With the already issued and potential forthcoming decrees around social distancing, shelter-in-place and halting of business activities as a result of COVID-19, asset protection and security becomes of critical importance and concern to landlords. As cities “go dark” with government-mandated closures of businesses and restaurants, commercial properties can be vulnerable to security breaches or other unexpected emergencies.
In today’s day and age, several buildings are equipped with a Building Management System (BMS) that allows property managers to remotely access and monitor building operations. However, there are also other key action items property managers should consider to protect their clients’ assets during this time.
If in a shelter-in-place situation, it’s important for property managers to notify their local fire prevention resources of staffing levels and existing systems status. All fire protection equipment and systems should be inspected, including the opening of control valves, and be set to 24/7 service prior to locking down the building. Any impairments to fire protection equipment or systems should immediately be communicated to the client’s risk insurer in the event of an emergency.
Building Automation Systems (BAS)/Energy Management Systems (EMS)
For buildings with a BMS that provides a line of sight into the BAS and EMS, ensure that remote access capabilities are available. Confirm that all critical alarms and system backups are in place and communication is registering with engineer devices.
Have a policy in place for site access that ensures only approved guests are granted access. All normal security measures, inspections and duties should be followed as normal, unless there are additional tasks as a result of the closure. Consider closing underground parking garages that have controlled access if and where possible. Security alarms should be regularly tested for optimal performance throughout the limited access or closure period. Deactivate and collect any non-critical access key cards or physical keys from staff and tenants.
Building Equipment & Backups
Emergency building support systems should be evaluated for reliability and operational availability (diesel generators and fire pump tanks should be topped up). In the event there are shortages in fuel supplies, sites should ensure emergency generators are topped up with fuel. In industrial spaces, any tenant production equipment should be safely shut down and any hazardous operations stabilized, if applicable.
A building’s sequence of operations should be regularly reviewed, along with valve tag lists.
Mission Critical Operations
Property management teams need to communicate contingency planning and coordination regarding tenant systems that require cooling or electrical redundancy if provided via base building systems that are centrally operated and maintained. If the tenant is solely responsible for these type of systems, property managers must understand how the tenant intends to operate and maintain these systems within our managed properties or consider systematically shifting the capabilities to an off-site tenant location and shutting down systems at the affected property.
Critical Parts Inventory
Don’t wait to reach out to vendors who supply critical building systems parts, especially long-lead items. Property teams should have ample stock of parts to perform any necessary maintenance.
Communicate with primary utility providers about their contingency plans. Ask that they communicate with the property management team regarding any grid switching.
Buildings should be routinely monitored for freeze protection. Heating systems are to operate at now lower than 40° F.
Property managers are needed now more than ever by their clients in this uncertain environment. By partnering with their engineering leaders and sticking to building operations fundamentals, property managers can help create more certainty and reassurance for owners around security and longevity of their assets.