Facility Managers deal with unexpected disruptions from time to time – from low-impact disturbances to major catastrophic events. Usually, it only takes minor repairs or quick adjustments to restore normal operations after an incident. However, in an emergency such as a building fire or an extreme weather occurrence that puts facilities, physical assets, and occupants in immediate danger, it takes a systems-approach in prevention and response to ensure safety.
To help facility managers develop effective emergency response systems, here are the top 10 Emergency Planning Considerations to prepare the organization for unexpected crisis events.
1. Ensure occupant safety with enhanced security systems
Facility Managers play an important role in securing buildings to prevent violent incidents, fire hazards and other emergencies. Here are some security enhancements that can be implemented to add more layers of protection within the facility:
Security doors equipped with automatic locks and deadbolts, especially in areas of the building that are out of public view.
Security alarm systems, window and door alarms, motion and breaking glass detectors
External lighting on all access points of the building and parking lots
Security cameras connected to a video recording system and monitored by a security guard
Key cards at all entry points designated strictly to those who are allowed in and out of the building
2. Update emergency response
Facility managers need to configure shared spaces in adherence to public safety as well as emergency response protocols. Some considerations include: How easily and quickly can occupants reach emergency exits? How about emergency exit access for people with mobility challenges?
Lastly, how should facility managers plan to alert or communicate with large populations scattered in different areas of the facility in the event of an emergency? Here are some smart technologies that facilities should adopt to enhance emergency response, save lives and mitigate damage:
AI-enhanced sensors that detect gunshots, fires, security breaches, etc.
Physical and digital panic buttons that alert first-responders automatically
Smart signage to connect with occupants instantly by displaying critical communications, evacuation maps and emergency instructions on large digital screens
3. Conduct periodic preventive maintenance
From inspecting HVAC systems, fire safety systems, and heavy equipment – performing regular preventive maintenance ensures that building systems and assets are working properly and nothing becomes a safety hazard.
Using cloud-based software to schedule and track preventive maintenance activities, ensures that nothing escapes the FM team’s attention. Some of these apps send out automated email and text reminders to the maintenance team or vendors when it’s time to inspect, update or repair critical systems.
It helps to have a system for documenting and saving critical processes, manuals, warranties, vendor contracts, work orders, invoices, etc. to make it easy for the facilities team to do a good job.
4. Install facility management software
A facility manager’s top priority is to enforce systems that ensure the protection of all building occupants, including visitors. The Covid-19 pandemic has additional health and safety regulations for social distancing, hygiene and visitor management. And having effective facility management solutions provides visibility and insight into the following:
Improving workplace safety by organizing floor plans, assets, and data into one place
Reconfiguring shared spaces to improve safety and emergency response
Tracking facility usage with sensors to see how occupants move in these spaces throughout the day and make adjustments accordingly
Using thermal scanning technology that instantly provides instructions & messaging so people can move safely and confidently throughout the facility
5. Assess all possible emergencies and the corresponding response
Is the facility highly vulnerable to fire, floods, power outages, extreme weather, terrorism, and natural disasters? Emergency planning starts by assessing the facility’s level of risk in these situations, drilling deeper into necessary roles, and communication required to adequately protect people, assets, is the first step to emergency preparedness.
Next is to have a plan of action for each type of vulnerability or emergency then communicate the plan widely. A top-down approach is usually the best. Inform those with leadership positions and defined roles first. Then, publish the most basic, straightforward iteration to the rest of the organization.
The plan requires practice to be perfect, because there’s simply no time to waste and no room for error in an emergency. Hold drills and exercises to train employees on the plan.
6. Identify business-critical systems
Have you assessed business systems in order of importance? Which ones will be impacted the most in case of an emergency? At what level of vulnerability do they become endangered? Most importantly, are there systems in place to avert a crisis? HVAC, plumbing, data systems, electrical, communications equipment, and infrastructure are starting points.
Do you have a backup generator in the event of a massive power outage? Have you installed fire suppression systems? Have you created off-site backups or cloud storage for critical data? Once identified, a facility manager can create solutions to preserve these business-critical systems in an emergency.
7. Install an asset tracking system
Do you have an accounting system for all of the organization’s assets, specifically for insurance claims? What are the assets at risk in case of a flood in the basement, for example? What is the value of those assets? What action plans are in place to protect computers, printers, servers, furniture, and other assets? Without compromising worker safety, how do you plan to protect such assets from damage in case of a catastrophe?
Use an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) application to do the following:
Itemize and track all of the organization’s assets
Identify high-value assets for insurance purposes
Create safeguards to protect high-value assets and minimize risk
8. Define emergency actions
Emergency actions are the duties assigned to leaders in an emergency. Once a facility manager has defined the necessary actions, these will then be assigned to responsible individuals who will take ownership and accountability for their part in the emergency action plan. For example, who will lead the evacuation in case of a fire? Who is responsible for tracking attendance? Who should alert and coordinate with first-responders? The plan should simply answer this question –”Who is responsible for which action?”
9. Test emergency strategies and protocols with regular drills
Planning and training are the essential elements of the preparedness phase. The procedures ensure that when a disaster occurs, FM teams will be able to provide the best response possible. Preparedness activities include:
Establishing an incident command system that is consistent with the National Incident Management System (NIMS)
Developing all-hazard policies, procedures, and protocols in collaboration with key stakeholders outside of the organization such as law enforcement, medical services, public health, and fire services
Procuring essential emergency resources such as food, transportation, medical services, and volunteers
Assigning personnel to manage each function of the incident command system and defining lines of succession in the emergency plan on who is responsible if key leaders are unavailable.
10. Develop an Emergency Communication Plan
The success of any emergency response largely depends on effective communication across all stakeholders and collaborators. The FM team leads communication efforts by providing information about what to expect and how to act before, during and after an emergency. Putting together a team of subject matter experts within the organization and external agencies helps in determining the scope of the plan. Essential areas to include in an Emergency Communication Plan include:
Preparing the FM staff on what, how, when to communicate and to whom in an emergency scenario before a crisis event strikes.
Installing at-the-ready communication tools to contact police/ fire/emergency health services/emergency management organizations and ensure that the appropriate agency is dispatched.
Disseminating information on how to restore business-critical functions or reestablish normal operations immediately after an emergency event
About HAVRION PROTECT
HAVRION PROTECT is a suite of solutions that merges AI-enhanced technology with physical environments to preserve life and create an immediate and effective response to emergency events. Havrion Protect integrates sensors, physical panic buttons and mobile apps in conjunction with digital displays to provide immediate communications and reduce the vulnerability gap.
With Havrion Protect you can: Control devices, applications, and communication platforms virtually in an emergency event; Manage sensors, devices, and displays on digital floor plans from a single, centralized management console; Build customized evacuation floor plans with static routes and lock down procedures; and Design levels of security and communication.