Maintenance plays a part in disaster prevention

Lucian Oboroceanu of FirstService Residential
Monday, August 12, 2013

Why did some Toronto condos weather the severe thunderstorm on July 8 better than others?

Few were prepared for the record rainfall that occurred on July 8 in Toronto. Images of severe flooding emerged soon after. Unfortunately, the emergencies experienced in some condominium buildings could have easily been prevented.

After one underground garage flooded, the condominium building’s board of directors had immediate questions:

  • Did the sump pump fail during operation or did it not work at all?
  • Was the sump pump tested periodically as part of the building’s maintenance procedure?
  • Could the catch basins not take the volume of water or were they clogged?
  • Were the catch basins cleaned and maintained periodically as part of the building’s maintenance procedure?

The condo board also wanted to see the invoices to determine when the sump pump and catch basins were serviced last. The answers didn’t come as a surprise.

Let’s assume, however, that the sump pump and catch basins failed because they weren’t designed to work under extreme conditions such as the severe thunderstorm that hit Toronto. But then, what about the 95 per cent of buildings in Toronto that didn’t experience the same flooding? There wasn’t any difference in their building systems. The difference was in the management office, where the management team (property manager, assistant property manager and site administrator) carried out all necessary steps to prevent those types of situations. The management team applied all the preventative maintenance programs and took care of the buildings just like they’d take care of their own homes.

Preventative maintenance programs should be customized to the specifics of an individual building. In the case of the flooded underground garage, the sump pumps and catch basins were on a regular maintenance schedule and proper records and logs were maintained. Ultimately, a property management company can create as many standard operation procedures it can think of; however, it’s the responsibility of property managers to proactively protect their customers’ investment and to keep their buildings and residents safe.

Lucian Oboroceanu is vice-president, physical building and special projects, in the property management division of FirstService Residential’s Ontario operations. He is responsible for project management, standard operating procedures, and vendor management and procurement.

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