2021 has been the year of the lockdown for many, particularly those of us in NSW and Victoria. We have had plenty of practice at managing closed or low activity campuses over the past 12 months, but no one has a crystal ball to predict the challenges we will face during the summer months both weather wise or as a result of further lockdowns. So before you close your campuses, we would like to help you prepare with our holiday shutdown checklists.
Preparation is the best (and possibly only) way to enjoy a well-earned break, without worrying about what might not have been done before you left.
Our checklists are designed to help you tick off the major risks you are likely to confront during the holiday period– everything from electricity disruption and all that entails, to severe (and unforeseeable) weather events as well as building and campus maintenance.
Our ‘master’ checklist, the ‘Holiday Shutdown Checklist’ runs through the basics – from setting up an out-of-office notice on your email and locking up properly to ensuring that staff are aware of your code of conduct for Christmas celebrations, including COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines.
Once you have secured the campus, there are some specific risks which also need to be addressed:
Climate change in general, and another La Niña weather event in particular, means more frequent and intense storms. Wild weather events are a reality, so preparation this year should be no different from preparation last year – it needs to be thorough and well thought through. This means carefully assessing your geographical location, and the likelihood of a severe weather event occurring where you are.
However, it’s not safe to assume that your geographical location will protect you because it has in the past. During 2021, we have seen intense weather events and losses at locations where these events have never occurred in the past.
Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed that we are now in a La Niña weather pattern that is likely to continue at least until February 2022. This means that Australia’s northern waters are warm with increased convection – leading to wet conditions for northern and eastern Australia and an increased chance of flooding and cyclones this summer.
The upside is that fire risk is at least looking better than it did in 2020 – except in the west and the centre of Australia where bushfire remains a significant risk.
As we have seen flooding becoming more common, one significant risks is storm water not running into the pits, or the pits overflowing and allowing water to run down footpaths and roads into buildings, causing damage.
Our ‘Preparing for and Managing the Impacts of Severe Weather Events’ checklist advises how to manage storm water overflow, as well as other risks, and runs through who should be responsible for making sure your campus is prepared, when to begin preparations and importantly, how to go about preparing.
From clearing gutters, trimming trees and removing excess debris to nominating who will be responsible for monitoring and communicating severe weather warnings, there are simple steps to run through which will minimise the risk to your campus should wild weather hit. There is also a list of actions to follow if an event occurs, including how to assess damage and make a claim.
Dorothea Mackellar might love a sunburnt country, but the resulting drought and fire can cause untold human and financial cost. Our ‘Rural or Remote Facility Bushfire Risk Management’ checklist has been created with the input of members with specialist knowledge and the overarching view is that prior preparation and planning can significantly mitigate the risk of disaster. It takes you through the steps to follow – from preliminary planning, pre-season preparation, how to monitor an approaching fire, right through to evacuation and post-fire recovery. With the risk of bushfire greatest in the west, north west and central areas of the continent, Members with campuses and facilities in those areas may wish to commence preparations and review their emergency response plans prior to the holidays.
Because campus buildings house the activities at the core of learning, research and administration, ensuring their safety by quantifying and mitigating risk is essential.
Last year we saw another spate of burst pipes and joint/valve failures. Burst pipes can lead to both floor and ceiling damage, structural damage and/or water getting in behind walls which can allow mould to develop, introducing the potential for health problems. Damage can be exacerbated where these leaks go undetected for days and the holiday period is one of those times when this can happen.
Our ‘Building Risk Assessment and Resilience’ checklist helps you identify which buildings are most at risk from natural perils including bushfire, flooding and windstorms and outlines how to perform a rapid COPE-based risk assessment. COPE examines four key elements of a building – its construction, occupancy, protection and exposure – and helps you to assess the risk associated with each element.
We hope that these checklists will give you a good place to start and provide a helpful resource as you head into the Christmas and New Year break. 2021 is almost done and it probably is fair to say that we are all looking forward to a more normal 2022.