Building Controls, Emergency Preparedness, Energy Management and Lighting, Fire Safety, Grounds Management, Heating and Cooling, Maintenance and Operations, Roofing

4 Ways to Prepare Your Facilities for Fall

With summer coming to an end, it’s time for facilities managers not only to examine the inside, outside, and landscaping elements of their facilities but also to be prepared for power outages, which are more likely to happen as it gets colder. Whether it’s an office complex, college or hospital campus, recreational hub, transportation hub, or shopping center, there are important steps to take to prepare for autumn.

Fall is also the perfect time for facilities managers to prepare for winter, as temperatures and weather still usually allow necessary work to be done outside. Some parts of the country can get snow as early as October.

1. Review Interior Systems

There are important facilities systems that should be inspected and cleaned, especially as many buildings, such as educational ones, will be used much more frequently in the fall than they were this past summer.

Don’t forget to do the following:

  • Maintenance of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems: Be sure to complete inspections for safety hazards. ENERGY STAR recommends cleaning or changing air filters. Take out removable air conditioning units and store them. Inspect any portable heaters that might be used for the winter.
  • Do a deep clean: Flu and sickness rates increase as temperatures cool. ABC News reports that the United States has seen COVID-19 hospitalizations increase as students went back to school. Make sure facilities are safe for occupants by cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing surfaces as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • Review fire safety equipment: It’s important to prevent fire safety code violations. Check to ensure smoke detectors and sprinklers are working correctly and replace batteries. Review emergency lighting and exit signs as recommended by the Certified Commercial Property Inspectors Association. Ensure any decorative lights for fall or winter that are installed do not have broken sockets, frayed wires, or loose connections.
  • Check the electrical system: Conduct a thorough inspection of the electrical system so it can handle the increased capacity of space heaters and additional lighting during the fall and winter. Make sure all electrical cords are in good condition. Learn more about safely handling electricity by visiting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website.

2. Prepare Facility Exterior Areas

As temperatures drop, take steps so that the outside of facilities is fall-ready. Consider the following measures to protect your facility’s exterior:

  • Pest prevention: Examine all windows, doors, and foundations for cracks, and repair or replace them. Remove debris where pests could hide outside. Consider creating an integrated pest management program to prevent and control pests. If you see signs of pest activity, contact a commercial pest control partner.
  • Inspect roofs: Ensure roofs are in good condition, and conduct repairs before snow hits. Trim trees to avoid debris hitting roofs and damage caused by branches that crack during storms.
  • Clean gutters: Clean out gutters when trees near your facility are close to being bare but before snow hits. To prevent mold, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends gutters that do not direct water into or under a building. Consider installing gutter guards, which help prevent gutters from getting clogged and make cleaning them easier.

3. Examine Landscaping

When preparing properties for fall, especially large hospital and college campuses, consider both aesthetic and practical matters for facilities:

  • Plants and flowers: Remove wilted flowers and weeds from planters, and install new fall blooming plants and flowers like azaleas and mums. Don’t forget to plant spring bulbs, and consider sustainable options.
  • Prepare your parking lot: Sometimes it’s too hot to work outside in the summer, but fall is the perfect time to patch potholes, seal cracks, and paint down new lines and directional arrows. Check the condition of parking lot signage to see if repairs or replacements are needed, especially for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) signage.
  • Remove outdoor furniture: As it gets colder, restaurants and office complexes should consider moving outdoor tables, chairs, and umbrellas into an outside storage box or inside. Outdoor furniture left exposed outside can be damaged by heavy winds, snow, ice, and freezing temperatures.
  • Prepare for snow: It’s not too early to think about a snow removal plan, whether it’s an internal or an outsourced job. Designate areas where large amounts of snow can be stored in a parking lot or in an unused lawn area.

4. Prepare for Power Outages

Speaking of snow, now is the time to prepare for potential power outages that could happen due to winter weather.

Don’t forget to have a power outage emergency kit with hand or solar-powered communication tools, a first aid kit, water, non-perishable food items, and power banks in case employees or customers need to stay at your facility for an extended period due to severe weather. Learn more by reading “Back to Basics: Preparing Your Facility for Power Outages” on Facilities Management Advisor.

There are different options that commercial facilities can utilize for backup power, and they include:

  • Uninterruptable power supply (UPS): This provides backup power for short power outages and can be used with standby generators.
  • Standby generators: These are a great option for long power outages, and there are diesel and natural gas options. Diesel is the more common preference, but consider natural gas if near a gas pipeline.
  • Microgrid solution: This uses solar or wind power combined with energy storage as a backup source. More information is available by reading “Planning for No Power: Experts Provide a Look at Microgrid Solutions” on Facilities Management Advisor.
  • Portable generators: This is a great budget-friendly option for those who don’t require a comprehensive solution. They are small, portable, gasoline-powered, and ideal for homes or businesses with minimal backup energy needs.

Facilities managers should ensure their properties are ready for fall by reviewing interior, exterior, and landscaping components of their facilities, as well as prepare for power outages with proper equipment and precautions. They should use this time to prepare for winter as well because some areas could experience snow during fall.

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