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9 Winter Preparation Tips For Facility Managers

9 Winter Preparation Tips For Facility Managers

Winter can be a brutal season for facilities. Inclement weather strikes, unused heating systems get pressed into service, and sand and road salt can wreak havoc on landscaping. With the addition of the COVID-19 outbreak this year, winter is shaping up to be especially challenging. Here are 9 tips to help facilities weather the season:

1. Clean ducts and change filters in HVAC systems.

A dirty HVAC filter won't just make the air in a facility smell and feel bad, it'll negatively impact the health of the occupants. This is especially true now, as experts recommend switching from typical HVAC filters to ones that are more efficient at trapping small particles, to hopefully reduce the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air. More efficient filters get clogged and dirty more quickly, so be sure to swap them out before winter hits. Clean ducts to get rid of dust, debris, and mold spores. It might be a good idea to consider installing a UV sanitizer, as well -- it's a simple way to help eliminate airborne viral particles and keep them from being blown around by HVAC systems.

2. Get ready to increase ventilation.

It might seem counterintuitive, but research shows that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is capable of remaining airborne for longer than previously thought. This means that during winter, when facility managers typically focus on keeping their buildings' energy-efficient and sealed up tight, facilities could inadvertently create conditions that encourage the virus to spread indoors. Bringing in more air from outside, either via windows or through adjusting the HVAC system, can help dilute the number of viral particles in the air. It'll mean higher energy bills, but the payoff is healthier, safer employees and guests.

3. Clean out gutters.

Autumn leaves mean clogged gutters, and clogged gutters can mean water damage. Be proactive before winter storms hit, and remove leaves, sticks, and other debris from gutters. During winter, clean gutters regularly to keep them from being blocked by snow and ice.

4. Inspect the building's exterior and make any needed repairs.

The middle of winter isn't a great time to have to fix a leaking roof or repair a door, so facility managers should give their buildings a thorough inspection to spot any potential trouble spots. Check the heating system, window insulation, doors, plumbing, and attics, or crawl spaces. Making repairs now will save a lot of trouble in the long run.

5. Take inventory.

Winter's a terrible time to have to make the trip to buy supplies, and severe snow and ice can delay shipments. Don't wait for stocks to run low -- have spare supplies on hand in case of an emergency. This includes items like disinfectants and cleaning supplies, paper products, de-icing supplies, disposable masks, and hand sanitizer.

6. Get ready for power shortages.

Storms can knock out power lines, leaving facilities scrambling to keep operating. Downed power lines aren't the only concern this year, though -- as more places consume power to keep their buildings adequately heated with increased ventilation, there's going to be a higher demand put on power grids. Have emergency lighting, a backup generator, and a solid plan in place in case the power goes out.

7. Prepare outside spaces.

People generally don't spend as much time outdoors in winter, but it's still important to maintain the landscaping. Water plants regularly before the first frost, so they'll be able to weather the dry winter air. Add two to three inches of mulch around the base of plants to help insulate their roots and keep water from evaporating too quickly. Figure out a designated spot to pile snow that won't damage plants, or make plans to have snow professionally removed and hauled away. Determine what de-icing treatments are safest for landscaping, and make a plan for keeping plants protected.

8. Winterize cooling systems.

Chances are, cooling systems aren't going to see much use for the next few months. For facilities that shut off theirs during winter, it's especially important to make sure that they go into the season properly cleaned, drained, and maintained. For facilities that keep them running, make sure that they're properly protected against freezing.

9. Pay attention to unheated spaces.

Unheated spaces might not look like a big deal, but they're a huge problem for pipes. Plumbing that runs through an unheated room is at risk of freezing and bursting, leading to a big, expensive mess and an equally expensive emergency visit from a plumber. Shut off the water and drain pipes that feed unheated rooms, or, if that's not possible, work out a way to insulate the pipes and keep the rooms warm enough to prevent freezing. Winter is a tough season. Proactively engaging in good, thorough winter preparation can help facility employees and occupants stay healthier, safer, and more comfortable while reducing long-term costs by avoiding emergency repairs.

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