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Bioterrorism: Program HVAC Systems, Practice Emergency Procedures

While selecting the most suitable systems and ensuring they are properly installed and maintained is important, they are not sufficient by themselves. Managers must also take steps to ensure building occupants and maintenance personnel are properly prepared in the event of an emergency.

Preparation means plans should be in place telling both managers and occupants what to do in case of a release. Depending on the location of the release, occupants might be required to shelter in place. If so, managers must make sure designated areas are established and clearly identified. Occupants should know exactly where to go when directed.

Technicians should program HVAC systems serving those spaces for the type of control necessary based on the type of release experienced. Most likely this would involve closing all outdoor-air dampers and shutting down ventilation systems.

In addition to shelter-in-place procedures, departments must develop plans for emergency evacuation of the facility that clearly state who should go where in certain emergencies. Again, technicians must program HVAC systems for a specific response if occupants are evacuating the building. HVAC systems typically would attempt to isolate the impacted area, while pressurizing systems in adjacent spaces help minimize the spread of the agent.

Finally, managers must practice their planned responses to different release scenarios. Similar to fire emergencies, building occupants must periodically perform drilled responses.

Building engineers must demonstrate that they can implement all necessary changes to HVAC system operation in a timely manner. Not only will drills help people know what must be done in a real emergency, they will give managers the opportunity to test the response of both building occupants and HVAC systems.

James Piper, P.E., is a national consultant based in Bowie, Md. He has more than 25 years of experience in facilities maintenance and management issues.

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Bioterrorism: Program HVAC Systems, Practice Emergency Procedures

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  posted on 2/1/2009   Article Use Policy

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