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Chris Matt, managing editor of print and e-media with Maintenance Solutions magazine, caught up with Kevin Folsom, director of facilities and plant operations with Dallas Theological Seminary, to discuss the swine flu (H1N1) outbreak and its impact on commercial and institutional facilities. Folsom also is vice president of professional affairs with APPA, an association for higher education facility managers, through July 2009.
Q: What are you doing specifically at Dallas Theological Seminary to address the threat of swine flu?
A: Our health committee, which I’m a member of, has met recently, and we have been in communication via e-mail to discuss various methods and protocols. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not say anti-bacterial soap is required, we are retrofitting all of our public restroom and break-room dispensers with it. The reason it’s not required is because regular washing with soap requires at least 20 seconds of lather time. Anti-bacterial soap may help if occupants do not spend enough time lathering. We have made anti-bacterial gel available in areas that don’t have a hand-washing station. We also have placed hand-washing flyers in all hand-washing locations.
Q: Have you ever dealt with a potential outbreak such as this before in your career?
A: No, not to this level. We discussed the potential with SARS and the avian flu, but those never really hit as close to home as H1N1.
Q: What challenges does a potential emergency such as swine flu pose, compared to events that typically comprise an emergency-management plan on a college campus, for example?
A: I think the greatest challenge is to motivate campus constituents to take responsibility for their own hygiene, their own health and others who share a space. Our natural tendency or expectation in a campus setting is to allow others to do things for us, rather than doing them ourselves.
Q: Does a threat such as swine flu force managers to revisit their emergency-response plans?
A: Yes, to include emergency numbers of key stakeholders on campus, emergency supplies inventory, and cleaning procedures.
Q: Do you get the sense facility managers are proactively handling this situation, or is it more of a feeling-out process?
A: My sense is that my peers are being proactive, but we can only go as far as the leadership will allow and/or lead.
Q: As far as a hierarchy for handling something such as swine flu, how much do you get involved specifically?
A: As the facilities director, I personally serve on our campus health committee, which I think is important. The facilities department is the muscle of an organization, so we’re the people who set things up, provide barriers, hygiene supplies and sanitizing, for example. We have to be prepared to respond to occupant needs.
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