Risk identification/mitigation can be found on the opposite side of the crisis coin — and every facilities pro would benefit from identifying and planning for scenarios that can bring a controlled environments facility to its knees.
Often, future focused initiatives are pushed off, as we battle day-to-day issues. Finding the way to plan for resilience will pay huge dividends.
Define your objectives
Your objectives set the first parameters, and clearly define the effort. What, exactly, do you want to accomplish? Identify only potential catastrophic single points of failure in your facility and its systems? Or do you want to create a comprehensive plan that looks at both external and internal threats, which can serve as the basis for future capital expenditures planning? Is your primary concern taking a hard look at facilities maintenance issues?
Define your scope
Objectives and scope are two different beasts, although one falls out from the other. It can be useful to identify the relevant risks under two broad categories: internal and external.
Internal risks are items over which the facilities group has varying levels of control: deferred maintenance, age, redundancy and physical location of building systems and equipment, fire/explosion/chemical release, and capex planning challenges are examples.
External risks will vary greatly by geography, but can include categories such as weather, natural disasters, acts of war, utility infrastructure and failure, terrorism, workplace violence, or health epidemics/pandemics. When considering natural disasters, weather events, and acts of terror, it’s important to analyze immediate impacts, secondary impacts, and potential longer range effects.
For example, will your supply chain be disrupted for extended periods due to highway or other transportation impacts? The “no-fly” orders after 9/11 severely impacted supply chain logistics.
If your organization manages multiple facilities around the globe, it’s helpful to develop an objectives and risk matrix — by facility — so you can then prioritize both your analysis effort and your work plan.
Identify your team
The complexity of the risk identification/risk mitigation effort will be determined by your objectives and scope. That will then define the skills and talents required. It’s likely that your facilities group, already swamped with a full agenda, could use some outside help. At SMRT, we recently completed a comprehensive risk mitigation plan covering 2.7 million square feet across three campuses.
In addition to our client’s facilities group, it was important for them to bring additional expertise in structural, civil, MEP, and fire protection engineering, as well as architecture, energy management, code compliance, security, information technology, and construction cost estimating to the effort. The result: a prioritized, comprehensive identification of facilities issues that will ensure continuity of operations and safety of people, with current cost estimates that can be adjusted in the future. The plan provides for immediately addressing high-risk issues, and serves as a basis for future capital expenditure planning.
Set your framework for review
Armed with clear objectives, scope, and am expert team, the next thing to define is the framework for review. This can include:
- Existing conditions and historical facilities data and materials on hand.
- Identification of key facilities staff and organization personnel (operations, research, legal, etc.) that the team should interview.
- Applicable codes, regulations, and industry standards/best practices — regardless of where your facility is located in the world, Federal, state, and local regulations apply. Often, overlay agency, regulatory requirements, or design guidelines come into play, and it’s not unusual for publicly traded companies to apply U.S. building codes and standards for facilities across the globe. Reconciling the myriad of (sometimes conflicting) requirements will provide a sound basis for design. The facilities group must stay abreast of new and changing requirements post-study — resulting plans may require a multi-year corrective effort.
- A review of hazardous chemical and hazardous production materials, as well as their current handling procedures, contrasted against best-practices.
- A review of contract and construction documents, including maintenance and renovation plans.
- Understanding future use, as thoroughly as possible. This requires a bit of crystal ball gazing and is imprecise by its very nature, but defining facility use in as much detail as possible is important.
- A frank discussion about the value of redundancy. In today’s world, many critical controlled environments facilities have made redundancy of building systems a standard. Surprisingly, many have not.
Kick it off correctly
A lot of talent is brought to bear when undertaking a comprehensive risk assessment and the development of a mitigation plan. Conduct a meeting to ensure all team members know each other and clearly understand objectives, scope, roles and responsibilities, schedule, and chains of command and/or communications. Ensure all questions have been answered with issues and challenges aired, and begin developing a sense of team camaraderie. (Hint: food always helps!)
At the kickoff meeting, clearly establish project milestones and inter-team communications to ensure everyone is kept in the loop. Depending on your project’s scope, there can be dozens — if not hundreds or thousands — of moving parts.
Operate inclusively and collaboratively
If you’re a facilities manager looking to bring in a consultant to execute a risk analysis and mitigation study, look for an entity to work as part of your team. If you’re part of a consulting team brought in to assist with the heavy lifting, work collaboratively and never underestimate the wealth of knowledge residing in the minds of the facilities and operations departments.
It’s the norm, not the exception, that critical insights into the facility, its conditions, and the history of the building and systems reside only within their collective institutional knowledge. While part of a consultant team’s task will be to record and memorialize this information, it’s all their duty to work as an integrated part of the facilities team.
While working through the assessment and analyses sections of the project, keep the end game in mind: all of your findings will need to be communicated in a clear, concise, and actionable way to a variety of audiences from the C-suite to operations.
It’s likely that corrective projects will be undertaken over several years, raising the possibility that new facilities and management personnel will need to understand, interpret and act upon the results. So, what’s the most effective way to communicate the results that is understandable, actionable, and can be prioritized properly?
- Written report(s): There’s no avoiding a comprehensive written report, given the need for detail and context. However, if dealing with multiple locations, separate reports can create clarity. Organize and categorize each report with identical tabs and sub-sections.
- Identify vulnerabilities, and illustrate them with existing conditions photographs.
- Tie each vulnerability to a facility location plan.
- Provide plans and design sketches where needed to further clarify the issue, for both the cost-estimating team and the record.
- Organize identified risks into a series of matrices, providing quick-glance comprehension and reference. Matrices can be color-coded to communicate the likelihood of failure or occurrence, and the severity of impact such an event would have on the facility’s operations. This provides a clearly prioritized basis to build multi-year maintenance and capital plans, with budgets.
- One matrix should also identify proposed mitigation measures and estimated costs, as well as additional remarks to provide decision makers with a base tool for determining action.
The road ahead
As arduous as a comprehensive facility risk assessment and mitigation study can be, the real work begins when the organization decides to address deficiencies and make improvements. By providing a clearly prioritized assessment, with cost and solutions data, a facilities staff has a clear roadmap to confidently control their future, as much as today’s risk-laden world will allow.
Katherine M. Everett, PE, LEED AP, is a principal and operations leader at SMRT Architects and Engineers. Kate has more than 25 years’ experience engineering complex, sustainable mechanical systems for science, technology, healthcare, education, and government clients. [email protected]; www.smrtinc.com