Facilities Management During Crises: Best Practices to Succeed

Numerous risks surround facilities management. According to Service Channel, “what makes this a challenging issue for the FM professional is the diverse array of risks that the Facility Manager could — or should — be responsible for, regardless of stated job definitions. Evidenced by recent data security breaches at leading retailers, technology is certainly a risk facing organizations, though not the only one.” Hurricane season will return, and the risk of a public health emergency is now a reality for millions of businesses. Maintaining effective facilities management during crises is not a small task. Any risk could quickly transform into a major disruption. However, facility leaders that take the time to follow these best practices can help mitigate losses and achieve successful outcomes. 

Stay Apprised of Guidance From Governing Bodies

The first step to overcoming obstacles in facilities management during crises lies in following the advice and guidelines issued by governing authorities. Such authorities may include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, and others. Keeping informed is essential to avoiding unnecessary risks and adhering to public policies. 

Set Clear Expectations for Performance Through the Crisis

Staff members should have a clear framework of expectations for performance and duties throughout the crisis. This may include the elimination of unnecessary items from the workflow. However, avoid elimination of items entirely, opting for a rescheduling that does not cause undue harm. For example, non-essential HVAC repairs may be delayed a week or more, but if the units are not running in the first place, are they really in need of repair right now? The key to success lies in minimal deferred maintenance and planning to address maintenance needs as quickly as possible after the crisis is over. 

Assess the State of Field Service Vendors That Work With Your Company

Next, Facility Managers should review the available field service vendors that work with your company to determine what resources are available for addressing needs. This may include cleaning crews to handle floods through additional maintenance personnel to address physical damage. It all depends on the cause of the crisis and the immediate needs listed within the disaster preparedness plan. 

Increase Security Standards Across Physical and Virtual Spaces

Increased security remains a critical step in maintaining physical and digital assets throughout facilities management during crises. Ensure all systems are thoroughly secured, and this is even more important when disruptions force staff to work remotely and rely on personal devices to complete duties.

Follow the Chain of Command in All Activities

Regardless of what happens, all staff are expected to follow the chain of command within the facility. This is specific to the type of facility and industry. For instance, health care professionals may need to perform additional duties as directed by the facility administrator or local health department. 

Maintain Communications Within a Centralized Platform

Centralized communications also go a long way in minimizing disruptions throughout crises. Instead of trying to share information with subpar emails, work with a computerized maintenance management system to address all work orders and scheduling needs throughout the duration of the event. 

Scale the Workforce Accordingly

Even if typical field service vendors are unavailable, your organization must have the capability to rapidly scale the workforce accordingly. As a result, it is best to work with a crisis management expert throughout the event as well.

Put These Practices Into Action Now

The path to success in facilities management during crises is laden with risk. Organizations that take a strategic, clear method to management will be best suited to succeed and overcome crises. The type of crisis may vary, such as weather-related events or a complete disruption to public policies. Regardless, the time to start planning for crises is now. Depending on your location, your facility could already be in crisis management mode. This is reiterated by FM Link, “Facility planning and subsequent project implementation must be an ongoing process. This must be strategically managed to ensure that facilities actions are driven by business survival and effectiveness and that all other nonpriority actions are eliminated.” But each crisis is an opportunity to learn and be better prepared for the next event. 

Eric Crabb

Eric Crabb