Face the freeze! Make sure you are prepared for winter…
Facilities Management is obviously a year round task however each season brings its own unique challenges, and winter is possible the most challenging season for FM professionals. Difficult weather conditions, fewer daylight hours and increased energy usage are just a few of the many potential issues a Facilities Manager needs to face in the coldest season. Facilities Managers will need a strong infrastructure to manage at this time of year. Ideally, a preemptive maintenance survey and plan will have been undertaken, but even with this in place the British weather is always able to cause a surprise. Here are just a few things that FMs need to consider when preparing for winter…
Snow & Ice Removal
Snow can present major maintenance problems when it accumulates enough to impact roof structures or drifts where it can block entrances or cause ice to form. When weather fluctuates, it is important to keep ahead of freezing and thawing cycles to avoid dangerous slips and falls caused by black ice.
- Provide clear snow removal instructions to your contractor or internal staff and advise that safety comes first. Budget for adequate staff time.
- Choose and purchase adequate de-icing materials.
- Provide transitional areas with floor mats where people can clean their feet and remove boots to prevent slippery floors.
- Conduct inspections at peak foot traffic periods, when ice forms and people are heading to and from the facility.
Foundations, Moisture & Mold
Water seepage that reaches interior walls can be absorbed and lead to formation of mildew and molds that make air quality poor and even dangerous to breathe. Ensuring adequate ventilation and completely drying any areas impacted by moisture collection or seepage are vital to employees’ health and well-being.
Power Loss & Surges
Strong storms or high winds in any season can lead to power loss, but losing electricity in the winter months can be particularly inconvenient.
- Connect power surge protectors in offices with sensitive data needs.
- Encourage companies to back up their files off-site with real-time, cloud-based storage, which removes the immediate risk of data loss when storms hit.
Eliminate Wasted Heat
In addition to checking the heating system, it is a good idea to have the facility checked for drafts, leaks, and cracks that can allow heated air to escape buildings. Signs of frost around exterior walls, for instance, can mean there is an insulation issue or a draft. Taking care of these will limit wasted energy throughout the cold weather months.
Check Gas Lines
In a facility that uses gas heat, if that gas stops flowing to a facility there is no way to heat the building. Staff should check gas lines and gas line connections for signs of corrosion. If any are in need of replacement, have corrosion-free options installed to limit future problems.
Inspect the Roof
Roofs take a beating in the winter. Flat roofs, common on many commercial buildings, need regular inspection and maintenance. Make sure the roofs do not have areas where ice or heavy snow will pile up. After the initial inspection, schedule weekly inspection for the entire season, looking for built-up water, ice, or snow that can create problems.
After inspecting the roof, make a plan for snow removal on that surface. While the sun may melt the snow on some days, a heavy snow can take time to melt. Failure to remove the snow can lead to water standing on the roof after it melts. Also, the weight of the snow can impact the roof’s structural integrity
Protecting a slanted roof is similar. Inspect roof vents and shingles before the snow falls, and check all of the waterproofing seals on the edges of the roof. It is also prudent to install ice check breakers to protect customers and employees. Then, make sure all drains and gutters are clear. Unless there is a particularly heavy snowfall, it should not be necessary to remove snow off a slanted roof. Just let gravity do its job.
Keeping a facility up and running in winter requires careful thought and planning. With these tips, the facility management department will be well prepared for whatever winter sends its way.