For businesses located in northern climes, the chill of winter brings snow, ice and sleet. What’s that? No, I don’t need booties or a doggie jacket! Is that a reindeer on this sweater? Get it off! I already have a fur coat, for goodness sake!
The winter storm season got off to an early start with an enormous Midwest blizzard. The popular video of the Metrodome collapsing in Minneapolis is a vivid reminder of the potential hazards of winter weather. I ask the guys at the firehouse to shovel snow off of my “dogdome” whenever necessary.
You likely know some tips about winterizing your home. Many of those same ideas apply to business. But commercial properties present some unique winterization challenges of their own.
Heating and ventilation winterizing tips
- Schedule an annual cleaning of your HVAC system. Neglecting regular maintenance can wear out the equipment and lead to high fuel bills.
- Check the caulking around your windows and doors, to make sure warm air is not escaping. Another key for staying warm in the winter is to take lots of naps in a sunny spot. A good 14 hours a day of sleep is optimal.
- Use a door blower to judge whether or not your building is airtight. A blower door uses a calibrated fan with a pressure-sensitive device to measure air pressure and identify leaks.
- Hire a HVAC professional to check for duct leakage, in the same fashion that a plumber checks pipes for water leaks. This is commonly done with a duct-blaster, a machine similar to a door blower that pressurizes the ductwork in an HVAC system. Some companies even use a fog machine to inject non-toxic fog into the system to visually note air leaks. I have a lot of fog-machine related memories myself, from back in the day when Rex and I were in a Cheap Trick cover band.
Avoid the winter “slip and slide”
- Install a programmable thermostat. Keeping the temperature at 64 degrees at night instead of turning it completely off does not save energy. Still too cold? Consider growing a full coat of hair, it worked for me! Modern HVAC systems work quickly and can quickly bring room temperature to comfortable levels.
- Make sure sidewalks and building entryways are free of ice. While salt is the most commonly used method for melting ice, there are new environmentally-friendly alternatives including sugar beet formulas. Remember that traction is the key. So be sure to use traction mats or even sand to cover slippery spots.
- Is snow blocking the fire lane? Consider safety first. And clear snow to allow emergency access to hydrants (I heartily approve) and emergency exits.
- Watch for falling icicles. Although it might look like a scene from a cartoon or movie, a 20-pound block of ice from 30 stories up can be dangerous. Consider heating the building’s exterior or using glycol-based de-icing agents.
Preventing “popsicle pipes”
- Frozen pipes are best prevented by proper insulation of pipes and fittings.
- In cases of extreme cold, consider letting faucets drip slightly since moving water takes longer to freeze than standing water.
- Pay attention to wet pipe sprinkler systems for freezing. Review codes which often mandate dry pipe sprinkler systems (water is not in the pipes until system operation) for temperatures under 40F.
- Do not use a blowtorch or other open flame on frozen pipes. This causes rapid expansion which can easily crack your pipes. (Not to mention that if you do this you just might burn the place down in the process!)
Stop the thermostat wars
- Squabbles among office workers about the temperature can cause tensions and lead to decreased productivity. I quibble with my friends over more important issues, such as who gets to sniff a new dog first!
- Consider setting a standard office temperature and name one person whose job it is to adjust the thermostat. Be sure to communicate this standard with your employees. To make your case, relay studies on temperature’s effect on worker efficiency!
- Set policies on usage of space heaters. If they are allowed, make sure employees follow strict safety rules including proper storage of paper. (Don’t store near space heaters.) Make sure employees and tenants unplug space heaters before they leave their home or office.
In addition to protecting the physical systems in your building, take a look at your emergency supplies. Can your building accommodate every tenant overnight or for multiple days in case of a blizzard? Make sure you have plenty of warm blankets, portable heat sources and extra food in case you get snowed in. Hiring a St. Bernard with one of those barrel collar things is probably overkill.
When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.