Plan for the Unexpected

Plan for the Unexpected

Preparation for exterior damage and recovery in unpredictable situations.
Facility managers bear the responsibility of successfully navigating any situation that may arise in any given store in their portfolio. Unfortunately, this responsibility does not waver — even in the face of unpredictable emergency situations. Take, for example, the string of hurricanes that ravaged Florida in 2004 or the severe snowstorms that crippled many areas in the North earlier this year; the facility managers of businesses throughout these areas were left with severely damaged properties in dire need of recovery services and maintenance.

Although extreme situations like these cannot be avoided altogether, damage can certainly be mitigated, and recovery hastened, with the implementation of a comprehensive action and recovery plan. This same scenario can apply to even simple winter control plans for areas that are sure to expect snow and ice this coming winter. With each summer comes the recommendation to facility, regional and grounds-care managers to commence discussions, specification development and procedure for winter’s operations. Yet, come each winter, the exterior service industry witnesses these managers scrambling for last-minute machinery and service.

Before you start thinking to yourself that an exterior preparation and recovery plan does not apply to your properties, consider the following regional breakout:

  • New England: Over the last few decades, New England has experienced severe winter storms, tropical storms, blizzards, hurricanes, flooding, snow and ice storms, snowmelt, ice jams, mudslides and landslides.
  • Mid-Atlantic: Subject to severe storms, flooding, tornadoes, blizzards, snow and ice storms, tropical storms, hurricanes, severe winter storms, mudslides, snowmelts, ice jams, flash flooding and earthquakes.
  • South: Exceptionally prone to hurricanes, tropical storms, severe storms, flooding and tornadoes. Also known to experience severe winter storms, snow and ice storms, freezes, blizzards, mudslides, landslides and flash flooding.
  • Midwest: Since the 1950s, especially, the Midwest has suffered tornadoes, severe winter storms, blizzards, freezes, snow and ice storms, flooding, snowmelt, ice jams, mudslides, landslides and flash flooding.
  • Southwest: Susceptible to severe storms and flooding, wildfires, winter storms, snowmelt, tornadoes, snow and ice storms, severe freezes, tropical storms and hurricanes afflicting areas of Texas.
  • West: Also has been damaged by severe storms and flooding, winter storms, snow and ice storms, ice jams, snowmelt, wildfires, tornadoes, mudslides, landslides, mudflow, freezes, flash flooding, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

While it would be virtually impossible to have a comprehensive plan that provided complete, step-by-step procedures for handling every natural and manmade threat that could potentially affect your properties, understanding which hazards are most likely for your portfolio will help you combat obstacles before they arise. So, as we enter another hurricane season, and look forward to yet another winter filled with surprises, take advantage of this extreme weather downtime to produce a carefully considered, strategic specification and response plan, and communicate that plan with your exterior service provider(s) or your exterior services management (ESM) company.

PREPARATION
Whether you are gearing up for a simple Snow and Ice Control Plan, or putting together a full Disaster Recovery Plan, it is important to get a head start. Additional planning time ensures procurement of quality contractors with service time availability, meaning that, come the first snow or downed tree following a storm, your contract guarantees that equipment will be available to bring your property back up to spec in a timely manner. Furthermore, planning ahead allows your service providers the opportunity to become more familiar with your properties’ needs and develop a service strategy that will guarantee customer satisfaction and safety. If you already have a plan in place, now is an ideal time to assess its strengths and weaknesses, bring it up-to-date and refocus the specifications and procedures to ensure saved time, money, manpower and potential liability and safety risks for the months ahead.

The first step for preparation is to establish a team that will be responsible for drafting the working response and recovery plan. It may be beneficial to include national, regional and district- level managers, as well as your service provider(s) or ESM company, in the strategic planning process to guarantee consistency in service expectations, priorities and processes across numerous locations. Be sure to establish a team that will best represent all interests in the matter to ensure that every angle will be addressed in the plan.

Your newly formed team should begin by consulting your “CAM responsible list,” which should clearly identify which locations’ exteriors fall under the company’s umbrella of responsibility. From there, your ESM company should be able to help you examine your site maps and most recent site surveys to identify location of sensitive exterior assets and determine areas of high priority for facility service following heavy snowfall or natural disaster. Gauging the amount of damage to exterior assets can be a very time-consuming process, but can be mitigated by conducting or updating your exterior asset inventories prior to extreme weather occurrences.

RECOVERY
Regardless of the steps you take to be prepared for an emergency situation, the recovery process will weigh most heavily on your properties’ bottom line. Without a response and recovery plan in place, including comprehensive contracts with your service providers, your properties may experience delayed maintenance and repairs that could leave your stores non-operational, driving your valued customers to your competitor. Your ESM company will work with you to determine the specifications required to satisfy your service needs and, more importantly, will eliminate the concern of liability issues. Your response and recovery plan should include, but may not be limited to:

  • Determination of services to be provided following an emergency event and acceptable service completion.
  • Specified equipment and tool use.
  • Sequence of recovery and repair operations.
  • Specification of contractor service situations/response (i.e., certain amount of precipitation, certain timeframe following event, etc.).
  • Scope of records to be maintained.
  • Parties to be notified.
  • Materials used and occurrences.

Perhaps one of the most crucial aspects of the response and recovery stages is communication. In any emergency situation, it is critical to avoid any injury or extended downtime by sending clear messages and directions to personnel, service providers, authorized agents and customers.

PARTNERSHIP
Severe weather situations may be infrequent, but they may also bring serious repercussions if not anticipated. Partnering with a company that specializes in exterior service maintenance may save you recovery time, money and manpower, which would be better served focusing on your core competencies. Working with an ESM company allows you the opportunity to concentrate on sales, customer service and retention, and profitable operations, while the exterior professionals perform your facility maintenance at a fraction of the cost and liability.