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Computer-aided facility management can save lives and protect employees

(Image credit: Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock)

Recent research performed by BHV Nederland, an emergency preparedness training firm, shows that 55 percent of all Dutch companies do not have enough emergency response officers (EROs) present during the summer period. Why does that matter? Let’s table that for a second.   

On another note, automated external defibrillators (AED) do not often function properly or have insufficient battery power. Why is this specific example worth citing and relating to any organization’s possible use of improve operation and technology? When combining computer-aided facility management (CAFM) solutions with technology as simple as an AED, lives can be saved. How, you ask? Well, an AED is a good example of an object that can be registered into an organization’s CAFM system, and then monitored for usability and workability. According to the Dutch Heart Foundation, the likelihood of surviving a cardiac arrest improves by 50 percent if someone is able to correctly use an AED to help the patient; this means that if employees know where to find a device, and if the device is working, such information can truthfully be considered a matter of life and death.   

The first to step to take toward a safe work environment in this example is registering your health and safety assets in the CAFM system; however, make sure to take the right approach. For instance, there is no point in registering each smoke detector individually because they are usually checked in batches, but it is useful to register each AED device. You can register not only assets, but also health and safety certificates.   

Again, it is recommended not to register each individual certificate -- there are usually several people with the same certification, after all. Once health and safety assets are registered in the CAFM system, it is easy to register calls about these assets. “The first aid kit was used and needs to be restocked.” You can also report potentially dangerous situations at work, such as loose cables and broken equipment. 

Help! Where is my emergency response officers? 

Emergency response officers usually work in different departments across the entire organization. You are probably familiar with the presence of lists detailing these employees in the halls or other designated areas of the office, indicating which EROs are in the building. Such lists are good for checking which response officers are present today, but what about tomorrow? Or next week? 

In holiday periods, for example, it is not unusual for organizations to have too few EROs available. A digital plan board in your CAFM system can help you avoid such situations. Digital plan boards let you easily register which EROs are present, and when they have planned their holidays and regular days off. This grants more insight into their availability: You can see whether the desired number of EROs is present every day. If it turns out that you have a structural ERO deficit, you can respond to the problem accordingly. 

Help! Where are my visitors? 

Your colleagues should have received instructions on what to do in case of an emergency. They are familiar with the building, and have probably taken part in a fire drill. However, things are different for visitors, such as electricians who often work in areas far away from workstations. 

Using a CAFM system for your visitor registration means that all visitors are registered in one place, along with all contact details. Recording arrivals and departures per person creates an up-to-date overview of the day’s visitors, so you can always prepare for emergencies. 

Evacuation procedures 

Most organizations plan their evacuation drills well. However, equally important tasks, such as checking escape routes and changing AED batteries on time, often fall by the wayside. Over the past two years, inspections revealed that only a limited number of the 80,000 AEDs in the Netherlands undergo regular maintenance. A CAFM system makes it easy to keep track of recurring maintenance tasks. It’s easy for the person responsible to retrieve the scheduled tasks from the system in the form of a to-do list. Operators who do not regularly log in to the system can be kept up to date on tasks via email. 

CAFM systems are proper tools for communicating with your colleagues as they are often already familiar with them as a channel. These systems also can be used to improve operational safety. For instance, you can publish a news item about the results of your evacuation drill in the user portal. The public knowledge base – or products and services catalogue – is a good place to explain your evacuation procedures.   

Additionally, you can register to whom your employees can pass on information about allergies or medical conditions. This lets you show your colleagues how you safeguard a safe work environment. A CAFM system also can be a central information point for your EROs. They always have information about registered health and safety assets, floor plans, escape routes and safety procedures at hand thanks to a knowledge base. If your organization comprises several buildings, it may be useful to register all information in a single easily accessible system. 

Getting started 

The health and safety assets are in a CAFM system. Now what? It may sound obvious, but just get started. In practice, we often see people wait too long to start using their CAFM system. This is a shame, because a CAFM system makes operational safety easier, quicker and clearer to manage. The set up won’t be a perfect match for your situation, of course. However, step by step, asset by asset, you can expand and adjust your CAFM system to meet your wishes, until it works perfectly for your organization. 

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Nancy Van Elsacker Lousinord is president of TOPdesk US, a global supplier of IT service management software. TOPdesk develops, markets, implements and supports standard user-friendly service management software.