Facilities were not created to be left unoccupied and dormant for weeks or months. You will quickly find, that like a well-oiled machine, your facility and all its parts need to run and be maintained on a regular basis or it will cease to operate at its full potential.
If your facility has been shuttered, you may find that some new things have moved in. It may be bacteria, pollen, dust or even pests. Now that businesses are contemplating opening their facilities again, you’ll need to approach your reopening with a solid plan. Part of that plan is to review the facility services scope of work with the goal of protecting your occupants, their health and safety.
Here are some things you can expect and ways to get your facility ready for occupants to return.
Creatures, critters and insects love moving into unoccupied spaces. Since the traffic at your facility has been greatly reduced or stopped, the silence is like a beacon to unwanted and germ-spreading animals, amphibians and insects.
You should complete a walkthrough and full inspection of your facility 7-10 days before any occupants return to the facility. If you find evidence of any unwanted creatures, including holes, waste product, nests, messes, etc., you will want to eradicate the creatures before occupants return. Depending on what has rehomed itself into your facility, you may want to contact a professional exterminator for chemical distribution and critter removal.
Filtration is not only essential for creating fresh, contaminant-free water to keep our bodies healthy but is also used in almost any industrial process you can imagine. With little to no activity happening in your facility, damp filtration systems can easily begin to grow bacteria and mold. Particles of the bacteria or mold may now run through your pipes and into your machinery or occupants’ containers. That may cause equipment not to function properly or make occupants ill.
If the filtration system has dried out, due to nonuse, it may become brittle. Once the water begins to flow again at your facility, particles from filters may break apart and enter your facility’s drinking water or equipment and cause issues. Your filtration system should be completely flushed, and all independent filters should be visually inspected for mold growth or deterioration. Replace any filters that show damage and inspect the outflow for particulates, smell or discoloration.
Pipes and sewage systems
Since water has remained static throughout the facility, buildup of sediment and microorganisms may be breeding. This can cause discoloration, staining, damage to filters or equipment, odd taste or even clogs if there is a large buildup.
It is also possible for the toilet tank to siphon back into the plumbing and drain disinfectants containing chemicals that may pose health hazards if ingested or touched. You will need to take precautions to clear the lines and flush the systems approximately seven days before occupants enter the building. This allows you to monitor the systems and ensure your sewage system is functional and clearing. If any odd smells or discoloration return from your pipes or your drains, you may have a larger issue and need to bring in a professional.
HVAC and Ventilation
An empty facility has most likely gathered quite a bit of dust during the shutter. If you have had your HVAC running during the shutter, those particles are circulating through your HVAC filter. It will most likely need to be replaced before occupants can return.
If your HVAC has been static, particulates that have settled risk becoming airborne again. This not only will affect occupants that have asthma or allergies, but it could release debris into your HVAC system and cause damage. Static systems also allow bacteria to breed and mold to form. When systems are reengaged, the mold or bacteria can begin to release more pollutants and allergens in the building. The last thing you want is for those spores to begin recirculating through the facility and find their way into your HVAC system.
Allow time to have your HVAC properly maintained, your ventilation system cleaned and replace the HVAC filter before reopening your facility. If possible, open doors or windows to help allow fresh air to replace the stagnant air that has been recirculating while the building has been empty.
Bathrooms and showers
In areas that are moist, such as a shower or bathroom, a biofilm of bacteria called Serratia marcescens can grow. It is often mistakenly called “Pink Mold”. Serratia feeds on mineral deposits, toothpaste residue and soap scum. Serratia is an airborne bacterium and presents as a pink/red/orange discoloration on walls and fixtures in damp areas.
It is not enough just to scrub away the biofilm - the area must also be disinfected to kill any remaining bacteria colonies. This process may need to be repeated every few days to prevent it from reestablishing.
If you prepare and serve foot at your facility, hopefully the refrigeration units were emptied and cleaned, and all perishable food was removed prior to the lockdown. The perishable food may have been donated or disposed, but it no longer resides in the facility. In this instance, the unit coils should be checked, and the units should be wiped down and disinfected.
If you have refrigerators and freezers at your facility for employees and they were not cleaned before shuttering, after over a month of no one accessing their perishable food, it may look more like science experiments growing inside. All perishable items will need disposal and a complete cleaning and sanitation of the refrigeration units will need to occur. Check the operation of the unit and its filtration. Growth of mold or bacteria inside the unit can still circulate into the filters and when occupants return it could make them ill.
Flagship has also put together several strategies for you to use in the new post-COVID 19 world to get your facility ready. When you need help, you’ll want a partner that that will continue to flex with your facility operations during this challenge and beyond. Flagship can be that partner. We will help prepare your facility to reopen on time and navigate changes post-COVID 19.