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How to Prepare Your Facilities for Disasters

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The most important part of disaster preparedness is to have a plan for when a disaster strikes. Too often, organizations think that a disaster will never strike them, or if one does, they’ll be able to handle it in the moment. Disasters are indeed unlikely and the vast majority of facilities will never see one. That being said, disasters are also, well, disastrous and can cause irreparable damage to your facility (and your organization) if you’re not prepared.

  1. think about what hazards you might face: Different organizations are more or less susceptible to certain kinds of disasters because of their location, what they do, whether or not they work with children, etc. For example, organizations in the Midwest are significantly more susceptible to damage from tornados than from forest fires. Develop and outline courses of action for the disasters that are most likely to affect your organization. For example, are any of these disasters likely to cause power outages? Determine the amount of damage these disasters are likely to cause. Determine for which disasters you might need to evacuate your facilities and where you would evacuate occupants to.
  2. Determine which parts of your facility are the most critical: In the event of a major disaster you’ll often need to prioritize which part of your facilities you bring back online. For example, if your organization is in a warmer climate, your HVAC is likely to be critical after a flood/ storm/hurricane. Without HVAC, your facility is likely to become inundated with mold and mildew. Make a list of the most critical parts of your facility and a list of the parts of your facility that are more likely to be damaged in a disaster, and then compare the two lists. Focus any disaster-preparedness preventive maintenance efforts on the locations in the two lists. Develop an equipment replacement plan for operation-critical pieces of equipment that may be lost or heavily damaged in a disaster. Determine how it will impact your organization if critical operations systems cannot be repaired right away. Will you have to lay off staff? HOW FMX CAN HELP You can mark which pieces of equipment are the most critical and most susceptible to damage during a disaster in FMX. You can easily search and filter for these pieces of equipment when scheduling preventive maintenance.
  3. Determine what supplies and manpower you’ll need: Based on the information you’ll receive from steps 1 and 2 you should get an idea of what supplies and manpower you’ll need for each disaster scenario. Order supplies including extra fuel for your backup generators and plenty of potable water. If your plan involves outside vendors, make sure that you have each vendor’s contact information and a contingency plan if these vendors are unable to provide adequate service during your disaster. Determine who you need on hand during and after a disaster and ask for volunteers. Be sure to schedule time to train these people each year. HOW FMX CAN HELP You can add your disaster-preparedness supplies to your list of inventory in FMX. You’ll be able to record quantities, the condition the items are in, where they are located, and more. You can adjust this information as necessary. You can also use FMX to schedule recurring events for your yearly disaster volunteer training sessions.
  4. Keep your plan and any necessary building contracts in multiple places: Once you’ve developed your plan, you’ll need to figure out where to store it. Print out hard copies of your plan for when your electricity and/or internet fails. Make sure that you have duplicates in multiple locations. For example, some facilities managers keep them in their car. Maintain soft copies on your computer in an easily accessible location (like your desktop) so that you can access it if you lose/cannot get to your hard copy. Ideally, maintain a copy that you can access remotely. There are some occasions when you cannot access your facility during a disaster. In this case, it is useful to have a copy that you can access remotely, either via the internet or saved to a device that is not located in your facility. HOW FMX CAN HELP You can upload your disaster recovery plan to your FMX site. You can access FMX through any internet-enabled device, including mobile devices.
  5. Inform any stakeholders of your plan: This step is especially important for businesses and service organizations. If people are depending on you for a service, they will be impacted if a disaster strikes. For example, if a disaster affects FMX’s primary data center, we can have our full infrastructure back online in a secondary data center within 24 hours. Make sure you inform your stakeholders about how you plan to meet their needs after a disaster strikes. Make sure that you also inform them of any changes in this policy. HOW FMX CAN HELP You can store the contact information of each of the stakeholders you’ll need to inform in FMX. You can schedule a recurring task to inform them of any changes on a monthly/yearly basis.
  6. Perform preventive maintenance on operation-critical systems: Here’s a brief list of preventive maintenance tasks that can help your facility better withstand a disaster. Start from the top: A strong roof can help protect your building during a natural disaster. If you’re in the market to replace your roof, look for one with extra wind resistance. Check for leaks, good drainage, clear gutters, shingle conditions, etc. For more information about roof preventive maintenance, check out the FMX blog. Check your anchors: Make sure that anything anchored to your roof/rest of your building can withstand high winds. Keep up with your landscaping: Avoid planting trees too close to your building and make sure to trim and remove loose branches. Protect your sewage system: Sewage lines can get backed up by floodwater. Try installing a backflow device on the main discharge line or drain plugs on first-floor drains. Elevate operation-critical equipment: As tempting as it is to hide these items away in your facility’s basement, electrical systems, computers, HVAC, important records, and other critical systems should all be elevated above flood levels. HOW FMX CAN HELP With FMX, you can create preventive maintenance tasks for projects and schedule them days, weeks, months, even years in advance. You can even assign these tasks to outside vendors. You can also use FMX to track the overall cost associated with each task.

Practice and update your disaster recovery plan: Having a plan is great, but don’t let it instill you with a false sense of security. A plan is only useful if it is up to date and your staff knows how to implement it. Run Drills & Test Equipment It can be difficult to convince occupants to fully participate in disaster drills. However, as difficult and annoying as it can be it will provide you with useful data about what works and doesn’t work in your disaster plan. Fortunately, you can often test equipment (like your backup generator) outside of your normal operation hours. Update Your Plan It is crucial to keep your plan up to date because technicians come and go and your organization will inevitably change what technology and equipment it relies on. You should also verify contact information for any disaster-recovery vendors you use. Check Your Supply Levels Important supplies are often used for other projects in a pinch, leaving your quantities lower than expected. You might also find that some of your supplies have expired. Regularly checking your supply levels will help you make sure you have what you need when you really need it. HOW FMX CAN HELP You can use FMX to schedule drills and equipment testing even during off hours. You can also update your inventory quantities in FMX, and note when pieces of inventory are unaccounted for.

What to do after a disaster: Inspect the damage. Outside Check for loose power lines, gas leaks, blocked roadways, roof damage, and any other structural damage. Electrical Systems Switchboards should be inspected for dirt and debris before energizing them. Technicians should also megger test underground cables to make sure that they are still properly insulated. HVAC Systems Inspect burners, fan motors, and filters, and clean floor-mounted airhandling units. You’ll also want to inspect rooftop units and make sure that they are securely anchored, as well as clean ductwork and ensure ducts are free of mold and contaminants. Water Systems If your water-main breaks, you’ll need to flush pipes and test water before allowing occupants to drink it.