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Robust Operations And Maintenance Practices Can Help Head Off Critical-Facilities Failures


Human error is the root cause of 75 percent of all critical facilities failures. As the complexity of critical facilities has increased to reinforce fault tolerance and concurrent maintenance, it is essential to develop equally robust operations and maintenance (O&M) practices.

There are an infinite number of potential emergency scenarios reflecting some combination of human error, utility, or automation failures. Failures in the building management or building automation system are among the most common automation failures, and these have potentially disastrous consequences.

Consider the cascading effect of the failure of the BAS that operates the main mechanical plant. A loss of the mechanical plant serving a densely loaded data center can lead to overheating in the raised floor space in minutes.

Utility failures are another common cause of critical facility "meltdowns," for example, a failure of the main utility feeds, either individually, sequentially, or simultaneously. In the case of a utility failure, in turn, the uninterruptible power supply system may fail to accept the critical load. If operators have been inadequately trained or lack well-defined procedures to intervene, then human error will typically exacerbate the problem.

To reduce risk and ensure sustainable operations in critical facilities, owners and operations staff should be prepared at turnover with well-documented emergency operating procedures (EOPs) and completion of initial operator training.

Unfortunately, these steps are often left until the occupancy phase of a project, leaving operations staff ill-prepared for an emergency situation, especially during the first year of operations and the transition from construction to operations.

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