FM Frequency: Staying In Touch To Keep Facilities Running Smoothly

By Jeff Crane, P.E., LEED® AP
Published in the January 2005 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

It has been a while since we spent any quality time together, so I wanted to write and let you know that I’m still here. I trust you thought of me last fall during budget season, although sometimes I wonder if you really appreciate me. Everyday I work for you, quietly and consistently, and you never even come to vist me. Why do you look confused? Don’t you remember me? I am your data center.

I’veheard some of your pals refer to me as your “server room,” “phonecloset,” or “IT resource room.” I have even heard you call me “criticalfacilities,” but do you really mean it? I know you like to think thatthe IT folks take care of me, but we both know that they only careabout my brains. But the servers, phone equipment, and voice/datacables are only half of the story. Without my guts-power and cooling-mybrains would die a painful death.

Since you haven’t checked on me in a while, youmust assume everything is fine. Isn’t that how you humans think? Well,I might be fine today, but if I were you, I would be concerned abouttomorrow. If you want to ramp up that processor you call a brain andpay a little attention to me, you might want to consider the followingand make sure we’re as reliable as we should be.

1. How healthy is my uninterruptible power supply (UPS)?

  1. When was the last time we ran under load?
  2. When was the last time my batteries were tested?
  3. How many minutes can I run if the power goes out? Is that enough time?
  4. Has anyone connected laser printers or other inappropriate loads to the UPS since my initial design and installation?

2. Are my generators in good shape?

  1. How frequently are you exercising my generators? Is that more orless than the manufacturer suggests for our location/application?
  2. How much fuel is in my tanks? How old is it? Do you use any additives to prevent fouling and clogging in my fuel filters?
  3. How long can my generators run on a full tank? Have you ever tried?
  4. When is the last time you performed preventive maintenance on mygenerators? What exactly was done? How often are you doing a full loadtest?
  5. What percent of rating is my connected load today? How has that changed since you installed these generators?
  6. What is the backup plan if my generators are down for an extended period? Do you have an open account with a 24/7 fuel supplier?

3. Are my cooling systems adequate?

  1. Are my cooling systems independent or are they connected to the main building systems?
  2. Are my cooling systems backed up by the generators?
  3. Do we have any evaporators or humidifiers hanging above myequipment racks? Should you install water protection under these units?
  4. How many cooling units do I have, and how much reserve capacity does that represent?
  5. Which of my cooling units can be out of order for maintenance(planned or not) and allow continued operations? Do your IT colleaguesunderstand these limitations?

4. Are we as secure as we need to be?

  1. Does my access control system monitor and track entry, exit, and alarms?
  2. Is our fire protection strategy adequate? Have I had appropriateinspections on my chemical systems? Do your facilities and IT staffmembers know how this stuff works and how to abort a false alarm?
  3. Do I have water alarms around my HVAC components and around myfloor drains? Do your people know where my floor drains are in case ofa water event? How often are my alarms actually tested?
  4. Do I need surveillance cameras?

5. Do we have good maintenance practices?

  1. Do you strictly limit maintenance operations to certain days or times?
  2. Do you routinely test my remote alarms to be sure they’ll call you if something fails over a holiday?
  3. Are your maintenance practices more or less comprehensive than the manufacturers recommended for my equipment?
  4. Do you know the IT team responsibilities during an emergency? Are there appropriate but clearly defined limits?
  5. Are you appropriately maintaining my service and inspection documentation? Where do you keep it?

I’m sorry if I sound like a nag, but sometimes I feel neglected. Thecleaning people never even come in and mop my floor or clean my supplyair diffusers. But I know you are different, because you actually careabout me.

I might not be as glamorous as that fancy lobby oras big as that asphalt parking lot, but without me, this businessgrinds to a screeching halt. And with my complex systems, it’s not aquestion of if something will go wrong, but when. Will you be prepared?If you want to talk again, you know where to find me.

Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.