College Planning & Management

APR 2013

College Planning & Management is the information resource for professionals serving the college and university market. Covering facilities, security, technology and business.

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Maintenance & Operations MANAGING T HE PHYSIC AL PL AN T Putting It Into Practice A real-world disaster response works according to plan. BY MICHAEL G. STEGER I RECENTLY RAN A COLUMN REVIEWING the Facilities/Maintenance department's response to a disaster. In that column I noted that many emergencies aren't necessarily catastrophic in nature, but were emergencies nonetheless. The primary point was that each department must have a plan to respond that ties in to one central response plan. Additionally, we must know what is in the plan, practice our response, so when (not if, but when) the time comes to respond, our teams will be able to deploy with seamless efficiency. Our "when" came recently, in the form of a small fire on campus. This column is a review of the campus response, and it is one that any leader would be proud to share. Starting Off Right First, the systems in the building actuated as designed and gave first warning to the occupants, as well as operated to quickly douse the flames before a small problem became a big one. It is a much better task to clean up water than it is charred building materials. Kudos to the Campus Safety department for working with other departments to ensure the campus community is trained to respond properly to alarms, quickly evacuating the building and migrating the occupants to their assigned rally points. Props also to the campus departments for participating in the drills and having their people pay close enough attention that the evacuation was described as effortless. Again, Campus Safety frontline leadership and officers made sound, quick decisions when they opted to bypass the traditional maintenance call-in procedure and call me, the director of Facilities, first. In many organizations, following the written protocol is etched in stone. I believe all truly successful organizations allow properly trained and trusted employees throughout the ranks to make judgment calls. In this situation it was the right call, as Facilities was able to begin working through our own emergency response checklist. Informing a number of people of the situation and the plan is an important component of a response situation, but none is more important than rallying the remediation and response team. Damage mitigation is second only to life safety in the disaster response process. Having those contacts readily available in our phones, along with a paper back-up in the office, is mandatory! Murphy's Law grants that the primary may fail, causing the need 12 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / APRIL 2013 for access to the secondary. Additionally, if working with a disaster restoration company, we must be certain to have multiple points of contact within the organization. No leader should be scrambling in the middle of the night under the stress of a response situation, looking for an alternate responder, or worse, waiting for a response from the primary contractor. Onward to Recovery With quick contacts made, damage mitigation began within a few short hours of the incident. By the time the contractor had arrived, photographs had been taken of all areas affected by smoke or water, and an inventory had begun. In addition, plans were being made on the process to effectively complete the remediation and return the space to active duty. When the contractor arrived, a careful process was followed that ensures rapid water removal/ dry out; scrubbing the air of any smoke smell; accounting for all contents in the affected areas; cleaning the contents; and cleaning the floors, walls, and ceilings in the affected area. After the incident, thoughtful project management was important. Some building occupants could not return to their space until the project was completed. Relocating these people quickly helped lessen the anxiety of not having their normal surroundings and kept them functional and on task. Communication was critical in the days following the incident. Letting all stakeholders follow the recovery process was very helpful, but mainly in that it is easier to put out one regular update message than it is to field a number of individual questions about our progress. Additionally, these regular updates allowed us to provide the appropriate amount of information at suitable times. Lessons learned: Because of our training, each component throughout the organization functioned exactly as planned. I will also note that getting to know your local building officials is important. We were able to request an expedited plan review and permitting for the very little amount of drywall and flooring replacement that was required because the officials were accessible and understanding of our need for business continuation. Finally, communication and follow-up are key. Keeping those that need to know in the know helped us control the flow of information and kept management free to focus on the project. CPM Michael G. Steger is director of Physical Plant Services for National Management Resources Corp. at Palm Beach Atlantic University in West Palm Beach, FL. He can be reached at WWW.PLANNING 4EDUCATION.COM

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