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Resilience: The Facility Manager’s Role

Managers play a central role in building a resilience team, setting priorities and protecting an organization’s in-place assets

fire hose extinguisher graphic

The list of crises that can imperil institutional and commercial facilities is long, and the challenges they create are diverse. Whether the crisis is flooding, fire, a mass shooting or power failure, organizations have begun to take emergency preparedness more seriously in recent years as the potential damage from these events has begun to sink in. The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest addition to the list of such threats, albeit one that threatens to inflict the greatest damage of any crisis in history.

As organizations pay more attention and devote more resources to emergency preparedness, those involved in the process quickly realize their goal is not just to prepare for a crisis. The goal is to prepare and respond effectively, then to return their facilities and the organization to full operations. The goal now is resilience.

The team responsible for resilience and business continuity in organizations often is diverse, given the range of systems and processes a crisis can affect. Facility managers play a central role in the safe and reliable operation of organizations during day-to-day operations, and they possess in-depth knowledge of the equipment, materials and components on which facilities rely to function. As a result, it quickly becomes clear that managers also need to be key players in ensuring the resilience of facilities in a crisis.

In this role, managers tap into both their knowledge of facilities and their experience working with a range of parties throughout the organization.

“The facility manager presents the resilience team with physical asset management risks and opportunities, lessons learned, current conditions, near- and long-term planning, and financial costs to proposed actions or inactions,” says Beth Tomlinson, P.E., who is a senior engineer in the mechanical group with TDKA and the firm’s facility sustainability and resilience leader.

Building A Resilience Team

While the idea of resilience and the related practice of business continuity have been around for years, only recently has the practice gained wider acceptance within the facilities management profession.

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