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With record-breaking temperatures and winter storms on the horizon, you can never be too prepared. Here are 5 tips for getting your facility ready when inclement winter weather is on the way.

The new year is a time to reflect, get back to work after a period of rest and relaxation, set goals for the rest of the year -- and, in 2018, a time to pile on layers in the midst of record low temperatures. The East Coast is facing a “bomb cyclone” (a winter storm that resembles the activity of a hurricane), Winter Storm Grayson is poised to dump ice and snow, and freezing temperatures across the United States are creating dangerous conditions.

Here in our hometown of Cary, North Carolina, our county schools have had two-hour delays and, in some cases, closures due to the freezing conditions. From frozen water pipes to faulty HVAC units, local news station WRAL reported a total of 24 school buildings were affected by the cold weather. As a result, school schedules were disrupted and hundreds of students were sent home early.

The unexpected can (and will) happen, but here are five ways you can prepare.

1. Be Proactive

Okay, this may be a no-brainer, but it’s worth emphasizing. If there’s inclement weather on the way, be proactive by double checking the condition of all your assets. From your HVAC units to water pipes and transformers, you can never be too sure. And, even if you’ve recently performed scheduled maintenance, it’s worth it to go back and look over these assets just in case. One hour of proactive work can save you several hours of reactive labor down the road.

2. Predict the Worst…

With all of the data we have in our facilities, we can not only schedule preventive maintenance (PM) but also anticipate when an issue might arise with predictive maintenance (PdM). With the help of sensors and meters, PdM programs monitor the condition of your assets — even if no one is in the building. Best of all, you don’t even need high-tech equipment to do so. Almost any asset can be retrofitted with sensors and the right attachments so that it works hand-in-hand with your work order management system.

Speaking of work orders…

3. … And Then Fix It

Rather than personnel arriving at your facility only to discover that there’s no water or that the HVAC is down, automated workflows with PdM can prevent an unexpected closure altogether. This is one example of where a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can be a huge benefit. With a CMMS, you can create real-time automatic notifications for your team members in the event of a problem. For example, if a water boiler is having issues overnight due to the low temperatures, a work order will be automatically created and routed to the appropriate technician, even if it’s overnight or during the holidays.

4. Provide Information on the Go

When maintenance teams are needed out in the field during inclement weather, relying on outdated paper work orders or desktop tools is inefficient. With a CMMS that’s mobile-ready, your team can update work orders, collect GIS information and even report new issues while they’re on the job.

This not only cuts down on the numbers of reports from local citizens by proactively identifying problems, but also provides the most accurate information. In addition to location data, you can assign a work order to a known asset (such as a transformer on a street), attach photos to the task, automatically route the ticket to the appropriate department and more.

5. Plan for the Unexpected

Even with all the proactive work, your assets can still have issues you didn’t see coming. In this case, you should have a plan for the unexpected. Whether you’re a school who needs to alert students and parents or a company that staffs hundreds of employees, inclement weather creates dangerous conditions. Icy roads and fallen power lines can quickly become deadly, and knowing how to handle these situations at a moment's notice is crucial for everyone’s safety. Develop a safety plan that includes how to push out alerts, the requirements for early closures or cancellations, and what to do if your facility’s assets are down during regular hours.

Remember, you can never be too prepared. Stay warm this winter, and stay safe.

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