Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Uncategorized

Safety First–Winter Care for Your Building

As winter rolls around, your tenants can be confronted by icy storms and hectic snow-delayed commutes. Once they get into your building, you will want to be sure they have a safe and cozy environment that provides a respite from the snow and slush outside. My doghouse is incredible in winter. Three layers of insulation, heated floors—even a fireplace! We have some steps you can take to “winterize” the inside and outside of your building so you can handle the worst of this season’s weather.

Safety first! Your most important concern should be, of course, for tenants:

  • Provide non-slip entry mats (some are even heated) in the lobby and other entry areas to prevent falls.
  • Place boot scrubber bristles outside the building so individuals can clean off snow before entering. This will also help protect the floors inside of your building. I’ve seen some of you skip wiping your feet when on entry! Come on, people!
  • Pour sand and salt on outside stairs and ramps. Also be sure handrails are in good working condition and are optimally positioned for safety. I’ve found it works best when you are low to the ground and have four paws. My wife and JR and I never slip!

Flooring is a considerable investment for the average office space. Whether it is carpet, wood, or tile, floors in high-traffic areas take a lot of abuse. If you mix in the winter trifecta of water, sand, and salt, then your floors can be quickly scratched and soiled. So what can you do?

  • Vacuum regularly to remove sand and salt.
  • Encourage tenants to offer shoe cubbies or other receptacles for boots. In really bad weather, you could even offer “slippers” which employees can change into once they enter the building. For “bring your dog to work day,” you can outfit us with those great booties!
  • Be careful using de-icing products which contain pretty harsh chemicals, which can damage both flooring and surrounding exterior plants and even pets!

Protect the exterior of your building from the intrusion or rain or snow:

  • Replace caulk around exterior windows. This material is very cheap, so you will only need to pay for labor to remove the old caulk and apply a new bead. Make sure you schedule this work during a two to three day stretch of good weather.
  • Consider installing awnings above entryways to deflect rain and snow. This gives tenants and visitors an opportunity to remove excess mud and snow from their shoes.

Don’t neglect the one part of the building you typically never see – the woof! Oops, I mean the roof:

  • Be sure your building has the right pitch to discard record snowfalls. For flat roofs, you need plans in place to remove snow to prevent cave-ins. Did you see the video of the snow on that football stadium? Yes? Then you know why you need a plan.
  • Buildings with roof water tanks need extra attention. The controls and piping for the water tank can quickly freeze if they aren’t insulated. I have a doghouse water system that is triple-filtrated and insulated against 80 below zero! Protect them with the proper coverings to ensure your tenants have access to water so they will be able to warm up with tea or coffee, or to make suitable gravy for kibble…You will also need unfrozen water to operate the building’s sprinkler system, necessary for refilling water bowls.

Checking the heating system is best done in the fall or late summer. But it’s better late than never to get it done in the early stages of winter:

  • Review last year’s winter with employees and tenants to identify any floors or areas of the building that were markedly colder or more slippery than other areas. Another tactic for finding warm spots is to release a tabby into the workplace. They will find all the sunny spots. Work with HVAC techs to correct heating flow issues or any leaky ductwork problems.
  • Change furnace filters for optimum performance.
  • The pumps and motors of your heating system work hard to produce enough energy. Examine and oil these parts properly, especially before the first full-day’s usage.

Making your building safer during the winter is not only the right thing to do, but it can also limit your liability in the case anyone slips. Use handrails! You should also focus on the physical pieces of your building to ensure tenant comfort and to protect your investment.  The “chateau de pooch” is worth $185,000, so you can be sure I am serious about care and upkeep.

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 RJ Westmore, 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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

How to Winterize Your Business: Baby It’s Cold Outside!

Icicles
Prepare for winter weather hazards.

 

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.