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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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How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

How Facilities Can Use Ultraviolet Light To Kill COVID-19

Most pathogens that infect humans or animals have a pretty narrow range of tolerance. Change the pH, moisture level, or amount of light in their environment, and they either die or can't reproduce. While there's a limit to how we can exploit this within the human body, disinfecting surfaces and objects is a lot less complicated. For managers looking to keep their facilities clean and sanitary, that's where ultraviolet light comes in.

How UV Light Kills Pathogens

Ultraviolet germicidal radiation kills pathogens using short-wavelength ultraviolet light (UVC). Though viruses aren't technically alive and therefore can't actually be killed, UVC damages their nucleic acids, inactivating them. This method can be used to effectively disinfect water, air, and even hard or soft surfaces.

The Drawbacks of UVC Disinfection

Anything that kills pathogens can also harm human or animal cells, so it's very important to follow certain safety considerations. UVC light should only be used in unoccupied rooms since it can damage eyes and skin. It also doesn't have a residual effect and can take a long time for maximum effectiveness -- sometimes an hour or more depending on the size of the room. This can make using UVC a challenge, but some companies are working on technology to make it faster, safer, and more convenient.

Far-UVC and Upper-room Devices

Since the main problem with UVC is that it can't be used in occupied spaces, researchers at Columbia University's Center for Radiological Research put forth the idea that far-UVC might be a safer option. Since far-UVC theoretically can't penetrate the skin, it should be able to kill or inactivate pathogens without causing harm to multicellular organisms. Several companies are working on prototyping far-UVC sanitizers, but FDA approval of this technology is still pending.

One alternative is upper-room ultraviolet disinfection. This uses UVC lighting placed seven feet above the floor, so it doesn't come in contact with the room's occupants. As the light kills viruses and bacteria in the air above, fans or other ventilation equipment mixes this cleaned air with contaminated air from below. This helps the light decrease the room's pathogen load. Since it still uses conventional UVC lighting, the fixtures must be turned off if anyone has to work near the ceiling in order to prevent cell damage.

Portable UV Devices

For most facilities that don't require clean room-levels of sanitation, there are portable devices on the market for disinfecting everything from cellphones, to rooms. Portable UV wands direct UV lighting down toward a surface, so they can be waved over desks, chairs, phones, anything else without too many nooks and crannies. These devices take a few seconds of exposure in order to be effective, so it's important to move them very slowly for the best results. It's also important for users to avoid looking directly at the light or pointing it at other people.

There are also UV lamps and bulbs that can disinfect entire rooms. Most of these are fixtures that simply need to be set up in a space, plugged in, and left alone. In about forty-five minutes to an hour, the pathogen load of the room will have significantly decreased. UV bulbs work much the same way but can be screwed into any conventional light fixture. Even if the light is unable to reach every corner or shadowed spot in a space, natural air movement will help ensure that the pathogen load is reduced as sanitized air mixes with contaminated air. As with other room-sized UV devices, these should only ever be used in unoccupied areas.

UV sterilizer boxes are similar to portable UV wands but in a container. Small items, like phones, pens, glasses, or other handheld objects can be placed inside and allowed to disinfect, without any potential for harm to anyone in the room. The box completely contains the light, so there's no danger of cellular damage outside.

The LightStrike Robot

Recently, the San Antonio-based robotics company Xenex Disinfection Services managed to prove that their Lightstrike Robot can sterilize a room contaminated with the novel coronavirus. The robot works by using xenon lamps that create bursts of intense light at brief intervals. To test it, researchers placed it in a lab where several surfaces had been contaminated with the virus that causes COVID-19. They allowed the robot to run at one, two, and five-minute intervals, testing the remaining amount of the virus after each. The results showed that it took the LightStrike robot about two minutes to inactivate 99.99% of the virus on both hard and soft surfaces. At the moment, the LightStrike robot costs about $100,000 to buy, but the company also provides leasing options.

Ultraviolet lighting can take care of bacteria and viruses -- even the virus that causes COVID-19 -- by damaging their nucleic acids. With a good ultraviolet device and some basic safety considerations, facility managers can take advantage of this to keep their businesses clean and employees and clients safe and happy.

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COVID-19 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

COVID-10 Resources For Long Island Facility Managers

Our understanding of COVID-19 shifts from day to day as doctors and researchers gain a better understanding of this novel virus. Keeping a facility up and running poses enough challenges on an average day as it is, so it is understandable that these circumstances have thrown facility managers for a loop. Here are some resources for Long Island facility managers, property managers, and business owners to help you keep your facilities running safely and smoothly during the pandemic:

OSHA's “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has released a 32-page guide that explains how an outbreak of COVID-19 could impact business and offers information on symptoms and transmission. It also outlines steps employers can take to minimize the danger to their workers, depending on their level of exposure risk (low, medium, or high), with special instructions for workers traveling abroad.

OSHA's COVID-19 Safety and Health Topic

The COVID-19 page on the United States Department of Labor website explains how the virus spreads, and how OSHA standards apply when it comes to protecting employees from the virus. It provides tips for employers and employees alike, with specific guidance for employees of certain industries. This is a must-read for managers of healthcare or deathcare facilities, laboratories, or sanitation facilities.

The CDC's "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)"

This COVID-19 guide by the Centers for Disease Control provides guidance on cleaning and disinfection and social distancing, designed for non-healthcare settings. It explains how to reduce the risk of transmission between employees, maintain healthy business operations, and keep up a healthy work environment.

The CDC's Long-Term Care and Other Residential Facilities Pandemic Influenza Planning Checklist

Long-term care and residential facilities often house the people most vulnerable to illnesses like COVID-19. This pandemic planning checklist highlights important areas for pandemic preparedness and response planning, geared specifically to the challenges these facilities face.

The WHO's "Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19"

The World Health Organization has also released a COVID-19 guide for businesses. It outlines ways to prevent the spread of the virus, managing risks in group settings like meetings, managing risks during travel, and preparing your facility for a local outbreak.

The IFMA's Pandemic Preparedness Manual

The International Facility Management Association's Pandemic Preparedness Manual covers instructions for maintaining business continuity, planning checklists, response checklists, and instructions for controlling and mitigating the spread of a viral outbreak. Though the information is geared toward avian influenza, much of it is applicable to other viruses.

New York State Department of Health

The NYS Department of Health COVID-19 website explains which businesses are experiencing mandatory closures, and links to guidance for businesses considered essential services. This is intended to help employers determine if they meet the criteria for an essential business, and follow the necessary steps to obtain the designation.

COVID-19 Resources within Nassau County

Nassau County has a dedicated coronavirus hotline at (516) 227-9570. The Nassau County COVID-19 website provides helpful infographics with instructions for applying for aid, important links and numbers for Nassau-area individuals and businesses, and simple instructions for limiting the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 Resources within Suffolk County

Suffolk County also has a COVID-19 resources portal, with the most up-to-date news on cases within the county, information from the CDC, and links to guidance for individuals who may have come in contact with a carrier.

The ISSA's "Coronavirus: Prevention and Control for the Cleaning Industry"

The International Sanitary Supply Association offers webinars by the Global BioRisk Advisory Council, tip sheets, and information geared toward those employers that work within the cleaning industry.

The EPA’s List of Anti-COVID-19 Disinfectants

Not all cleaners are effective against viruses, COVID-19 included. When purchasing a disinfectant to combat a specific disease-causing agent, it's important to cross-reference it with the products on the EPA's recognized anti-COVID disinfectants list. This list gives the registration numbers, product names, manufacturers, and formulation types of all of the currently recognized anti-COVID disinfectants.

Dealing With Coronavirus (COVID-19) as a Facility Manager Whitepaper

This Dealing With Coronavirus Whitepaper is written for facility managers, to offer guidance on how to prevent, contain, and mitigate outbreaks in the workplace. It covers reducing the number of workers, increasing the distance between workers, disinfection strategies, and keeping everyone in the loop.

This novel coronavirus is presenting challenges that are testing the limits of everyone's disaster preparedness plans. If you are a facility manager in New York state, these resources can help you keep your employees, clients, and guests as safe and healthy as possible.

Work At Home Checklist For Employers

This Work At Home Checklist is a handy reference for employers working to maintain business continuity by having employees telework.

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How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

How Facility Managers Should Be Responding to Coronavirus

The emergence of any new disease is scary, especially when there's a lot of misinformation circulating about it. Right now, officials in the U.S. and overseas are talking about closing down schools and other public places in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), and it has facility managers rightfully concerned. Here's what you should be doing to help keep yourself, your employees, and your visitors safe:

Enforce hand washing protocols.

The news is full of stories about stores running out of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer, and even masks, but the best defense against diseases like influenza and COVID-19 is regular old hand washing. Coronavirus is believed to be transmitted through contact with respiratory secretions. Train employees in proper handwashing techniques, post new signage as a reminder and make sure bathrooms are properly stocked with soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Encourage sick employees to stay home.

It's a sad fact that many people don't feel that they are able to stay home to rest when they are ill. Avoid scheduling any shifts that can't absorb a loss or two if someone needs some sick time, and make sure employees know that they can and should leave work or stay home if they begin experiencing upper respiratory symptoms. If sick employees insist on coming in anyway, send them home. The minor addition to productivity they would bring is not worth jeopardizing the rest of your employees, tenants, or visitors. This is especially true of workers in hospitals, nursing homes, or other areas with a high concentration of potentially vulnerable people.

Review sick leave policies.

One of the biggest reasons that sick people don't stay home is that they fear being penalized for doing so. Go over your company's sick leave and paid time off policies, and make sure that employees aren't in a position that disincentivizes reporting symptoms or responsibly taking sick leave. Put policies in place that cover furloughs or workplace closure.

Promote good coughing or sneezing hygiene.

If you are managing a store or office building, your visitors and tenants may not have the things they need to prevent infection, so provide them -- within reasonable expectations. Set up stations with hand sanitizer, disposable tissues, and a wastebasket, and keep them stocked and cleaned. If you are managing a hospital, keep stations stocked with masks, and post signage encouraging anyone with respiratory symptoms to use them. Masks don't protect the wearer very well, but they are excellent at protecting others from the wearer.

Go over cleaning procedures.

Contaminated surfaces can transmit illness when people touch them and then touch their eyes, mouths, or noses. Make sure your policies outline the procedure for sanitizing each area of the facility, what products need to be used, and protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. Make sure that any disinfectant products used have EPA-approved claims against bacteria and viruses of concern. There haven't been any tests specifically on COVID-19 yet, but the EPA's Emerging Virus Protocol offers information on products that are effective on similar pathogens.

Keep some extra inventory on hand.

It's not a good idea to hoard supplies, but it's reasonable to expect some supply chain disruption. Public health experts recommend that households have some extra non-perishable staples on hand in case of store closures or problems restocking, and this can be extrapolated to facilities, too. Take inventory on your most-used supplies, and stock 10-15% extra. It should be enough to get you through a minor disruption, but not enough to cause problems with purchasing or storage.

Keep tenants and employees informed.

Epidemics are frightening, and being kept in the dark only intensifies those fears. Keep tenants and employees up-to-date on the latest information and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, as well as all of the steps you are taking to protect their health. Go over employee and tenant contact information, and make sure it's up-to-date. If there isn't a good communication system already in place, set one up.

Train supervisors or other key employees in infection control and reporting.

As new cases of COVID-19 emerge, it's imperative to report exposures to local public health departments. Educate key employees in the potential impact of the virus, make sure they have easy access to relevant company policies, and give them the contact information for the public health authorities in your area.

Don't panic.

The media tends to sensationalize stories and play on the public's fears. Make sure you're getting your information from a reputable, expert source, and don't succumb to the temptation to panic. It isn't necessary to stockpile bottled water and food, and many of the most-frequently stockpiled items (like triclosan hand sanitizer and surgical masks) aren't effective against viruses anyway. Remember: Right now, the flu is a bigger threat than COVID-19. If the flu isn't triggering a panic, that shouldn't either.

When most companies plan for disasters, they think of tornadoes, fires, explosions, and floods. Illnesses can easily become emergencies, too, and it's vital that facility managers have policies in place to help mitigate the damage they can cause. By following these tips, you can keep your employees, tenants, and visitors safe, and business running smoothly.

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Hurricane Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

Hurrican Preparation Planning For Facility Managers

We all know that hurricanes are violent storms with the potential to cause severe damage and destruction to anything within their range. The good thing is, with today’s technology meteorologists are able to forecast hurricanes well in advance of their approach. Thankfully facility management can make it a point to take advantage of these insights. Advance preparation can leave facility leadership with a solid framework by which to weather the storm and protect their facilities, and the businesses and employees therein. We encourage facility management teams to refer to the following guidelines.

Assess What’s Most Important

There are three key elements that keep a business up and running: its employees, assets, and location. Taking swift action early enough to protect these elements from the threat of a hurricane will help you to maintain order and rebound quickly after the storm has passed.

Protecting Your Employees. When facing a potential crisis, an organization’s workforce looks to management for leadership and guidance to help keep them safe and informed. There are challenges to this that exist in today’s highly mobile workforce that didn’t exist even just ten years ago. Several factors to take into consideration are:

  • Where is each staff member located (in real-time)?
  • Which employees travel and what is their current schedule?
  • If you have remote workers, do you know where they are in any given moment?
  • Do you have a mass notification system in place to quickly and easily notify your people?
  • Is each employee being tracked by HR, travel, and/or building badge systems so they can be reached immediately?


Inventory Your Assets. 
The potential for flooding, high winds, gas shortages, and power shortages pose a threat to all kinds of business assets, including network, data, equipment, technology, supplies, products, and overall facilities. Identifying the following assets now can help to prevent stress later on:

  • Where are your assets located?
  • What kind of physical protection is available for each asset?
  • Which assets are critical to running the business?
  • Are these assets owned or insured?
  • What assets are leased, and what is your responsibility if they’re damaged?


Note: To help businesses “prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and recover rapidly from operational disruptions,” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends referring to their Continuity Tool Kit.

Fortify Your Locations. Geographic location can certainly influence a property’s vulnerability to disaster by a hurricane. That said, while severe flooding is more likely to occur in coastal regions, facilities located inland are still susceptible to great danger. Hurricanes may weaken, but even slow-moving systems can hover over populated areas and cause catastrophic flooding and water damage. Whether your facility is comprised of a single unit or multiple buildings, you’ll need to consider how to reinforce each individual location. Consider the following questions:

  • What is the address of every location under your company umbrella including storage facilities and transportation lots?
  • What is the evacuation plan for each facility? For example entrances/exits; stairs, elevators and escalators; parking lots; and access to the closest hurricane evacuation route.
  • Which people/teams work at each location?
  • What are the biggest risks for each facility and how fortified are they to withstand potential damage?
  • What types of materials are in place necessary to getting the facility up and running again?


Draw Up an Emergency Plan

Having an emergency plan in place is vital to minimizing the panic and confusion that hurricanes can cause. Your plan should maintain some flexibility in case of unforeseen circumstances, but it should certainly incorporate core infrastructure elements that are unlikely to change as the company grows. Here’s how you can plan ahead to protect these elements:

Back-Up Your Data. To safeguard against on-premise damage, like flooding or fires which can destroy on-site servers, you’ll want to ensure that all company data is backed up offsite. Backing up data regularly should ideally become a habit so that, in the case of a hurricane or other weather event, your business won’t suffer loss should your server go down.

Set Up Cloud Systems. Cloud-based systems can expedite the disaster-recovery process. Converting key business systems and mobile device data to the cloud, including payroll, CRM, and HR systems, will allow these systems to be accessed remotely in the event your company needs to work from a different location.

Create Checklists. A checklist of tasks that need to be performed before, during, and after a hurricane can help to ensure that nothing is missed. The list should be both stored on a cloud application for easy access, and also physically posted for easy reference in the case of a power outage. Also, be sure to communicate this list to key stakeholders if you’ll be out of the office or unavailable at the time a hurricane is expected to touch down.

Review Contracts. Don’t wait for the aftermath of a major storm to review your contractual obligations with vendors, insurance providers, and landlords. Take the time to review contracts for specific mentions of weather-related events, damages, and complete loss. If a contract doesn’t reference these potential situations, contact contract owners directly to find out what their weather-related clauses and policies are.

Map Evacuation Routes. Safety is the number one priority in the event of any threat, and hurricanes certainly qualify here. An explicit plan to help employees promptly locate the safest way out of their facility will minimize chaos. You’ll need to determine which stairwells and doors should be used, identify parking lot exits, and what surrounding streets should be taken. Posting physical maps on each floor will help to familiarize your staff with approved evacuation routes. Holding drills on regular days when no weather-threats are posed will also help to acquaint employees with proper evacuation procedures.

Implement a Two-Way Communication System. It can’t be emphasized enough how important communication is. In the event of a hurricane, good communication can potentially save lives. You’ll want to ensure that every staff member is safe and able to communicate with leadership and with each other. You should not rely on the internet alone, as it can be rendered inaccessible during a power outage. Implementing emergency communication software can enable a company’s leadership to deliver real-time information to employees across multiple channels and devices simultaneously. Such a system can also be used to check in with employees for status updates, and to provide evacuation details. You’ll want to optimize this system by regularly updating your company directory with accurate contact information for each employee. Many systems include pre-set templates to help administrators pre-emptively prepare so that during a weather event they will be able to relay information swiftly with only a few clicks. Messages created in advance and stored on these templates eliminate the need to create a message from scratch, which can save precious minutes in the face of a dangerous storm. Ideal templates to use should include email, voicemail scripts, SMS texts, and push notifications.

Create Emergency Response Teams

It takes a proverbial village to protect your people, assets, and locations. Once your plan is in place, it’s time to delegate responsibilities and practice its execution. Here are three steps necessary to provide everyone with a thorough understanding of what to do in the event of a hurricane:

Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities. Your plan will have moving parts involving multiple people, so be sure to designate roles to employees you trust can handle the challenge. Communicate specific responsibilities with each individual stakeholder and ensure that they have the resources and technology they’ll need. Be clear with everyone about who is on each team, and who they can turn to for specific information.

Train Teams. Gather the team to review protocols and answer any questions they may have. Be sure to modify the plan as the company evolves should new locations be acquired, expansions be built, or facilities be changed.

Role Play. Hold mock drills to practice your plan. Though role play may feel silly, rest assured that when actually faced with the dangers of a hurricane, team members will be more likely to remember a drill than an office memo. You can opt to give the team notice, or to conduct impromptu drills to mimic a real-life emergency.

As you can see, careful planning in conjunction with these guidelines can make all the difference. Taking proactive steps now, before a hurricane hits, can help to ensure everyone’s safety in the midst of one. It will also give weather-damaged facilities accessibility to a quicker recovery process and can help protect businesses by minimizing their total losses.

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How to Prevent Slips and Falls in Your Facility

How To Prevent Slips and Falls in Your Facility

Facilities with high-traffic areas, such as schools, healthcare, and commercial facilities, are the most at risk for people taking a sudden slip, trip, or fall. According to the National Safety Council, these types of mishaps lead to the most costly types of injuries as they’re not only the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, they also represent the primary cause of lost days from work due to an accident.

While the risk for these accidents may be increased by human factors, such as age, failing eyesight, and other mobility impairments (such as using a cane or a walker), it’s important for facility managers to note the non-human factors that reflect accident-prone statistics: floor surfaces.

Floors and flooring materials contribute to more than 2 million fall injuries per year, usually due to them becoming wet from leaks, spills, snow, rain, mud, wet leaves, and other floor contaminations. Thankfully, these issues are easily preventable with the implementation of a tight floor maintenance problem. So, while you may not be able to control the weather or how people walk, you can start by identifying problem areas in order to minimize the chance for slips, trips, and falls.

The Five “Danger Zones”

Lobbies. As a welcome space, lobby areas tend to be shiny and attractive -- but this doesn’t come without a cost. Lobbies are often buffed and waxed, in an effort to offer optimal appeal for visitors and workers. Also, as the point of entry, lobbies are often subject to shoes, umbrellas, and the debris that both track in.

Breakrooms/cafeterias. As a space where food and beverages are prepared and consumed, spills are more likely to occur. Coffee machine areas are especially susceptible to drips and spills, where occupants tend to pass through with uncovered mugs full of the hot beverage.

Restrooms. It goes without saying that wherever there is water, there is an increased risk for slips, trips, and falls. Restroom floors are subject to becoming wet in numerous ways – everything from the slightest hand-dripping, to overflowing sinks and toilets, and plumbing problems.

Piping. Corrosion and wear can cause piping to leak. Preventative maintenance is key when it comes to piping, especially if it’s in close proximity to where occupants are.

Roof. Both cold or inclement weather can make any roof vulnerable to leaks. On top of that, buckets that are left on floors to collect liquid from roof leaks are also susceptible to being tripped over by a distracted occupant.

Five Tips to Prevent Accidents

Fortunately, there are several ways that facility managers can plan ahead in order to prevent these various flooring/area hazards:

Watch the Weather. Preparation for storms, snow, rain, or any other weather event that could leave debris on your facilities’ floors is of utmost Have signs handy to make building occupants aware of potential hazards, and have floor blowers on hand to dry up rain water.

Use Matting for Liquid Absorption. Floor matting can help absorb water and other liquid debris. However, matting comes with its own set of hazards. Avoid matting that gaps, wrinkles, or easily moves around. Ideally, your matting should have an adhesive backing to keep the mat flat and in place.

Analyze Past Problem Areas. Examine any previous slip or fall claims and use them as a map to help you identify high-risk zones in your facility, or to help you determine primary areas for potential hazards. By looking at “root cause” errors of the past, you can help to ensure a safer present and future.

Use Proper Cleaning Aides. Be sure to purchase the right cleaner for the right contaminant and floor surface. For example, what you use on tile may be quite different than what you’d use on wood or concrete. Work with your janitorial supply company to determine which chemicals are best to use on the various surfaces of your facility. In addition, be sure to carefully read the directions on all chemical products in order to use these cleaners correctly. Take special note of any dilution ratios and water temperatures required.

Have a Floor Maintenance Management Program in Place. An established program is an important preparation tool for proper floor maintenance. Your program should include ways to properly store cleaning products and equipment, training staff, regular floor inspections that are shared with supervisors, and specific procedures and protocols for various areas.

Slippery flooring is unsafe for building occupants and can turn into expensive claims for your facility. Getting ahead of these potential problems can go a long way to eliminate risk, and make for an all-around safer, happier workplace for everyone.

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Keeping a Facility Running During Expansion or Renovation

Keeping a Facility Running During Expansion or Renovation

Most buildings at some point need to undergo renovations or expansions. Few older buildings can accommodate the hectic pace and increased volume of today's consumers. They must be renovated and expanded in order to serve the public better.

When you plan on renovating or expanding the building in which your own organization or company is located, you might wonder how you can remain open for business without impeding the construction projects. By keeping these tips in mind, you could keep your doors open while meeting the demands of your public and still affording the construction crew the room they need in which to work.

Coordinating Your Daily Operations around Construction

During the renovation or expansion work, you will need to figure out how to run your organization or business without getting in the way of the construction workers. If possible, you could simply relocate some or all of your business's operations to another part of the building. If you have rooms in the building currently not being used, you could move your employees, equipment, and other daily operations to these areas while allowing the construction crew to work in parts of the building where you normally have operations set up.

If you cannot completely relocate to another part of the building, you may need to do mini-relocations during the expansions or renovating. While one hallway or corner of the building is being worked on, you could have your employees share office spaces until the work in that part is finished. You can continue in this way until all of the construction work is done.

If it is impossible to relocate even small areas of the building during the construction work, you may need to ask the remodelers to do their work during the evening hours or on the weekends. This accommodation would allow you to continue to run your business during normal working hours and remain completely out of the way during the after hours when the construction crew is on site.

Reasons to Stay Open during the Work

You might wonder if it is best for you just to shut down during the construction project. Depending on the industry in which your business or organization operates, you may not be able to and may even be required by law to keep your doors open.

For example, if yours is the only hospital or medical clinic in the county, you may not be able to safely close your doors until the remodeling work is finished. Patients who come to your facility for care could experience dire illnesses that could put their health at risk. In this instance, you could incur fines or penalties from government regulators and the state medical board if you shut down during the construction.

Likewise, if you run a school, you cannot really shut your doors during the school year. By law, students have to be educated. They cannot transfer to another school until your building is renovated. You have to remain in operation even while the work is ongoing.

Finally, if you are a business owner, you may not be able to afford to shut down if you want to continue to make a profit. You still have bills and employees to pay. How can you do that when the doors of your business are closed and you have no money coming in? Staying open during construction work is the only way you can generate revenue. 

Hiring a Contractor

You might be able to minimize the amount of time you have to coexist with a construction crew by vetting contractors for the job thoroughly first. Before you hire one to do the renovation and expansion work, you may want to find out details like:

  • Whether or not the contractor has done projects like yours before
  • What kind of network of subcontractors the contractor has access to
  • How flexible the contractor's work plans can be if your business or customer demands change
  • How the contractor can make future renovations or expansions seamless


These details can let you know if the contractor can get the work done in a timely manner and accommodate you as a building owner.

Expansions and renovations are part and parcel of owning and operating a business or organization in most buildings today. At some point, you may need to hire a construction crew to make improvements to your building. You can outlast the projects by knowing how to coexist alongside a renovation crew and how to hire a contractor who is qualified for the work.

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Rubber Flooring: Pros and Cons

Rubber Flooring

When it comes to selecting the best flooring for your facility, you want something that will give you a good return on your investment and last for a long time. At the same time, you want a material that is visually appealing and easy to maintain.

You could find the ideal solution for your building by choosing rubber with which to cover your floors. You may be further convinced by learning about the benefits of rubber floors.

Popularity

You would not be alone in your admiration for rubber flooring. In fact, it is becoming more commonplace in all sorts of buildings. While it is typically used in settings like gymnasiums, fieldhouses, and weight rooms, it also is being used more in commercial and residential settings.

It is true that rubber tends to be a bit higher priced than conventional choices like tile or vinyl. However, it also lasts longer and gives a better return on the initial investment than other types of materials. You may not have to repair or replace it as often or as quickly than if you had chosen vinyl, carpeting, or other materials.

Durability

Rubber is also extremely durable. When you are in the market for a material that will be an overall asset to your building, you could find that rubber exceeds your expectations of durability alone.

It can tolerate a high amount of foot traffic without succumbing to damages like cracks and breaks. It also is water resistant and simple to clean up if you spill something like water or coffee on it.

Because of its natural elasticity, it maintains its original appearance. It also has natural shock absorber qualities and can provide more cushion for your feet, which can be crucial if you spend most of the day standing and walking. Its ability to absorb shock and weight also allows it to withstand heavy things being dropped on it.

Low Maintenance

Rubber gets favorable reviews for its low maintenance qualities. When you do not want to spend most of the day mopping and sweeping your facility, rubber may be your ideal choice. It takes minimal effort to keep it looking pristine and new.

Taking care of a rubber floor can be as simple as vacuuming it on a daily basis. You also should mop it with a mild detergent and warm water. You should not use harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia on it because chemicals can cause damages like fading and cracks.

Slip Resistance

If preventing slips and falls is a priority, you may want to invest in a rubber floor. Rubber is especially common in medical facilities like hospitals and nursing homes where patient and employee safety is the main concern.

Rubber exceeds the minimum standard for the coefficient of friction, meaning it prevents people from slipping and falling even when they track in water and mud from outside. Its non-slip qualities also make it ideal for use in places like gyms, weight rooms, and fieldhouses where athletes run and train. It prevents them from falling down and getting injured.

Environmentally Friendly

Rubber also has a reputation for being one of the most eco-friendly flooring choices on the market. Unlike wood and marble, which are not sustainable or renewable materials, rubber is made from the sap of a rubber tree. The sap is gathered in a way that does not harm the tree itself nor impedes its growth.

Once the rubber floor becomes worn out and needs to be replaced, it can be recycled and made into entirely new products. It can also be shredded and used in places like playgrounds. It does not have to be thrown away or end up in a landfill.

Other Benefits

Rubber floors also offer additional benefits that might appeal to you as a facilities manager. For example, it: 

  • Does not contain PVC
  • Can absorb sounds
  • Resists static
  • Resists damages like scuffs marks, cigarette burns, and scratches
  • Prevents the growth of fungi like mold and mildew
  • Resists stains
  • Comes in uniform colors


These factors could make rubber flooring the ideal choice for covering your floors. 

Choosing the right material for your floors is critical to the comfort and safety of your building. You could get the best return on your investment and get the performance you expect by choosing rubber. Rubber offers a host of benefits that could make it the ideal choice for you.

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