College Planning & Management

OCT 2012

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 Where's the Fire? MANAGING THE PHYSICAL PLANT Plan ahead and train your staff for "Emergency Response 101." BY MICHAEL G. STEGER M AINTENANCE MANAGEMENT is a key component of campus op- erations. Assuming we manage the facilities and their systems and infrastructure and respond to their operational needs properly, we ensure that the institution is free to go about its business of education and research. Depend- ing upon whom you ask on campus, many people believe that everything the maintenance department does is an emergency… or at least it should be an emergency in their eyes! In reality, if we are managing our workload properly, we are creating a great percentage of our own work in the form of preventive mainte- nance and inspection work orders… and we are not responding to emergencies. For the purposes of this column, achieve the goal of restoring service to the affected area. The core focus of this plan will be to show up, take action, and to communi- cate. Lack of response and communication during any emergency (real or perceived) will refl ect negatively on the department and may even translate into a belief that we don't care. Our technicians are trained to arrive on site and to assess the We accept these "routine emergencies" as part of our operational day, but our customer has not planned their day to include them. let's go ahead and defi ne emergency. I'm not necessarily talking about a fi re, fl ood, earthquake, civil disturbance, or other catastrophic event. I'm primarily focusing on the routine emergencies we work through each day. These can be anything from a water leak, loss of air condition- ing, a clogged toilet, or a sighting of ants in a residence hall room. When we take calls in the work control center, whether emergency or routine, we are trained to ask the caller to defi ne the situation. We must recognize that our customer is often either the master of understatement, or they are drama majors. I learned a long time ago that to some a raging fl ood is a dripping faucet, but to others "a little bit of water" can be a cascade fl owing down the stairwell! Emergency Response Should Be Part of the Plan Most everything we do in facilities maintenance requires some sort of plan, and emergency response is one that is a must. No plan can adequately identify or defi ne all the possible responses we may need to make on a regular basis and I believe that if we were to do that, the document would be so massive no one would ever take the time to study it. Our plan must identify the basics of the responses we expect of our personnel and leadership. In order for our response to be effective and professional, training and cross training of our employees will play an important role in the suc- cess of each response. Ensure that the plan also calls for supervi- sory or management personnel to be part of the process in order to ensure that our corrective plan is fundamentally sound and will 12 COLLEGE PLANNING & MANAGEMENT / OCTOBER 2012 Responding with speed and effi ciency will ensure the affected area of campus will continue to operate properly. overall situation, not just focus on the main problem. If we have a water leak, parallel to working to stem the tide we also need to be calling custodial so that cleanup operations can begin right away. Damage mitigation is incredibly impor- tant to the process. Once the situation is assessed, our technicians begin to remedy the problem by performing the appropri- ate repairs. Having our tools and parts inventoried in such a manner that we know what we have and where it is stored is pivotal to the response process. Time spent searching for tools or parts equals time our customer is inconvenienced by the emergent situation. Communication Is Key As previously noted, communicating with our customer about the situation is important. I have personally (and recently) made the mistake of only having our frontline staff communicate with those in the affected area. Ultimately that led to the conveyance of incomplete information, which then led to false assumptions and an incorrect understanding of the repairs. Shame on me… I certainly should know better! When communicating information to those in the affected area, administration, or other interested parties, be sure to include complete information: What was the problem, what was the response, is it corrected (or when will it be corrected), was there any damage to the facility, and will there be any long term issues to address as a result of the emergency, such as needing to relocate or cancel classes, the need to replace fl ooring or ceiling tiles, etc. We accept these "routine emergencies" as part of our operational day, but our customer has not planned their day to include them. Re- sponding with speed and effi ciency will ensure the affected area of campus will continue to operate properly. Plan and train and many emergencies will turn out merely to be minor inconveniences. 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.PLANNING4EDUCATION.COM

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