Maintaining empty premises to keep them safe during COVID-19
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Maintaining empty premises during Covid-19

While the current COVID 19 pandemic has drastically altered the use of the built environment and working from home for many is now the new norm, life as we know it will eventually return. As soon as conditions allow, offices throughout the UK will steadily return to work and buildings will come back to life. In the meantime, there is still the need to maintain premises from a statutory compliance perspective. The UK Government advised essential maintenance remains as important work which must be followed. The extent to which maintenance needs to be carried out will, however, differ based on the utilisation and operational requirements of buildings. Here, Johnpaul Pearson, Business Support Director at Anabas explains the steps you should be taking throughout this period to ensure your empty premises remain safe and you can return to business as usual as quickly and smoothly as possible.

It is important to work closely with the security and facilities management teams to create a comprehensive plan for maintenance as every premises is unique. However, there are some universal steps that many premises should ensure are completed. Ideally, there will still be a maintenance team which can complete regular inspections. If security officers are on-site, they can keep an eye out for basic problems such as floods, damp and fabric issues, but these officers will not have the time or expertise to ensure the building remains compliant with maintenance legislation. Procedures such as legionella monitoring and life safety system testing, for example, cannot be ignored. For these, experts will need to check the premises.

If buildings are occupied by security or skeleton staff, essential and basic operational systems still need to operate. Life safety systems such as emergency lighting, fire alarm systems, fire suppression and fire extinguishers all need to be serviced to make sure they operate correctly. Generators and UPSs will need to be tested in line with their usual service schedule if they are to cover essential power. Lifts still need to be operational and safe for use to assist with carrying out day-to-day duties.

General HVAC equipment, for example, heating and cooling systems, may be able to work at a reduced rate to accommodate those working and reduce unnecessary running costs. But basic precautions should be taken to prevent risk and save energy so start by turning off unnecessary lights and equipment. It is also ideal to isolate gas supplies and all non-essential services but ensure all systems are labelled correctly. Likewise, if possible, lock off all outlet valves.

There may well be some systems left on such as some lighting and temperature controls. Check these are all functioning correctly. It might be the case that while people are working remotely, they are still connected to on-site servers. In this case, it will be important to ensure the rooms which house servers are kept operational.

The building also needs to be well ventilated and internal doors should be left open for short periods when the building is occupied.  However, fire doors should always remain closed unless automatic closers are in place..

In some instances, companies may even use the unexpected vacant period to upgrade plant or carry out intrusive servicing to avoid impacting on operational activities when the building is fully occupied. Carrying out this essential maintenance whilst your premises is empty will ensure you can swiftly return to business as usual, welcoming back people in a safe and secure environment once the Coronavirus pandemic is over.

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