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Pandemic Response – School Facility Cleaning

by Tim Ammon and Phil McConnell on April 8, 2020

Getting People Back to Work – Like Literally into Their Buildings

School and business leaders are deep into their initial responses to Covid-19. In order to get back to school, work, and some degree of normalcy, ensuring that facilities are in fact sanitized and that employees and students believe facilities are clean is of paramount importance. A combination of planning and execution will be critical to creating this level of assurance. This short piece is designed to support facility managers and facility users with a guide to getting buildings ready to serve their key role in the recovery.

Heading into the Wild

All facility managers have been at the forefront of the response to Covid-19 because if we aren’t working at home we need to be working somewhere. With an increasing number of school districts closing for the year and public and private businesses considering when it is time for them to open, it is time to create a strike plan and response strategy within your organization. The plan must address and answer the many questions and concerns that may be asked including:

  • Reality versus Perception:
    • Even though the facility may have been closed for a substantial amount of time and has had limited access (reducing or eliminating the potential for spread of the virus from contaminated surfaces), the facility users are likely to expect  to have visual evidence that some level of enhanced cleaning has occurred. Don’t discount the fact that the reason that cleaning products smell is to send a signal that cleaning products have been used.
    • It will be critical that facility managers document when and how additional enhanced cleaning was accomplished. This documentation should be prominently displayed and should include specially designed signs demonstrating when this cleaning occurred. This of something like:

In order to address the concerns or fears of facility users, facility managers and their staffs will need to be highly visible and present to promote confidence in the users. You will also need to be prepared to respond extremely swiftly to concerns.

The Journey to Tomorrow

There are temporary and permanent aspects of this pandemic that facility managers will need to contend with. Many people are predicting that this future will include a recurrence of the virus in the fall. As a result, managers need to prepare their response plans to accommodate both sustainable and surge capacity within their organizations. While everyone is out of the buildings, this is an ideal time to:

  • Assess your inventory management practices ensuring that things like PPE are available when you need them.
    • Develop a structured pandemic response plan for inclusion within the organization’s Disaster Preparedness plan
    • Design enhanced training programs for front-line district staff including custodians, maintenance, and food service staff.
    • Identify necessary budget and procurement support to ensure that necessary cleaning chemicals and supplies can be readily obtained.
    • Develop service agreements with local, regional, national, and international contractors to provide additional support as needed.

It is critical to remember that the next pandemic will not be the same as this one (even if it comes in the fall of 2020). As a result, facility managers need to get comfortable with making decisions when things are uncertain. It will be crucial to build processes and procedures that don’t represent rigid stepwise tasks and are designed to maximize the ability of your organization to deploy the experience and expertise of your staff.

REMEMBER THAT YOUR RESPONSE IS AS MUCH AN EXERCISE IN PSYCHOLOGY AS IT IS IN TECHNICAL CLEANING AND MANAGEMENT.

Good luck, stay safe, and let’s get going!