Last month, the Decatur City Council received the unwelcome news that their seven city fire stations were in need of massive repairs, expected to cost between $5 million and $8 million. Firefighters had been aware of these issues for years, but a lack of action from the city allowed the facilities to fall into such disrepair. Had they listened to their boots on the ground, they could have avoided such a costly situation. Don’t fall victim to this same kind of short-sighted thinking in your facilities.
Routine preventative maintenance has time and again proven to uncover the little issues that, if ignored turn, into the major problems creating costly and unavoidable work. On top of that, facilities that run proactively are safer and better for all involved. Unfortunately, many decision-makers often don’t see beyond immediate budget concerns, so unless a problem is deemed absolutely critical, it gets swept under the rug.
Decatur’s Fire Chief recognizes how foolhardy this kind of thinking is:
“When you’re only able to do a very little amount every year, you’re just compounding the problems that are going to hit you harder in five years,”
…And he’s right.
A small leak can only turn into a bigger leak if not tended to. And a crack in a roof can lead to mold, infestations, and even a catastrophic collapse, as firefighters at one of the stations experienced.
Facilities run best when a culture that appreciates the value of routine maintenance exists at every level of an organization.
Try to open lines of communication between staff and management. Know that management is often worried about the bottom line, so if you can show that fixing a smaller problem now will result in them saving more money down the road, they will likely listen. And staff is concerned about health and well being within a facility, so if they are aware that little checks daily can prevent a hole in the roof, they will typically work to catch small issues early.
There isn’t a quick way to change a culture, and the best strategies to avoid a dangerous “penny wise, pound foolish” mindset don’t take shape overnight. But if your organization starts to recognize how effective routine upkeep is better in the long run, you stand to save a lot of trouble and even more money.
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