The Case for Proactive Power Shutdowns

By: Nathan Normoyle Vice President – National Operations Access Restoration Services Ltd
As published in Ontario Association of Emergency Managers website

Earlier this year, Toronto mayor, John Tory, announced that a comprehensive series of inspections would be carried out to numerous apartment buildings in Toronto. This work, he said, would be carried out by a team of workers directed by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), Toronto Fire and City of Toronto Bylaw Enforcement Officers.

Tory’s newly established team has taken a defensive approach and have ordered structured ‘power shutdowns’ of certain buildings it believes may be at risk of imminent failure to one or more of its building systems. The power shutdowns are designed to allow for critical inspections and repairs to help ensure public and resident safety.

Of special interest to city officials are high rise rental apartments over forty years old that may have received minimal preventative maintenance to their electrical systems, especially their electrical distribution equipment. Insufficient maintenance to these systems runs the risk of creating significant safety hazards for the building’s residents. Tory emphasized that not only do catastrophic events that occur to buildings as a result of improper maintenance create financial strain on the residents, but on the City itself. There are significant costs related to responding to emergency situations such as fire and floods in high rise buildings.

Access Restoration Services (ARS) is specially equipped to handle all aspects of a power shut down. As a full-service restoration company, we have the experience to handle all aspects of inspections and repairs to electrical systems and all systems found in high-rise buildings. Coordinating electrical disconnections, inspections, and repairs not only requires a team of electricians, it also entails the assistance of more than a dozen other trade specialties to safely complete the work. For example, a Phase Testing/Thermal Imaging company may be needed to complete physical inspections and testing of the electrical distribution. A plumbing professional may be required to drain water from the building to prevent flooding during the power shutdown and then to re-energize the plumbing system at the end of the process.

Other trade specialists include those who inspect and correct fire-stopping deficiencies that function to impede the spread of fire, fire residues and water escape to adjacent suites and floors of the building. 24-hour security guards need to be in place during a power shutdown to maintain fire watch while the fire detection systems are off-line;  elevator technicians must be on hand to safely decommission elevators before the start of a power shut down and recommission once power has been re-established. Temporary power distribution equipment is typically needed to power Life Systems including emergency lighting in stairwells and emergency lighting in the parking garages. Temporary power also serves basic building systems to ensure that residents can safely access their apartment.

Faced with a power shut down order from the ESA, owners or property managers have a very small window of time to comply – sometimes only a week or two. This does not leave much time to plan and execute all of the intricate ‘moving parts’ required to properly plan and execute the power shut down. ARS can plan, coordinate and execute all aspects of a power shut down, from start to finish, with as little as 48 hours’ notice.

The proactive method of inspecting and repairing a building’s electrical system that would serve to reduce the stress of the building’s residents as well as its managers is to start the planning process before the inevitable visit from one of the City’s authorities. There are certain times of the year that would only increase the negative impact for residents such as major holidays and periods of extreme temperatures. There are also certain times of the week that prove to be more disruptive to residents. Routine visual inspections and regular maintenance of electrical distribution equipment by licensed electricians and building systems performed by appropriate licensed technicians is key to reducing likelihood of unwelcome surprises.

The length of a power shut down will depend on the state of the electrical distribution equipment and the age of the building. Most shutdowns require a period of one to two days. While some buildings might only require eight hours to finalize necessary inspections and repairs, other buildings that have received very little maintenance or had mechanical systems’ work carried out by unqualified personnel have required up to four-day shutdowns. Much depends on the level of inspection required, how much maintenance needs to be performed and how much equipment needs to be replaced.

Power shutdowns can be very unsettling and uncomfortable for residents. They could be without power and water for an extended period of time. The situation is worse for tenants who live on higher floors or those with physical limitations since the elevators do not operate during a power shut down. Making matters more stressful, ordered shutdowns usually allow less lead time for residents to make any adjustments they might need to their daily routines ahead of the power shutdown. During this stressful time, Access Restoration Services maintains a safe work site where fire safety and life safety remain in place. The fire department is put on notice and work is done as quickly as possible to minimize the inconvenience of those who live and work in the building.

With the increase of catastrophic events occurring to Toronto’s aging buildings caused by poor or irregular maintenance to its building systems, there is an increased commitment from Toronto’s Authorities to review building owner’s and property manager’s maintenance programs. While some of these buildings that have been properly maintained will not require a shutdown and only minimal maintenance, others will almost certainly require extensive shutdowns and maintenance undertaking.

Property managers, building owners and facility managers responsible for buildings forty years and older could opt for a proactive approach before an order comes through from the City.  Access Restoration Services utilizes a tested process driven by a team of highly skilled project managers, production coordinators and administrative professionals that can help building management plan and execute necessary inspections and repairs with a view to reduce the impact to the people who live and work in the building as much as possible.

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What is the Protocol for a Typical Building Shutdown and Restore?

This is the typical order of operations in a typical building power shutdown and re-energize protocol.

Preparation for Power Shut Down

1 | Building Management Staff – Contacts Fire Dept to have Building put on ‘Test’; regularly confirms status with Fire Dept until Fire Suppression Systems are fully functional. Coordinates all communication with leaseholders and occupants including proper notifications and pertinent instructions. Notice to leaseholders/occupants will be distributed 5 Days in advance of the scheduled shutdown.
2 | ARS Project Management – Coordinate with ownership, building superintendent/property management, tenants, city officials, Toronto Fire and ESA.
3 | Ensure necessary arrangements are made with any businesses that may be impacted including temporary power to adjacent spaces to maintain functionality during power disconnect
4 | Complete fire stopping work to Electrical Room and any other adjacent/proximate mechanical rooms where conduit penetrate walls/ceilings and risers as required by Fire Services.
5 | Site Plan required from Electrical company regarding placement of equipment.
6 | Order/arrange delivery of appropriate Generator(s), temporary distribution panels and switchgear to run emergency lighting, exit lighting, and temporary lighting in stairwells and common areas. Specifications for generator(s) based on Electrical contractor’s requirements.
7 | Temporary Exterior Lighting set up on all sides of the Building, close to underground parking Entrances/Exits. 8 | Arrange appropriate Security coverage for Fire Watch (proper protocols to be followed), unsecured building access points, exterior equipment, mechanical rooms and other areas where work is underway.
9 | Request Vulnerable Occupants list from Building Management. Ensure vulnerable occupants receive snacks and water at least twice a day.
10 | ARS personnel to Lock/bar Corridor Garbage Chute Doors so that chute is not operational during Power Shut Down. Place Notice on Chute Doors requesting occupants to leave garbage bags near the door which will be regularly removed by ARS staff. Advise Building Management to de-activate Garbage Compactor once chute doors are locked. ARS crew required to constantly collect garbage and carry to garbage bin until power has been re-established and the Chute Compactor is online. This will have to be done regularly to ensure corridor carpet/wall finishes are not damaged (elevators will not be in service).
11 | ARS personnel in place to receive generators/temporary panels/switchgear and install fencing as required.
12 | Electrical contractor runs cabling from Electrical Room to Temporary Distribution Panels, installs temporary lighting, completes pre-connection to Emergency and Exit Lighting.
13 | Underground Parking Doors to be fixed in the open position before power shut down (if applicable).
14 | Arrange for hot and cold beverages and snacks in the lobby for the duration of the shut down at 7:00 AM each morning and 6:30 pm each evening.

Power Shut Down

1 | Electrical contractor Foreman signals Start.
2 | Elevator company Tech brings elevators to the sub-basement level.
3 | HVAC Company makes sure the controller is online and completely operational. Switches Heat Controls to manual and shut down all heating panels to all floors. Ensures the controller database is backed up and tests all digital outputs and relay switch points.
4 | Fire Suppression company: a) Alarm tech puts the entire system on bypass) b) Sprinkler tech required to monitor system and to ensure pump valves have adequate air pressure; shuts down pumps if needed. Both techs remain on-site for as long as needed. Depending on the situation techs can leave site providing they can return with one hour’s notice.
5 | Plumber – Shuts down pumps to the Domestic/Boiler System if required. In some cases, water lines may need to be drained (e.g. potential for freezing during winter months). Plumber remains on-site during the process.
6 | Electrical contractor powers down Electrical System.
7 | Toronto Hydro opens switches (Disconnects city power).
8 | Third-party Electrical Testing company conducts di-electric testing of main distribution components.
9 | Electrical contractor does the necessary inspection, maintenance, repair/replacements to Electrical System including Suites.
10 | Electrical contractor foreman gives at least one-hour notice before the electrical system will be re-energized so that all mechanical partners will be in position for Reinstatement of the Electrical System.

Reinstatement of Electrical System

1 | Electrical contractor Foreman signals the ‘start of reinstatement of power’ process.
2 | Toronto Hydro Closes Switches (turns on power).
3 | Plumber – if water was previously drained, city water is reintroduced.
4 | Fire Suppression company does any necessary preparation/monitoring work.
5 | Electrical contractor re-instates Power (coordinates with ESA)
6 | Security personnel listen at each apartment door for sounds of potential water escape due to faucets mistakenly left open (average 10 incidents per building). In cases where there is a suspected water escape, security guard knocks on the door. If an occupant does not open the door, a security guard is to call the Security Supervisor who will forward the information to the Building Superintendent and an ARS Representative to open the door and investigate possible water escape.
7 | Clean up crew on Standby to clean up possible water release.
8 | Plumber – Reinstates water pumps and monitors system (may need to turn off water system temporarily if there is the danger of electrical system being impacted by water escape).
9 | Sprinkler techs make any necessary changes to the fire suppression system and monitor the system’s re-activation; alarm tech re-activates fire suppression alarm system.
10 | HVAC company ensures the controller is back online, rechecks all points and turns on heating to all floors and tests digital outputs and relay switches again.

Post Reinstatement of Electrical System

1 | Unlock or Remove barriers from Garbage Chute doors/hatches; advise Building Management Garbage Compactor can be reactivated.
2 | Procure Verification Report from Fire Suppression company as soon as possible and deliver it to the Fire Department.
3 | Once Verification Report is approved by the Fire Department, reduce/eliminate fire watch per Fire Department’s specifications.
4 | Removal of Generators and Temporary Power/Distribution Equipment, Temporary Exterior lighting, Fencing, etc.

For more information, please download our brochure or contact us.

Access Restoration Services - Who we are

Planning For a Different Working Relationship

As posted on https://oaem.ca/featured/planning-for-a-different-working-relationship/

There’s no doubt the commercial landscape has changed. Industries and businesses are under tremendous pressure. Shutting down operations for a few weeks or even a few days is simply not an option.

Today, disaster recovery and restoration mean it’s imperative we work quickly and closely with our clients to reduce downtime or avoid it altogether. Insurance contractors need to offer flexible mitigation planning and scheduling to respond to the needs of their clients.

Our aim is to get a business back to normal as quickly as possible. To do this we often work directly with a company’s employees in the planning phase. That planning often starts even before disaster strikes. We encourage companies to take precautions beforehand to reduce the impact of any potential disaster. We give them a checklist.

Pre-disaster planning is paramount to ensuring the quickest, safest and most cost-effective restoration work. No one wants to spend money on pre-planning. I get that. Yet being proactive is better than taking a bigger financial hit from a disaster later.

A lesson learned from the Fort McMurry Fire

The wildfire that started southwest of Fort McMurray, Alta., in May 2016 showed how vitally important pre-planning can be for the restoration industry and the people directly affected. Almost 90,000 people had to evacuate the community, making it the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta history. Destroyed were 2,400 homes and buildings, and the damage ran into the billions of dollars, the costliest disaster in Canadian history.

Due to a lack of planning, certain response crews left the area almost as quickly as they arrived when they realized they weren’t prepared for the danger of working in that hostile environment. They weren’t prepared to handle the heavy toxic metals released into the environment by the fire.

Expertise is also the name of the game

We’re realizing that expertise in the restoration industry is everything. Knowledge and experience are often missing in restoration efforts, especially in less populous regions. At Access Restoration Services (ARS), our highly qualified, specialized operations managers can be anywhere in the world within hours. Their expertise is of tremendous benefit in recovery efforts in sparsely-populated communities.

Local communities may not always need emergency vehicles. But they do need direction and leadership. Experience and knowledge in crucial situations can dramatically improve the speed and effectiveness of getting properties back to their original condition and people back on track.

ARS is a proud leader in disaster mitigation and property restoration. The company provides restoration services for water, fire and storm damage. ARS has its head office in Toronto and has six other locations throughout Ontario. It also has offices in Calgary and Fort Lauderdale and is expanding into British Columbia and the East Coast.

Joe Gagliano

Changing the Demographics of the Construction Sector, One Initiative at a Time

In her May 15th article in the Insurance  Business Magazine,  Alicja Grzadkowska interviewed our CEO, Joe Gagliano regarding how ARS is proactive in changing the demographics of this industry sector.

Here is Alicja’s article:

Construction has, for many years, been a male-dominated sector – but one company is working hard to change that.

Access Restoration Services (ARS), a Canadian build and restoration company specializing in emergency response for damage stemming from natural disasters, has announced its sponsorship of the Women in Insurance event taking place today in Toronto. However, its executives are also doing a lot in-house to encourage the advancement of women in the insurance space.

“We have a lot of women that work within our office and we’re trying to show that we’re promoting the Women in Insurance event,” said Joseph Gagliano, president of ARS. “By promoting that, we’re also showing our own employees that we believe in what we preach throughout the office – that when women succeed, we all succeed. That’s our motto here.”

Other initiatives the restoration company has implemented under its roof include taking tangible steps to create a safe working environment for women through programs that teach all employees what that kind of environment looks like. Supporting female employees as they ascend the career ladder is another effort that ARS has made, by building a talent pool to move women into executive positions. Skills development courses are also offered to all employees to ensure they’re continuing to build on an education that will help them move forward.

And that’s not all the company is doing in this field. While there’s many women working in insurance, a significant number occupy administrative positions. ARS has a specific way to address that issue.

“In the construction business, women are generally designated within the office and not in the field,” explained Gagliano. “We mandate a program where we actually ask the PCs and our field people to bring out their assistants so they can actually see the environments, see what’s in the fieldwork.”

If the assistants like the work, there’s a program that helps them transition to the PC group, where there’s more money to be made and economic agency to be gained.

Restoration is a worthwhile sector for anyone with an interest in insurance to consider. ARS itself has grown exponentially, Gagliano tells Insurance Business, with a staff of 200 that keeps on adding new employees. Its geographic reach is also expanding – a few years ago, ARS ventured outside of Ontario to provide its services after the Fort McMurray wildfires.

“Since then, we haven’t left. We’re now in Alberta and we’re still in the city of Fort McMurray,” said Gagliano. “And then with all the natural disasters, we were actually called by the insurers to go down to Florida as well, and into Texas.” In fact, ARS has travelled as far south as Aruba to help clients rebuild after the hurricanes.

As natural disasters become more intense and frequent, the demand for restoration work is only going to go up. After the recent ice storm that hit Ontario, the company’s professionals were on the ground, unplugging drains that were clogged by ice and then hit with intense rain, which caused interior water damage to a lot of commercial buildings. Putting in drying equipment so mould wouldn’t form and repairing that water damage was also on ARS’s to-do list.

The prognosis for future weather catastrophes isn’t optimistic, based on the intensity of those seen just in the past year. More people are affected now, too, with the recent wind storm impacting a third of Ontario, which is rare because of the province’s sheer size.

“The weather event itself is much stronger than we’ve ever seen in the past,” said Gagliano. “We had ice storms – never as heavy and dense as the one we just had – and then the rains we’re getting are heavier and there’s more wind with them.”

Credit:  https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/ca/news/construction/changing-the-demographics-of-the-construction-sector-one-initiative-at-a-time-100646.aspx

 

Proud Sponsors of Women in Insurance Event on May 15th, 2018

ARS Workday

Setting the Pace in the First 90 minutes

Say “Hi” Your Co-workers and Staff

Managing a team or a team member?  Give yourself a few minutes each morning to chat your team.  This goes a long way to create a positive workflow environment. Get everyone smiling and connecting briefly. Morning hellos also give you an opportunity to discuss what others are working on for the day. Sharing your goals for the day.  This will also encourage others to achieve theirs. Don’t spend too much time at the water cooler, but a quick walk around the office to say hello to the team can set the tone and pace for the rest of the day.

Look After Your To-Do List

Get into the routine of noting the most critical tasks in your job and manage that list daily.  So before you tackle today’s schedule, make sure to complete the previous day’s schedule.  Situations will arise throughout the day that sometimes takes more time to finish. Don’t give up!  If you don’t get it all done, you can use this to ask for more time or assistance if necessary. Knowing when you need help is just as important as completing your tasks. Managing a proper list every morning can help you stay on top of everything and keep you from falling behind.

Knowing When You Work Best

Your peak performance hours of the day may vary as everyone is different, but knowing when you do your best work is vital. Make the client phone calls during your peak morning hours, when you know your energy level is higher. If you’re responsible for one priority task each day, schedule yourself time to complete that task first thing during your peak.
 
We all know how the day tends to go if you oversleep or get to work late. You feel rushed and sometimes flustered. Maybe you forgot your coffee or skipped breakfast. These types of mornings tend to affect the rest of your day. Knowing that you have the control to set up your morning routine for a more productive day is critical. Establishing a morning routine, with specific tasks for managing your first 90 minutes, can significantly impact your effectiveness as well as inspire the productivity of those around you.