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Emergency Contingency Planning: 7 Steps Hospitals and Schools Must Follow

October 30, 2015

Extreme weather conditions underscore the need for facility teams to prepare for the worst that nature can throw at their buildings. Given their critical missions, healthcare and educational organizations must be prepared to respond quickly and efficiently when a blizzard, flood, tornado, hurricane or other disaster — natural or man-made — strikes.

Regardless of the disaster and when it occurs, the damage must always be quickly addressed to get the building back on line as soon as possible. In hospitals and schools, even a short interruption of electric power or heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) can put building occupants at risk — causing millions of dollars in damage, disrupting operations and eroding the confidence of the community.

That’s why it’s critical for organizations to have an effective, proactive power and HVAC contingency plan in place. Not only can it reduce financial risk, the contingency plan can help protect the health and safety of building occupants, and increase peace of mind for the organization and its stakeholders.

Contingency plans help expedite disaster recovery

The power and HVAC contingency plan should be integrated into the broader hospital or school system crisis-preparedness plan.

Here are seven steps organizations can use to evaluate, analyze, create and implement a contingency plan that meets their specific needs:

1 - Assess the financial, operational and stakeholder impact of a disruption in power or HVAC service. Experienced contingency service providers like Trane can help hospitals and schools estimate the true costs of unplanned downtime, which go far beyond the cost of repairing mechanical equipment during a time of crisis.

2- Identify potential causes of system failure, including natural disasters, power outages, equipment failures, fires or even sabotage. Rank these causes based on their probability, potential to disrupt normal operations, and financial cost. Remember to include the full range of direct and indirect costs, including equipment repair and replacement costs and the cost of the facility being out of commission for days or even weeks.

3- Conduct a critical system audit to identify mission-essential power and HVAC systems and assess their current operating condition. Address performance problems and document potential failure points. Many organizations will engage a third-party expert like Trane to help with their audit.

4 - Identify areas within the hospital or school that would have the greatest impact on mission-essential operations and the bottom line if an unplanned service interruption were to occur in these areas.

5 - Identify reliable, experienced contingency planning consultants and temporary equipment providers. These professionals have proven tools to ensure that the organization develops a complete, effective and useful contingency plan that does not simply gather dust.

6 - Consider the potential need for rental power and HVAC equipment. Temporary equipment ranges from portable dehumidification units that can be used to remove moisture from flooded areas to generators and chilled water systems that can take over the load while the building’s permanent equipment is out of commission. An HVAC rental services company can help develop and implement plans to meet heating and cooling needs when permanent systems are not available or cannot handle the job.

7 - Develop and implement the power and HVAC contingency plan. Provide training and conduct drills to verify the process and identify areas for improvement. Make required building modifications. Review and update the plan each year or when there is a significant change in the facility, such as a building modification or expansion.

Is your organization prepared for its next potential emergency?

Ensure the continuity of power and HVAC services in your hospital or school environment. Think about creating a robust contingency plan today — before disaster strikes. Contact Trane Building Advantage to take advantage of our contingency planning services.

This post was adapted from an article that originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of American School & Hospital facility. The complete article can be read here.