Managing Inclement Weather

Managing inclement weather: How effective FM can help commercial properties prepare for heavy downpours and flooding

Everyone loves a bit of November rain, but the recent heavy downpour in Dubai took both residents and visitors by surprise. You may have seen news reports about the flooding in one of Dubai’s most prominent malls. Several businesses reported temporary closures and videos and images of people wading through the mall’s avenues were widely circulated on social media. Later reports clarified that heavy rainfall and strong winds had caused leakages in a few sections of the mall, leading to a few of the stores being flooded. The Pointe, a seafront property that hosts some of Dubai’s finest retail outlets and restaurants, presented an even tougher challenge for maintenance staff, because of its huge outdoor spaces. Usually one of its most attractive features, these wide expanses bore the brunt of the heavy rains and quickly led to major disruptions. 

As you can imagine, when an emergency like this hits one of the world’s most visited shopping and leisure destinations, it not only leads to introspection about emergency response, but also the need for preventive measures. Needless to say, such incidents can put the safety of customers and visitors at risk, and if you are an unlucky tenant at an affected property, the adverse impact on your premises and goods could cause major losses.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

An increase in climate change-induced freak weather patterns is giving us good reason to plan for unforeseen events and having robust procedures in place for emergencies. With operations and maintenance being the domain of facilities management, so is disaster preparedness. As an FM company, you are expected to provide emergency maintenance, which is unscheduled action to restore disrupted services, planned maintenance, to a pre-determined schedule, and preventive maintenance, which typically consists of ongoing periodic inspections, cleaning and repairs.

One of the most critical aspects of being prepared for extreme weather is making sure you understand your vulnerabilities and put plans in place. A few of the intangibles that you need to have addressed include:

  1. Realistic understanding of risk: Gaining a good understanding of the downside is essential. Risk analysis in your best approach to getting the most out of your planning and preparations.
  2. Defining your ideal state of preparedness: Only when you have established the response capabilities you need can you achieve them and leave nothing to chance.  
  3. Having a pre-determined response plan: Having identified your risks and defined your preparedness goals, you must next develop a detailed and pre-determined response for every combination of these variables.

Proactive facilities management is the key to better preparedness

If there was anything that the recent heavy showers in Dubai established, it was that leaving your response to after or during such a weather event, is to invite failure. Facilities management that primes the property for such happenings in advance is the need of the hour. Some of the simple but effective measures you can incorporate include:

  1. Well maintained parking, pavements and outdoor floors: Quick and effective drainage depends on the fact that outdoor areas are free of potholes and other indentations. Water that collects will cause damage and regular inspection of these often overlooked surfaces can be an important part of your preventive measures.
  2. Ensuring roofs are in prime condition: Roofs are usually your single largest surface, in a relatively low-rise building. Over the course of the year’s changes in season, it is subjected to considerable stress. Ensuring that your property’s roof is immaculate can prevent and limit damage, in the event of sudden heavy precipitation.
  3. Clean guttering ensures quick flow off: An issue allied to the condition of roofs is regular cleaning and maintenance of gutters. In the event of heavy rains, guttering is one of your most common bottlenecks, which can lead to water damage and service disruptions.
  4. Sealing windows and edges: Anywhere two planes, surfaces or construction elements meet, presents torrential rains with a weakness to exploit. Sealing such edges is especially crucial in the case of windows, which can present a large surface area for weather phenomenon to impact.
  5. Learn from experience and identify problem areas: No two properties are the same. Each individual location also represents a different set of challenges. Facilities management needs to build from each instance of heavy weather, to build on proactive and predictive measures, which address any weaknesses that previous instances have exposed.

Plan, prepare and prevent

Facilities management is not just about ensuring that a property is optimized for planned use. It must also extend to proper preparedness for emergencies and prevention of undesirable outcomes. Being one step ahead of all eventualities is a core service that FM providers can extend to their clients. Your best bet is to spare no expense and take worst case scenarios into account, so nothing catches you by surprise and disruptions are kept to a minimum.