Evaluating Facility Emergency Preparedness at the Onset of the COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic forced facility managers (FMs) to rapidly alter operations for the organizations they serve. Guidelines from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the need to implement “work from home practices”, and the overall uncertainty associated with the pandemic put tremendous pressure on FMs to ensure their organization’s ability to meet business obligations.

At the onset of the pandemic (March 2020), Dr. Jake Smithwick of ETCM, together with Ph.D. candidates Dipin Kasana and Justin Dodd, deployed a survey of facility managers throughout the United States. Over a period of 10 days, the research team collected more than 1,100 responses from FMs across 45 states. More than 60 percent of respondents indicated they did not have any formal facility shutdown processes and nearly half identified a need for better emergency response tools, plans, templates and resources.

Educational and recreational facilities were among the top sectors to accelerate construction projects for completion (given the limited on-site presence of typical building occupants). A follow-on study is currently being carried out with thousands of facilities in North America to assess impacts on direct facility management costs, feasibility of return-to-work practices, and FM job market changes as a result of the pandemic.