily, touching everything from door handles, to counter spaces, to toilet handles, public restrooms represent a significant possible source of surface-transmitted infection. Here are some ways that facility and property managers can make their restroom areas as safe, clean, and reassuring as possible:

1. Train employees to avoid cross-contamination and use cleaning tools appropriately.

There are a lot of disinfectants that are approved for eliminating the novel coronavirus on surfaces, but they only work as long as users are able to follow instructions. Some need to be applied on surfaces and allowed to work for ten minutes, and can't do their job if a maintenance worker is in too much of a rush to give them time. Make sure staff members understand the importance of following usage instructions to the letter, cleaning frequently, and taking steps to avoid cross-contamination. Some facilities achieve the latter by using color-coded reusable cleaning rags, saving one color for handles, another for windows, another for toilets and urinals, and another for surfaces like tables and counters.

2. Take advantage of low traffic times.

Every facility has peak usage hours, and times when things slow down a bit. Document when restrooms are likely to see few visitors, then use that time to schedule deep cleanings. Restrooms should receive regular disinfection at least once a day, in addition to regular deep cleaning to tackle spaces that may have been missed, hard-to-reach areas, or spots that get a lot of traffic.

3. Post signage.

Hand sanitizer is great in a pinch, but hand washing is more effective -- as long as it's done properly. Posting a helpful reminder of proper hand washing techniques can increase handwashing by up to 40%, according to The Healthy Hand Washing Survey by Bradley Corp. Signs can also help restrict the maximum occupancy of restrooms, making it easier to socially distance. Signs don't just let employees and guests know what to do, they show that you take their health seriously and are working to protect them.

4. Enforce social distancing.

Placing tape or plastic bags over urinals, or even physically locking bathroom stalls, can help users maintain social distancing. With fewer fixtures to choose from, guests will be forced to use ones that aren't adjacent to each other, reducing the risk of person-to-person coronavirus transmission. This also reduces the number of fixtures that need attention from employees, saving time, and helping to streamline routine cleaning and disinfection.

5. Provide hand sanitizing stations near exits.

After a guest has washed their hands, they may still need to touch the sink, hand dryer, paper towel dispenser, or door handle before leaving. Providing a space for them to use hand sanitizer afterward can help keep them from picking up pathogens from these surfaces, and either getting sick or carrying them to another surface. Roughly 65% of people use paper towels to avoid touching these surfaces, so providing a trash can for them to dispose of used towels can help keep things neat.

6. Upgrade to touchless fixtures.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and all the cleaning and disinfecting in the world can only do so much. Since it's not feasible to thoroughly sanitize a restroom after each visitor, especially during peak usage times, touchless fixtures can offer guests a way to do what they need to do, while coming into contact with as few surfaces as possible. Hands-free washrooms are safer for guests and require fewer resources to sanitize.

7. Keep doors open.

While having touchless sinks, hand dryers, and toilets is great, there's still one spot that few guests can avoid touching: the door. Since touchless doors aren't a practical solution here, the next best thing is to keep them propped open. This keeps guests from having to touch the door with their hands to enter or exit, and allows them to gauge how many people are inside. This eliminates another key touchpoint and lets guests follow occupancy limits and socially distance more effectively.

Restrooms are a necessary evil. They require a lot of time and energy to keep clean and stocked, and, in a post-pandemic world, properly disinfected. Few guests look forward to visiting a public restroom, especially now. With these tips, facility and property managers can help improve their disinfection, protect their guests and employees, and ensure that their restrooms are as safe, clean, and welcoming as possible.

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Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

Long Island's Plan For Reopening: What Facility Managers Need To Know

As Long Island begins the process of reopening, it's important to have a solid plan in place -- not just at the federal, state, and local levels, but on an individual level. Before they attempt to reopen, facility managers should have their ducks in a row to make the process as smooth and painless as possible. Here's what we know about the phased reopening process (and what we don't):

What We Know

New York is planning to reopen in stages. Right now, Phase 1 of the reopening plan consists of manufacturing, construction, wholesale facilities, certain retail establishments with curbside pickup, landscape and gardening companies, low-risk outdoor recreation, and drive-in movies. This phase is expected to last about two weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo's office has laid out seven criteria that areas need to meet in order to qualify for Phase 1 of the reopening plan. This is designed to keep tabs on the state's ability to contain existing outbreaks, as well as to weather a possible second wave of infections. The criteria are:

  • A 14-day long sustained decline in hospitalizations or under 15 new hospitalizations (averaged over three days) due to COVID-19.
  • A 14-day long decline in COVID-19-related hospital deaths or under five new deaths (averaged over three days).
  • Fewer than two new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents.
  • 30% or more of a region's hospital beds must be available.
  • 30% or more of a region's ICU beds must be available.
  • The capacity to conduct at least 30 COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents monthly.
  • Must have at least 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents, depending on the region's infection rate.

As of two weeks ago, Nassau and Suffolk county still fell short of these metrics. Right now, the number of hospital deaths has not been steadily declining, and there are still too many new hospitalizations for the areas to qualify. However, while Long Island still misses the mark, it's just barely -- the region saw an average of 3.06 new hospitalizations. According to the most recent data, Long Island also saw six days of declining hospital deaths with an average of 13 hospital deaths per day across the last three days.

As of this writing, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority plans to use technology and limit train capacity in order to safely bring passengers back to the Long Island Rail Road, and Long Beach plans to reopen its boardwalk to city residents only. After evaluating the effects of Phase 1 comes Phase 2, at which point more businesses, including real estate firms, more retailers, and professional services, may reopen. Phase 3 allows bars, hotels, and restaurants to reopen. Lastly, during Phase 4, schools and entertainment venues (like cinemas and theaters) can resume operations.

What We Don't Know

It's important to highlight that the phased reopening process is designed to gather data just as much as it is to protect the public. While it relies on seven criteria that indicate a favorable turn in the spread of the virus, it's also designed with an uncertain future in mind. That means that there's still a lot that we don't know yet. It's anticipated that areas with lower population density, like upstate New York, are going to reopen first. Lower New York, which has a much higher population density, is expected to take longer. While the criteria put forth gives a solid idea of what these regions need to achieve before they can open, there's really no timeline.

Reopening depends entirely on its ability to curb infections and have enough medical capacity to deal with the emergence of new ones. This is going to take however long it takes, and can't be rushed. The original plan to shut down New York expired on May 15th, but many areas aren't ready to open just yet. As a result, the plan has been extended to the 28th. Right now, data on Long Island's hospitalizations and hospital deaths is still being gathered and evaluated. A fairly recent upswing in cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization set the region back, so, despite the current decline, Long Island officials are not yet sure when the region can enter Phase 1.

Where to Go for Help

Here are some resources for facility managers looking for more detailed information for their specific regions: The Nassau County Department of Health Phone: 516-227-9500 The Suffolk County Department of Health Services Phone: 631-854-0000 The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (for Kings and Queens county) Phone: 347-396-4100 The NYC COVID-19 Response Map Coronavirus Hotline: 888-364-3065 With experts predicting a resurgence of COVID-19, reopening needs to proceed with an abundance of caution. While Long Island hasn't quite met all of the criteria for entering Phase 1 of New York's reopening plan, it's getting close. Facility managers should be ready to proceed according to the plan, with risk management strategies in place to deal with the potential for new infections.

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5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

5 Steps Every Facility Manager Should Take Before Reopening

As COVID-19 cases begin to plateau in some areas, states have begun to test out reopening strategies. This has left a lot of business owners wondering if what they're doing is enough to keep them, their clients, and their employees safe. If you manage a facility, you're likely in the same boat. Here are 5 steps you can take to make sure that your reopening goes as smoothly and safely as possible.

1. Confirm your plans with your local government, legal team, or any other relevant authorities.

Make sure your company is following the most current guidelines by confirming your intent to reopen with your local government. In some cases, your building may require a new certificate of occupancy -- address this first, so you don't have to scramble to fix any legal red tape later on.

Once you've created a re-opening plan, it may need approval from other departments in your company. Risk and audit teams, legal teams, security, and human resources should all be kept apprised of any plans to reopen, new policies, or updates to existing ones. They can help ensure that everything is structured appropriately, so you won't be held liable for any missteps in the reopening process.

2. Perform a deep clean, and reassess current cleaning procedures and cleanliness standards.

No matter how clean a place might have been before shuttering, dust inevitably begins to settle and pests might even try to move in. Before reopening, it's imperative that facilities conduct a thorough, top-to-bottom cleaning, followed by a long look at their current cleaning procedures. Cleaning products should be swapped out for those that contain EPA-approved disinfectants that are effective against the novel coronavirus, cleanliness standards should meet CDC guidelines, and facility managers should consider including extra measures (like UV sanitizers) in their protocols.

This is also a good time to double-check your supply chain. Are you able to get all of the supplies you need? Are any of your suppliers in hotspots that might threaten product availability? Have backup plans in place in case you aren't able to source necessary items from your current suppliers, so you aren't left having to go without and putting your workers and guests at risk.

3. Create tighter social distancing policies.

Should you require employees to have their temperatures checked before entering the building? Will you require visitors to wear masks? Will you need to move furniture in order to accommodate six feet of social distancing? Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to create, update, or change your business' social distancing policies. If your policy requires masks and gloves, make sure that employees know how to wear, clean, and dispose of their protective gear properly.

Infrared thermometer guns can check employees' and visitors' temperatures in seconds, and sanitizer stations can offer hand sanitizer, wipes, gloves, and even disposable masks if needed. Look for touch-free sanitizer dispensers, so guests don't have to come in contact with a potentially contaminated surface. At a time when many people feel squeamish about touching things, this will help make it easier for visitors to stay in compliance with hand sanitizing guidelines.

4. Have a plan in place if something goes wrong.

The novel coronavirus is tricky -- with the length of its incubation period and the number of asymptomatic carriers, it can be very difficult to tell who's carrying a threat and who isn't. Even the best-prepared facility might experience a case of COVID-19. Create a plan to address this before it happens. Make sure employees know how the virus is spread, understand the signs and symptoms, and have adequate sick leave. Check-in with your employees frequently, so you can address any concerns and adjust your policies and protocols as needed.

Right now, reopening is still very experimental, and there's a significant chance that businesses may need to temporarily close again. Create or confirm procedures that will allow you to close quickly if you need to. Set up building shutdown policies with your security department.

5. Increase visibility.

Chances are, your employees, tenants, and guests have some reservations about reopening. This is natural. Help put them at ease by increasing the visibility of your reopening procedures. Place signs reminding people of social distancing policies and the proper way to wash hands, apply hand sanitizer and use masks and gloves. Have workers clean while visitors are present to put guests' minds at ease. Send a letter to the building's occupants to let them know all of the steps you're taking to protect them.

While staying closed and unable to earn an income is frightening to employers and employees alike, reopening is very intimidating, too. Having a comprehensive, legally sound reopening procedure can go a long way to allaying these fears. Tighten cleanliness standards, update cleaning guidelines, put social distancing policies in place, and make sure employees and visitors alike know what's expected of them, and you'll be on the road to reopening.

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Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Tips For Coping With Facility Closure

Social distancing is the most effective way to slow, and hopefully eventually stop, the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, as more social distancing policies are put in place, facilities are closing for weeks at a time.

There are right ways and wrong ways to deal with closing a facility. Here are a few tips to help you handle safely closing your facility, and staying productive during its downtime:

1. Perform risk assessments beforehand

If your facility is subject to the EPA's rules for facility closures, you will need to perform a risk assessment to determine what, if any, issues may come into play. You will also need to find ways to contain or dispose of any hazardous waste, and ensure that there is a strategy in place to keep that waste safely contained. This is primarily a consideration for businesses that are subject to closure with waste in place, or "closure as a landfill," but a risk assessment is a good idea for anyone getting ready to close up for an extended period of time.

2. Work on preventing burglary or vandalism

Make sure your building's cameras, security systems, and backup power supplies are in good working order. If you can, board up windows and doors to prevent vandalism. Ensure that any and all cash is removed, if applicable, leaving drawers open and visibly empty. Remove or secure any items that might attract an opportunistic theft. Thieves may take this chance to try to break in and steal any equipment that's been left behind during the closure, so try to stay one step ahead, keep your security airtight, and reduce your facility's appeal to burglars.

3. Take care of perishable items

If your facility includes a food prep area, discuss proper disposal methods with your cooks or food service director. Contact local food pantries or other charitable efforts and see if they would be willing to accept donations of any unused food. This can help keep it from going to waste and help people struggling with food insecurity at the same time. If you can, cancel or reduce any regularly scheduled deliveries of perishable items.

4. Perform a good, thorough deep clean

Even if your facility isn't closed yet, the dramatic slowdowns many businesses are seeing makes this a great time to get a jump on spring maintenance. If you have any maintenance projects that you've had to put off, now is also the time to get working. Follow the EPA's guidelines on virucidal cleaners, and give the whole facility a deep clean and sanitization -- pay extra attention to surfaces, doorknobs, and other areas that are the most at risk of droplet contamination.

5. Double-check HVAC systems

Deep cleaning and maintenance can increase the indoor air pollution levels of a building, especially if you need to resort to heavy-duty cleaning agents. A good HVAC system should be able to return your facility to its baseline within twenty-four hours. Make sure your facility's HVAC system has new (or clean) filters, no leaking ducts, and isn't waiting on any deferred maintenance. The last thing you'll want to deal with after re-opening is increased indoor air pollution and HVAC maintenance.

6. Examine your automated tasks

Chances are, the automated parts of your facility were set up with its occupants' schedules in mind. If they aren't going to be there, you may end up with automated tasks going on and off for no reason, wasting power and inventory. Double-check your facility's automated tasks with a view to adjusting them to account for the closure. You may want to reduce their frequency or stop them completely for the time being.

7. Communicate with your tenants

While you're performing all of this work behind the scenes, your occupants are busy with their own responses to the pandemic. Make sure to stay in touch, let them know what you're doing to make sure your facility is kept clean and safe, and keep them abreast of any changes you'll be making to the decor or functionality. This will help boost their confidence in your facility, and allow them to voice any concerns or suggestions that they may have.

When you manage the day-to-day operations that keep a facility running, it's hard to see it close -- even when that closure is necessary and appropriate. These tips can help ensure that your facility stays clean, safe, and in good working order, no matter how long you need to keep the doors closed.

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6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

6 Tips For Controlling Facility Management Costs

The cost of designing and building a facility is only part of the total picture. Ongoing expenses will meet and eventually eclipse even the priciest buildings. When you add on increased regulatory requirements and the fact that many contracts are won based on price, it's easy to see why it's important to keep those ongoing costs from creeping up. Here are 6 tips for doing just that:

1. Don't put off maintenance

At times, it might be tempting to put off costly repairs, but this ends up being a bit of a false economy in the long run. Maintenance needs don't just go away, and often turn into bigger, more expensive problems the longer you wait. Use a good facility management program to help come up with a planned preventative maintenance program, and avoid unnecessary emergency repair costs. This will help you spot cyclical trends in maintenance needs, making it much easier to stay on top of things.

If you run into a situation where it's absolutely necessary to postpone some needed maintenance, make a plan to address it as soon as possible. Ending up with a backlog will just make things more expensive and complicated.

2. Look at labor costs

Labor contains a lot of hidden expenses, many of which are completely unnecessary. The easiest way to reduce labor costs is to reduce the number of workers on the payroll, but that doesn't make it the best way. High employee turnover is expensive in the long run. If some aspects of maintenance pose a significant risk to employees, outsource it to professionals. Train employees well to avoid repeating maintenance tasks. Use mobile apps to coordinate activities in a smoother, more efficient manner. A less risky work environment, good training, and solid communication make for happier employees, reducing expensive turnover and limiting the number of tasks that need to be done over.

3. Reduce service calls

Having to call a technician out to repair something can be very pricey, especially when it's for a problem that could've been fixed during an earlier call. As with preventative maintenance, don't ignore suggestions or advice from service technicians. They can provide valuable input for maintaining and repairing crucial facility systems. A facility management program can also help reduce the risk of neglecting needed service calls, allowing managers to stick to a schedule and avoid costly emergency repairs.

4. Know where the facility's assets are

"Assets" is a broad category -- it can be anything from tablets to large machinery. All of these things have value, and it gets expensive when they disappear. Often, this is purely accidental. Devices can get misplaced or damaged, a former employee might have forgotten to return a work phone, or a cluttered storage closet could hold a veritable gold mine of misplaced tech. Asset tracking software can help keep track of everything, know when it needs to be upgraded or maintained, and even help you plan for its eventual replacement.

5. Use space efficiently

Poor space utilization is a hidden money sink. It can be hard to visualize when you're just looking at a room, but every empty area costs just as much money to heat, cool, and power as the ones in use. The trouble is, good space utilization is a very delicate balance. Leave too much space unused, and all of those square feet are essentially dead weight. Use too much, and crowded conditions can become unpleasant (and even unsafe) for employees, driving down productivity. Fortunately, there are a couple of ways to help make it a little easier. Space management software can help efficiently plan layouts for maximum productivity and to minimize wasted space.

6. Use time efficiently

Like space utilization, good time management is a balance. Non-value-added time is a significant portion of any maintenance or repair order -- for every ten minutes of actual repair time, there might be half an hour of time spent on tasks that don't actually add value. Tracking down the area in need of maintenance, figuring out the issue, transporting materials to the site, and cleaning up don't really add anything to the task itself, they're just necessary evils. Fortunately, there's one simple way to cut down on non-value-added time: organization. Organizing documents like blueprints, warranties, and manuals in one place can help trim down the amount of time spent researching maintenance and repair problems.

Facilities are expensive to maintain, but that doesn't mean that there isn't space to cut ongoing costs. By performing preventative maintenance, reducing employee turnover, reducing service calls, tracking assets, utilizing space efficiently, and organizing needed repair information can make it much easier for employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities. Happy, efficient employees and an efficient, organized workplace are the keys to controlling facility management costs.

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7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

7 Ways To Reduce Your Building's Carbon Footprint

Reducing your building's environmental impact doesn't just make sense from a sustainability standpoint -- it makes good economic sense, too. While operating an ecologically-friendly facility might involve an initial investment, it generally pays for itself in terms of energy and material savings.

The Truth About Building Emissions

When people talk about carbon emissions and air pollution, they usually mention it in terms of "cars on the road." For example, if an average family skipped eating meat and dairy for one day a week, it would be roughly equivalent to taking their car off of the road for five weeks. Even though cars and transportation pollution are the standards when it comes to visualizing the environmental impact of various actions, buildings actually contribute more pollution than vehicles do. Any time a building uses a device that relies on combustion, like an oil- or gas-powered furnace, boiler, or stove, it emits carbon dioxide and monoxide. Electricity consumption may also contribute to carbon emissions if the power source is a fossil fuel. All told, buildings contribute up to 39% of carbon dioxide emissions.

Help the Environment -- and Your Bottom Line

In most cases, carbon emissions represent waste, and waste can get expensive. Taking steps to make buildings more energy-efficient means that fewer fossil fuels are consumed to keep them heated, cooled, and powered. Lower fossil fuel consumption means a lower power bill. That's even before considering the numerous subsidies and other incentives for facilities looking to reduce their carbon footprint -- power and fuel companies often offer rebates for upgrading to energy-efficient equipment. The Investment Tax Credit also allows you to deduct 30% of the cost of installing solar panels from your federal tax burden. Reducing a facility's carbon emissions may require an initial investment, but incentives exist to help ease the transition.

The Best Ways to Reduce a Building's Carbon Footprint

There are a lot of strategies for making a facility more environmentally-friendly, some of which are more practical than others. Here are the top seven:

1. Calculate your footprint. Before you can come up with an emission reduction strategy, you need to know what you're emitting. There are tons of online calculators that will help you estimate what environmental impact your facility has, and you can contact your electricity and fuel providers to see what sources your heating and power come from. This will allow you to figure out where it's feasible to cut back.

2. Don't over-commit. You don't have to go carbon-neutral right from the outset, and trying to do so might cause more problems than it solves. It's better to make tangible strides toward reduced emissions, rather than make plans to go carbon-neutral and not follow through.

3. Handle the HVAC system. Heating, ventilation, and cooling systems are responsible for up to 40% of building emissions, so it makes sense to attack the largest source first. Switch to energy-efficient heaters and air conditioners. Program them to run at certain times a day -- for example, don't run air conditioning during the coolest part of the day, and use sensors to determine when ventilation is needed.

4. Examine your water usage. Water also contributes significantly to carbon emissions. All of the water a building uses needs to first be treated, pumped, and then heated before coming out of the tap, and all of that requires energy. Switching to efficient fixtures that prevent leaks, like low-flow toilets, can reduce water wastage. Installing rainwater harvesting and greywater systems can dramatically reduce water usage for landscaping. Using native landscaping plants or xeriscaping can further reduce water wastage.

5. Generate your own energy. Solar panels are not only subsidized with a tax credit, but they can also lower energy bills by allowing a facility to reduce its dependence on external power. There are only so many ways to reduce a building's power usage; as long as it relies on power from a carbon-emitting source, it will still result in indirect carbon emissions. Setting up on-site power generation using renewable sources helps save money on the electric bill, and reduces a facility's carbon footprint.

6. Change your lighting. Lighting requires a significant amount of power. Switch to energy-efficient LEDs, and maximize your facility's use of natural light during daylight hours. Window films can help you take advantage of sunlight, without worrying about gaining too much heat in summer.

7. Don't skimp on maintenance. Clogged filters, malfunctioning fans, and leaking pipes can make the most energy-efficient appliances be wasteful. Keep on top of regular maintenance to make sure your building stays at peak efficiency. You'll save money on water and fuel, and be able to avoid costly repairs from neglected problems, too.

Reducing a facility's carbon footprint doesn't have to be difficult or arduous. Estimate where you can cut back, use energy- and water-efficient appliances, generate your own power when it's feasible, and keep on top of regular maintenance. You'll help reduce your building's bills and help the environment at the same time.

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7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

7 Ways To Protect Your Building From Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes are pretty much the bane of any facility manager. There are few things worse than not having any water, repairing a burst pipe, and cleaning up the water damage afterward. The good news is, this kind of disaster is usually preventable, as long as you take a few steps to avoid it.

How do pipes freeze?

Pipes freeze when stationary water inside them is subjected to very cold temperatures. Since water expands when frozen, this creates a lot of pressure inside of the pipe, which may then burst. When temperatures drop to at least 20°F and remain so for six or more hours, there's a danger of pipes freezing. If the pipes are poorly insulated, freezing may occur in as little as 3-4 hours. This can happen in areas of a building that may not be easily seen or accessed frequently, like crawl spaces, closets, storage areas, lofts, or roof spaces.

What are the dangers of frozen pipes?

The biggest danger of a frozen pipe is the lack of access to water. If a pipe freezes in an apartment building, for example, tenants won't be able to bathe, wash dishes, or use the restroom. Even if a frozen pipe just causes a hairline crack instead of bursting, this can result in a leak that encourages the growth of black mold. Leaking water can also cause water damage to floors, ceilings, and any furniture or other fixtures. If water seeps into a light fixture or electrical socket, it may even cause a fire.

How can you prevent frozen pipes?

There are a number of ways to keep pipes from freezing:

  1. Keep water running. Moving water won't stay in contact with cold temperatures long enough to freeze. Even just allowing taps to trickle is enough.
  2. Thoroughly insulate pipes that run through unheated spaces or exterior walls. These are the most in danger of freezing.
  3. If there are any pipes that won't be in use during winter, drain them. Pipes only burst when water expands as it freezes. They'll be safe, as long as they're dry.
  4. Keep interior spaces at least 40°F.
  5. If a building has anti-freeze sprinkler systems, ensure that there is a proper concentration of antifreeze in the lines.
  6. Where possible, use UL-listed electric heat tracing products to keep pipes warm. These use an electrical current to provide heat to pipes when temperatures drop too low.
  7. Open the doors to any enclosed spaces with pipes running through them. This allows warm interior air to mix with the cold air in the space, raising the temperature.

What should you do if a pipe freezes?

If you notice that a pipe has frozen, there are a couple of strategies to try.

First, turn off the water to the frozen area to keep it from leaking more than necessary. Next, use a hot towel, heating mat, or space heater to warm the pipe, or wrap it with thermostatically-controlled heat tape. After that, use a fan to direct warm air into the room to raise the ambient temperature above the freezing point. Lastly, if you don't have any leaks, open faucets to a trickle to keep water moving when you turn it back on. If you do, call a plumber to have them repaired before restoring the water flow. Following these steps should help unfreeze pipes and keep them from freezing again.

What should you do if a pipe bursts?

If a pipe bursts, you'll need to act quickly to minimize the damage to everything in its vicinity.

First, shut the water off. You'll have to deal with a flood as it is, so cutting off the water supply is the most important step. After that, contact a plumber to replace the burst section of the pipe. While you wait for the pipe to be replaced, remove as much water as possible by whatever means necessary -- siphons, pumps, buckets, mops, or a wet-dry shop vacuum.

Afterward, use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as much as possible. The walls and flooring will likely have absorbed a lot of water -- even hard materials, like tile, can allow it to seep in through tiny cracks and spaces. This increased moisture can encourage the growth of mold if it isn't dried quickly and completely.

Dealing with frozen or burst pipes can be a headache, but there are ways to keep them from seriously damaging a building or inconveniencing its occupants. Make sure pipes are thoroughly insulated or kept warm, act quickly to thaw frozen pipes, and have a strategy in place for quickly dealing with bursts and leaks. You'll be able to keep the building safe and your clients happy all winter long.

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Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Inspections

Facility Managers' Guide To Assisted Living Facilities Inspections

Assisted living facilities can be a huge help for residents and their families, but managing them comes with a unique set of challenges. Facility managers know that these facilities have to be held to a very high standard when it comes to guaranteeing the health and safety of their residents, and so must undergo regular inspections to make sure they comply with regulations.

What does an inspection entail?

During an inspection, a team of surveyors (including a registered nurse) will go over staff/resident interactions, resident care processes, safety, and security measures, and how well the facility adheres to food safety and fire regulations. OSHA compliance is another key aspect of these inspections, and healthcare workers are at a very high risk of experiencing job-related illness and injury. The primary goal of this process isn't to point fingers and place blame if things aren't up to snuff, it's to make things safer and healthier for residents and workers alike. Facility managers who take adequate steps to follow regulations and ensure that their employees are well prepared will have no reason to be afraid of inspections. To help with this process, here are a few guidelines for passing inspection with flying colors:

Document everything.

When the inspectors arrive, they are going to ask for a lot of very detailed information and, if it isn't available, it can make you look disorganized. Having everything documented and ready will be a huge help here -- not only will it look better, but it'll also take a lot of pressure off of workers since they won't have to scramble to get everything together. Using facility management software can make the process even easier by keeping all of your maintenance and repair records in an easy-to-manage format.

Make sure employees are prepared.

The time leading up to inspection can be stressful, and it doesn't need to be. Make sure that employees get regular training to keep them up-to-date on the regulations they need to follow. Performing regular inspection drills can be a big help here since they will let facility managers know exactly what deficiencies need to be corrected before the actual inspections take place. Facilities that participate in Medicaid or Medicare must comply with Medicaid/Medicare care requirements.

Make sure residents and visitors are prepared.

Staff/resident interactions are a big part of assisted living facility inspections, so the surveyors are allowed to talk to anyone in the facility -- including residents and their visitors. So, not only should facility managers work to make sure their employees are ready for the inspection, but they should also let residents and their families know what to expect. This will make it less disruptive for the residents, and allow the surveyors to collect better data.

Keep safety features updated.

Safety is a major issue in assisted living facilities, for residents and workers alike. Slips and falls are common among the elderly, and half of all injuries to employees of assisted living facilities are musculoskeletal issues. A good facility should have the regulation number of assistive devices, lifts, and enough battery backup to ensure that employees aren't required to manually lift or move residents, as well as handrails and other resident safety features.

Know which items are a priority for inspectors.

It's important to make sure that everything's up to code, but some deficiencies are more severe than others. Have a good idea of which areas are a priority, and make sure they never fall behind. Ensure that handrails are present in every corridor, firmly attached, and free of any sharp edges, rust, nails, or splinters. Rooms that house more than one occupant must have privacy curtains that are long enough and able to be kept clean. Doors must adhere to guidelines for thickness, material, and fire rating. If you aren't sure what will be prioritized during an inspection, contact the state's licensing agency for more information. Once you know, create an inspection checklist to help keep on top of the areas most likely to result in a serious deficiency.

What happens next?

If an inspection finds a deficiency, it will be recorded. Then, the survey team must determine how severe the deficiency is, as well as whether it has the potential to result in immediate harm, and whether it is an isolated incident or part of a pattern of negligence. After that, deficiencies must be corrected. Violations may be punished with fines, revoking Medicaid/Medicare certifications, transferring residents to other facilities, or sending in temporary new management. It should be noted that allegations alone are not enough evidence of a deficiency. They must be backed up by records, observation, or corroborating interviews with residents, visitors, or staff before they can be recorded. Inspections can be intimidating, but they don't have to be scary or stressful. As long as facility managers keep on top of employee training and ensure that their facilities adhere to health and safety regulations, there's really nothing to worry about. All the survey team wants to do is ensure that residents and employees stay safe and healthy, and inspections are a great way to make sure that assisted living facilities are able to meet everyone's needs.

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Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

Most Common Tenant Complaints and How To Resolve Them

For facility and property managers, tenant relationships can often be tricky to navigate, and this is never truer than when dealing with tenant complaints. Laws regulating landlord and tenant rights can be complicated, and not something either party wants to find themselves on the wrong side of. Fortunately, the most common tenant complaints are fairly simple to resolve, with a little effort.

1. HVAC

Whether it's the biting cold of winter or the dog days of summer, temperature control is a top priority for tenants. This can be tough to manage in older buildings, where aging heating and air conditioning systems may create challenges in keeping buildings within a safe temperature, let alone comfortable.

Property managers should have strategies in place to make sure HVAC systems are cleaned, serviced, and, if necessary, tested for flammable gas or carbon monoxide leaks every year. Have the contact information for an HVAC professional and relevant utility services. If a building relies on window units for air conditioning, keep a couple of spare units to allow maintenance workers to quickly switch broken units out for working ones.

2. Pest infestations

Nothing is worse than turning on the light and seeing a cockroach or rat scurrying across the floor. Unfortunately, no matter how clean a tenant keeps their space, multi-unit buildings are virtually magnets for pests. Remember: it only takes one tenant with poor housekeeping habits to attract pests to everyone.

The simplest solution is to call an exterminator immediately. Many facility managers have a standing appointment with an extermination company to keep pests away. In addition to regular spraying, encourage tenants to keep food stored in insect- and rodent-proof packaging, and have maintenance workers seal up gaps around pipes and beneath walls. These are the most common means of ingress for pests, and cutting off their way in will help avoid infestations in the future.

3. Poor communication

Many tenants complain that they don't feel listened to by their property managers or maintenance workers. This can set both landlords and tenants up for problems down the road -- unsatisfied tenants are likely to leave negative reviews of the property, warn others away from renting there, and may even resort to temporary "fixes" for problems rather than call facility management to report them. Landlords who don't communicate effectively with their tenants may find that their tenants don't follow the rules. The best fix for this is to initiate communication whenever necessary. Go over rules and expectations for the use of the property before the lease is signed, and send periodic reminders to tenants regarding property upkeep. Conduct regular inspections. Make sure that tenants are aware of how to contact facility management, and have a hotline for emergency maintenance needs.

4. Privacy

Few things are as nerve-wracking for a tenant as the idea that a landlord can enter their property at any time, and rightly so. Even good tenants generally don't like feeling barged in on for surprise inspections.

The best way to ease tenants' minds here is to follow the law -- property managers are required to provide at least 24 hours advance notice before entering a unit. A phone message or notice posted on the door may not cut it, either. Send an email with a read receipt or a certified letter, and make sure all tenants have a list of yearly inspection dates so they can feel prepared.

5. Mold

Black mold isn't just unsightly, it's toxic. For tenants with respiratory issues like asthma or COPD, it can even be deadly.

Facility managers shouldn't hesitate when it comes to dealing with black mold. When it shows up, it's often a sign of an underlying issue, like a leaking pipe or poor humidity control. Regular maintenance workers generally don't have the equipment or expertise to thoroughly and safely eradicate it, so it's best to call a mold remediation specialist to make sure that it's completely taken care of.

6. Rent and Security Deposit Disputes

Even with a good landlord-tenant relationship, problems with money can arise. Tenants may withhold rent for neglected repairs or unlivable conditions, landlords may choose to keep security deposits to cover cleaning and repair costs, and both parties may disagree about why and how much of the money was withheld.

Property management generally isn't equipped to handle this on their own. It's a good idea to have a lawyer on retainer who's well versed in landlord-tenant law, to make sure that the landlord's interests are protected and everything is dealt with fairly.

7. Eviction

Nobody likes it, but eviction is sometimes necessary. It can be a real problem with tenants who refuse to move, abandon all of their possessions, or even try to become violent.

This is another case where a little legal counsel can go a long way. There are laws governing how to go about the eviction process, as well as what a landlord is and isn't allowed to do with abandoned possessions. It might even be necessary to have the police or building security help escort a belligerent tenant from the property.

Any time money changes hands, it complicates relationships. As long as landlords are able to thoroughly communicate their expectations to tenants, tenants feel secure in reporting problems to the property manager, and complaints are dealt with quickly, they can have an easy, mutually respectful relationship.

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How to Choose a High-Quality Paint

How to Choose a High-Quality Paint

Regardless of what the application is, the paint quality you choose for your facility is important. Choosing the right paint starts with acknowledging the differences between low-quality and high-quality paints, and understanding why paint quality matters.

Disadvantages of Cheap Paint

  1. While low-quality paint may be cheaper, make no mistake that it comes with hidden costs. The pigments involved in their formulas often don’t work to enhance color and coverage, and therefore require that more than one coat be applied. This means you’ll need to purchase more cans of paint for your project.
  2. Also, low-quality paint doesn’t last very long. It simply isn’t as durable as higher-quality paint is, and will fade, crack or peel after just a few years.

Advantages of High-Quality Paint

  1. High-quality paint consists of ingredients that result in a smoother, longer-lasting application. You won’t have to worry about having to repaint every year due to regular wear, which is particularly helpful in high-traffic areas of a facility. High-quality paint formulas are specially made to hold up against fading, cracking and peeling, and in all types of environmental conditions.
  2. The pigmentation in high-quality paint is better than in low-quality paints, which means you won’t need as many coats. The better the pigments, the smaller and purer they are – which means high-quality paint offers more coverage, color, and depth to your paint job. Whether it’s an old color or imperfections you’re painting over, these pigments help the paint to more easily conceal what you want to conceal.
  3. High-quality paints include only the best binders (or resins), which help the product to adhere to every surface properly from the start, thus increasing durability. Good binders also keep paint from peeling, cracking, and blistering; fading and chalking; and from scuffing and fingerprints.
  4. Paints that are higher in quality can also protect against mildew, mold, and spoilage.

Assessing Your Project and Factors to Consider When Selecting Paint

You may be wondering, considering the many paint formulas available, how to determine which is a quality paint suitable for a given application? It’s always a good idea to start the process by looking at past performance. If you’re repainting an area, what brand and type of paint were used there before? How long did it hold up for? 

However, you’ll also want to consider that paint manufacturers often adjust their paint formulas in order to improve performance or reduce costs. So, how do you assess your project’s paint needs should that happen? There are four factors to look at to help you ensure that your paint selection is high-quality:

Factor #1: Price

While the price is not an absolute guarantee, you can trust that it is typically a good indicator of quality. Generally speaking, the higher the quality of paint, the higher its price. This is because more expensive paints tend to contain ingredients that are of better quality, and usually contain a higher volume of solids.

Factor #2: Percentage of Solids

As the paint dries and the liquid evaporates, what’s left on the surface are known as solids. The percentage of solids contained in a can of paint is in direct ratio to the thickness and quality of the protective paint film. Lower-grade latex paints will typically contain about 20-30% solids by volume and 79-80% water, while higher-grade latex paints will generally be 35-50% solids.  Keep your eye out for the latter, with the knowledge that the higher the percentage of solids is, the higher the quality of the paint is.

Factor #3: Prime Pigments

Pigments are finely ground particles that are dispensed into the paint and provide color and hiding properties. Certain pigments, known as “prime” pigments, provide better coverage. Look for paints that contain titanium dioxide; the highest quality prime pigment.

Factor #4: Concentration of Binders

You’ll want to look for paints that contain a higher percentage of binders, as the higher the percentage, the more the paint will be resistant to cracking and peeling. A pigment-volume concentrate value of 45% is considered to be the optimum level for most applications.

A Final Note

When evaluating paint options, a good rule of thumb is to remember that you can contact the paint manufacturer. They will be able to tell you anything you need to know about the paint’s formula and ingredients, be it types of pigments and binders used, percentage of solids, and what other additives it might contain.

Finally, rest assured that there are existing organizations that have developed evaluation and rating procedures for paint, and have set standard requirements for content and testing procedures that manufacturers must adhere to if their paint is to be certified as meeting that standard. These organizations include ANSI, ASTM, Green Seal, and the Master Painters Institute. For more information, you can contact these organizations with any specific questions you may have about paints you may be considering.

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