A lot can be said about the importance of first impressions, especially when walking through an equipment room for the first time. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of facility personnel, and I've come to realize that equipment rooms are operator and service technician offices. One can learn a lot about an organization from a tour of these technical spaces.

It is also important to note that it is very difficult to change one's first impressions (not that they are always correct), so take note of the good, the bad, and the ugly of your equipment rooms and let me know if I missed anything. As you enter the room, and beginning with the floor, note the following:

  • Is the floor clean and without oil stains?
  • Is the floor painted?
  • Are there yellow and black safety stripes at tripping obstacles?
  • Is there curbing or another form of barrier around openings and/or penetrations to the floor below?
  • Is the floor dry, without slippery surfaces?
  • Are there floor-mounted water alarms for water leaks?


  • Is the wall clean and are surfaces painted (wall and/or structural framing)?
  • Is there exposed insulation and is torn or in disarray?
  • Are windows clean and window surfaces painted?


  • Are there any water leaks?
  • Is mechanical and electrical equipment distribution adequately secured to the overhead framing?
  • Is there seismic support of distribution?

Other Room Issues?

  • Is there adequate access to move around the room?
  • Is there adequate headroom as you move around the room?
  • Do overhead obstacles have a protective covering so that a person won't get injured?
  • Are overhead obstacles painted to highlight the object?
  • Are there two means of egress?
  • Is the ambient noise acceptable, or is the room very noisy?


  • Is there sufficient ventilation?
  • Is there sufficient space cooling, or is the room excessively warm?
  • Do drain pipes extend along the floor to drains creating a potential tripping hazard?


  • Are floor drains adequate?
  • Are eye wash stations available adjacent to workstations where chemicals are used?
  • Are backflow preventors sufficiently available?


  • Is lighting sufficient?
  • Is task lighting available?
  • Are exit signs illuminated?
  • Are there adequate electrical power outlets to minimize use of electrical extension cords?
  • Are lockout/tagout devices readily accessible?

Fire Protection and Life Safety

  • Are the smoke detectors or heat detectors available?
  • Are sprinklers available?
  • Is there an emergency ventilation system for refrigeration leak?
  • Are audible alarms or flashing lights available in case of emergency (in an excessively noisy equipment room)?


  • Are exterior doors locked?
  • Are other means of entrance locked and/or secured (e.g., barred opening) to allow ventilation without allowing access?
  • Are roof openings secured?
  • Are hazardous chemicals stored in secure location?

Personal Protection Equipment

  • Are earplugs readily available and in use?
  • Are safety glasses readily available and in use?
  • Is there an MSDS manual conveniently located and in a well lit area of the room?

Documentation and Tools

  • Are there system flow diagrams posted that provide the sequence of operation, air or water quantities, and pressure drops from the TAB report, FPT, and/or safety instructions including emergency plan for fire, smoke, and freeze-stat alarm?
  • Are there instructions posted at the unit(s) for shutdown, seasonal startup, and/or performance log (e.g., at a chiller or boiler)
  • Are record drawings readily available on computer and/or hung on drawing rack?
  • Is there a PM workorder in place and being used?
  • Are tools such as ladders, chain-operated valves, material inventory adequately stored in the room?

And what about "equipment room attitude (ERA)?" Do facility personnel have a positive or negative attitude? Here again, it is very difficult to change one's first impressions, so take note of the following good, the bad, and the ugly traits of ERA:

  • No words needed. Just look around at the conditions of the equipment room. If it is clean, safe, and well lit then you can assume the staff has "good ERA."
  • Is the facility person wearing a clean uniform or somewhat unkept?
  • Do you sense a pride of accomplishment from the individual in the equipment room?
  • Does the individual speak up and offer information on the operation of the systems, or does this person complain about how upper management doesn't care about the infrastructure?
  • Does the person ignore you, not asking why you are in his equipment room?
  • Is this person quick to provide excuses on the condition of the equipment room condition?
  • Does this person offer suggested improvements to the equipment or equipment room?
  • Does the individual project a "can do" attitude?

For more on the topic of equipment rooms, check out the December 2002 "Tomorrow's Engineer" titled, "The Dirt On Dissatisfaction."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an extended version of the article that appeared in the print version of ES.