Polar Vortex Keeping Facility Managers Busy

Workers brave cold temperatures to keep furnaces running and prevent frozen water pipes

January 30, 2019

As the Midwest hunkers down under an extreme cold spell today and tomorrow, with wind chills as cold as minus 30 to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit expected, offices and school campuses are closing, so workers, teachers, and students can stay safe and warm. One group of workers that is not staying home is facility managers and custodians. They will be onsite to monitor furnaces and HVAC systems, making sure that after the frigid spell, residents return to a warm building with running water.

Custodians at Northwestern University campuses in Chicago and Evanston IL, are providing facility maintenance services despite the campuses being closed until noon tomorrow. University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, IN, is closing its doors until 1 p.m. tomorrow for students and most staff. Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, is closed today for students and teachers, yet essential personnel are advised to check with their supervisors about reporting for work.

Take steps in the next few days to protect your building from damage during extreme winter weather. Buildings offers the following tips:

  • Review your backup power source to ensure you have continuous electrical power in your building even if there’s an outage.
  • Insulate any water pipes located in vulnerable areas, like exterior walls or unheated basement spaces. Open the doors of cabinets and utility rooms containing pipes to let warm air circulate in them.
  • Install an electric leak detection system on your water line and monitored electric sensors near water sources to alert you of leaks caused by a frozen pipe or valve.
  • Keep the building at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit. even when it’s unoccupied, to prevent indoor pipes from freezing.
  • Implement business continuity plans in case of inclement weather. For example, encourage telecommuting for employees who can do so.

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