The nation hit an unfortunate anniversary last month, observing ten years since Hurricane Katrina and the disastrous aftermath. In a way, one minor problem with such milestones is that it points us toward the past while we may not be paying adequate attention to what to do in advance of the next such strike.

To that end, and in the same spirit that we provided some mechanical/structural reminders a while back after a significant earthquake in California, I’d like to pass along some tips that Johnson Controls sent out a few weeks ago. This sort of prep and contemplation is not something we always gravitate toward naturally, but there’s no denying the difference it can make in terms of performance, property, and possibly even lives.

Remember the domino effect on operations.

Consider the accumulated risks that result from “falling dominoes” in emergency situations. Develop a hazard assessment plan with a buildings expert to understand what may occur if a process fails and how to remedy a subsequent problem.

Audit infrastructure now and avoid future risk.

Work with a buildings partner to assess your building or campus-wide infrastructure. Ensure that  IT and various system integrations have the necessary redundancies designed into your buildings. Also consider developing a supply stockpile that may be needed during a severe weather event.

Assess your notification process.

During a weather or safety emergency, far too many institutions learn too late that their notification processes are outdated or unsuccessful. If your organization serves multiple building occupants, such as a college or large commercial building, consult with building experts to audit your mass notification technologies and resources. Educate your in-house emergency response teams on the latest compliance standards, especially as it relates to building evacuation process and protocol.

Contact information is critical.

When severe weather hits, you may not have access to your online contact directories or cell phone service. Understand, in advance, how you can reach a building expert for rental services such as emergency generators, chillers, and packaged equipment.

The document includes some tips in a cleanup environment, too. These include advice to simply avoid entering basements or mechanical rooms that may have standing water. The electrical risk is obvious; let appropriate parties use pumps and hoses to remove the water first.



A semi-related piece of local news caught my eye one afternoon after we finished last month’s issue (thanks, NBC29). A building at the University of Virginia’s hospital complex was shut down and personnel evacuated after alarms went off. The cause? A fire extinguisher fell off a wall, and as luck would have it, it reportedly managed to discharge into the ventilation system.

 In the end, it just cost everybody a couple of hours and no real harm done. But I was impressed by the building automation / alarm setup for the building, and I was reminded of Howie McKew’s occasional reminders in these pages to consider your BAS protocol for protecting occupants in the case of a hazard introduced to the ventilation system. So there’s something else to plan for and review. Next month, I won’t try to make your daily to-do list any longer, I promise.