Managing Your Facilities During COVID-19

Welcome to today’s version of the “new normal”! Tomorrow it may change. That is the current reality we all share…many things are unknown, and it can feel a little disconcerting. A couple of things to remember…we are all in this together (you are not alone), and God is still in control. We also have the choice to feed the fear that we all are experiencing to some degree…or we can seek to find joy in all we can.

As many of us are sheltering in place this week, it is important to remember that even for those of us that prefer a more introverted existence, contact with others is beneficial. God designed us to be social, to reach out and support each other. Modern technology allows us to do that in ways that are nothing short of amazing. Between cellular technology and video conferencing platforms, we can “meet” as often as we need. Be intentional about this. Just like your facility requires intentional interaction for proper life cycle management, we do as well.

For instance, with social media today, finding amusing posts and feeds is simple. And sharing what makes us laugh to others can help connect us further, or maybe even let us know who to avoid. Regardless, communicating and connecting, we need to be intentional with our co-workers, our teammates, and our family.

For those that are still able to perform work in your facility, we want to encourage and remind you of some practical steps you can undertake, continual maintenance items and some potential projects.

  1. With the reduction of events, many of the facilities will need to be “winterized”. Winterizing is from a top-down approach. Start with your roofs. If you have accessible flat roofs, go onto them and remove any debris and ensure that all drains are free and clear of obstructions. Walk the perimeter of your roof and ensure all the coping and flashing is in place and correct. If you have shingled or other pitched roofs, check that all roofing material is secure and that all gutters and drains are clear and working.

  1. Check all the windows in your facility, inside and out. From the outside check for any loose trim or missing caulking and repair as needed. Replace any broken glass or cover it if replacing is not an option. On the inside of every window check for clean and functioning window coverings (if applicable) and check the locking mechanism. With many places being empty, it is imperative that we make our facility as secure as possible.

  1. Check all your emergency exit lights and emergency lighting. If there is an issue requiring you to access the building (say loss of power) it is always preferable to know your e-lighting functions. Check, replace, and buy extra batteries for flashlights as well.

  1. Mechanical rooms. There are several items to do here. One, make sure all equipment that needs a drain, for any reason, properly connects to said drain, and is unobstructed. Hopefully you have been cleaning out your mechanical rooms, and now you have that OSHA required 36 inches clear in front of all the electrical panels and cut-offs. This is also a great time to make sure all the bulbs in the mechanical rooms function and add in additional lighting (like flashlights) as needed. If you are in an area that is at risk still for freezing temperatures, place supplemental heaters in the at-risk areas for freezing temps. Water flowing out of your facility is not how you want to be alerted to a cracked pipe, do what you can do avoid that occurring. With the mechanical, adjust your setpoints according to your needs. We do not advocate turning everything off…keeping some airflow is good for the facility. However, adjust your setpoints to meet the minimum heating or cooling requirements, along with a minimum of fresh air exchange.

  1. Let’s talk restrooms. The fixtures in our restrooms perform better when they are used (shocker, I know). With limited events occurring, your restrooms will need prepping for an extended time of disuse. Now is the time to ensure all your toilet and urinal cutoffs perform correctly and replace the ones that do not. If you require replacing some, look for a cut-off valve that does not have rubber washers or gaskets in it. They can wear out, and we usually realize they no longer work when the toilet has and is overflowing. Sink cutoffs require checking as well. Use your judgment, but either shut restrooms down and keep the water cutoff (in case of a hose burst, etc.) OR have a plan to go into the restrooms once or twice a week to exercise all the fixtures by flushing them and running water in the sinks. Floor drains may also need attention as the typical refresh of water they get when you mop is potentially not occurring now.

  1. Kitchens in your facility require some consideration. If you have gas appliances, it might be prudent to turn off the gas to the equipment if you are not using it. This is especially important if your appliance has an “always-on” pilot light. With a reduced presence of personnel, it is better to avoid gas leaks due to faulty pilot lights. This may include your hot water supply as well. Again, use your judgment. If you do turn off any appliances, make sure you note which ones and where they are to make re-lighting them as simple as possible.

  1. Offices and other spaces. Now is the time to unplug and/or turn off all non-essential electronic devices. This includes the power strips as well. With the situation being as fluid as it is, there is no loss in having to turn on your computer every time you come into the facility. Unplugging the info/digital signage screens and fountains (to include water fountains) and all the other necessary electronic devices will reduce your consumption as well as protecting them from potential surges.

  1. Seating and surfaces. As we have all been instructed to, please, please, please take the time to wipe down all counters, classrooms, gymnasiums, cafeterias, common areas, and all seating. This includes your busses or vehicles. With teachers and staff coming and going or buses running regularly to deliver student meals, ongoing cleaning is extremely important.

  1. Finally, check out the perimeter of your facility at ground level. Check all your exterior lighting to make sure they work and are set to turn-on and off at the correct time. May be beneficial to limit the number of working entrances to the facility and remove any exterior entrance matting to make sure it does not blow away. Check the sprinkler system and outside faucets to make sure appropriate protections are in place and/or turned off as needed. Same goes for the exterior outlets and covers. This is also when you should check all exterior doors and openings to make sure they work properly. For those stewards responsible for vehicles, check all fluids and consider adding a locking gas cap.

This is only a fraction of the things you could be doing during these “down” times and many of these items have already been done. Tasks such as these and be continual and ongoing to ensure the optimal maintenance of our school facilities. We are in this together. Reach out to a neighboring district for additional tips or ideas and feel free to share!