What you will learn from this tip: It's important for business continuity professionals to know about certain aspects of facilities management to improve their
disaster recovery procedures. Learn about the most important facilities management guidelines and their relationship to business continuity professionals.
Inside every office building, factory, warehouse or other work area, someone is in charge of managing the environment where you work and ensuring that the building is safe. This is known as facilities management. According to the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), facilities management (FM) "is a profession that encompasses multiple disciplines to ensure functionality of the built environment by integrating people, place, process and technology." Facilities management and business continuity/disaster recovery are usually in different chains of command within organizations. Facilities management is usually associated with the building owners (e.g., real estate) and may also be connected to the physical security organization.
For example, most of us are probably familiar with what is called building maintenance. Facilities management goes beyond just a building and its operational infrastructure. It addresses all aspects of a building, the land on which it is situated, and even the external surroundings, such as above-ground and below-ground infrastructures, such as utilities (e.g., gas, water, electric, telecommunications and steam) and transportation (e.g., a parking garage).
Although there are different tasks associated to each area on the disaster recovery timeline below, facilities management is often part of each step.
As each phase unfolds in a disaster scenario, specific actions need to occur. These may be handled by specific teams (e.g., incident management, emergency management) or single groups cross-trained to address a broad range of response activities. but facilities management may be involved in all aspects of the incident.
Relationship to business continuity professionals
Facilities management staff will be involved in most disaster situations that affect a building or the location of the building. These personnel will show continual involvement throughout the disaster until it's resolved and business can return to normal. Business continuity/disaster recovery professionals need to engage and partner with FM staff, because each group is responsible to keep their business operating smoothly. Ironically, business continuity/disaster recovery management and FM are often in separate silos with very little cross-communication and cross-training.
In an ideal situation, both facilities management and BC/DR organizations should train side-by-side, and have regular meetings to exchange information about threats, vulnerabilities and how they can be addressed. By coordinating their activities and sitting on each other's planning committees, the two groups can provide added value to the organization. Each group should have policies, procedures and controls. Business continuity/disaster recovery plans should have linkages to FM operations wherever relevant. Regular sharing of this expertise can ensure that both groups are aligned with each other's goals, the building owner's expectations, as well as the requirements of organizations operating within the building.
As with other protection-related functions, both BC/DR and facilities management are responsible for protecting personnel and assets. Each group should identify opportunities for collaborative projects, such as joint disaster exercises, evacuations and risk assessments. Regular joint meetings of risk-related departments, such as business continuity/disaster recovery, facilities management, emergency management, security and insurance, can help eliminate potential confusion in an actual emergency, as compared with those same units operating in independent silos.
Facilities management activities
In addition to their many duties, facilities management employees are occasionally among the first people to become aware of a disruptive incident. This occurs from either word of mouth from someone in the building or from one of their various building management systems. If the disruption affects equipment within a tenant's space, it's the tenant's responsibility to inform building management as well as others on their notification lists. As such, facilities management employees may sometimes be first responders in dealing with a disruption.
The facilities management staff has the ability to perform many functions during a disaster situation. Their responsibilities can include activities such as conducting a damage assessment, ensuring that all environmental systems are operating properly (or shutting them down if needed), ensuring that elevators are equipped and running properly during an emergency, ensuring that emergency generators work during a power disruption, helping people evacuate the building (and return later), and ensuring that stairwells are clear and that emergency lighting and communications systems are performing correctly.
Facilities managers have years of training and experience, but they often don't get involved with business continuity activities. They typically have their own disaster response and recovery process, but are often not associated with the formally documented disaster recovery plan. FM emergency activities are not often coordinated with building tenants (in a multi-tenant building) or employees (in a single-tenant building or on a campus).
In New York City, for example, facilities employees must be aware of numerous local ordinances that affect everything from furnaces to water towers. They must maintain certificates of inspection for every major infrastructure system. Every building must have a Fire Safety Plan for responding to fires and an Emergency Action Plan to deal with non-fire incidents such as explosions, severe weather, and chemical, biological or radiological incidents. Different from BC/DR plans, the FM emergency activities are not technology oriented; they mainly focus on the physical site and its occupants.
Standards and practices
Facilities managers must be aware of numerous laws and regulations, typically at the Federal (e.g., OSHA, EPA), state, county, city and local community levels, which govern their actions. One standard used in emergency management is the Facility Management Standard for Facilities, Infrastructure and Environment (FMSFIE) that was developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Facilities managers often face obstacles because the policies and standards that address the acquisition, management and disposal of properties are often not consistent. This lack of standards can result in costly and ineffective solutions, needless repetition and cost errors in projects. The non-proprietary FMSFIE addresses these issues by providing the means for implementing cost-effective and efficient real property management practices. The FMSFIE can be downloaded free from the CADD/GIS Technology Center's website.
Professional associations and credentials
As mentioned earlier, IFMA is the principal worldwide professional group addressing facilities management issues. The IFMA website offers a wealth of information on the profession. IFMA also offers two professional credentials: Facilities Management Professional (FMP) for people who are relatively new to FM, and Certified Facilities Manager (CFM) for more experienced professionals.
Overall, it's important for business continuity professionals to understand how facilities management works. If facilities managers and disaster recovery managers communicate and coordinate their activities, disaster situations may be resolved more easily and in a more timely fashion.
About this author: Paul Kirvan, CISA, CSSP, FBCI, CBCP, has more than 20 years experience in business continuity management as a consultant, author and educator. He is also secretary of the Business Continuity Institute USA Chapter.
This was first published in July 2010