Facility Dude

Polar vortex serves as cold reminder of facility safety

By FacilityDude
Jan 15, 2014

Facilities Management

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If you happened to be in the U.S. on Jan.7, then you probably know about the polar vortex. It's a phenomenon that caused regions across the country to experience temperatures well below zero degrees. It also served as a stark reminder about the importance of cold weather facility maintenance.

Cold calls

The temperatures are almost unbelievable. Chicago was 16 degrees below zero on Jan. 6, with a high of minus 11 and a wind chill of minus 34, according to CNN. Central Park fell to just 4 degrees a day later. The national weather Service has issued Wind Chill Advisory in D.C., as it expected temperatures to hit 5 degrees below, according to U.S. News & World Report. It seems to have become a topsy-turvy world, as Tennessee was 40 degrees colder than Albany and Memphis, 20 degrees colder than Anchorage, CNN reported.

polar vortex strikes in the US While a polar vortex sounds like a menacing storm, it's origin is actually not so worrisome. According to the Washington Post, the polar vortex is a band of low pressure air that sits like a halo around the north pole. Keeping it in place is a jet stream of air that circles around it. A high-pressure system of air from western Canada pushed into the jet stream, causing it to bend and allowing the polar vortex to drop into central United States. While it is definitely not a permanent weather condition, the mere fact that you've probably never heard of the polar vortex, and yet must now deal with its bitterly cold consequences is a clear demonstration that it's always good to be prepared for anything.

Keep cool

Freezing temperatures can be dangerous for a facility, namely the condition of your pipes.  According to The Weather Channel, buildings in normally colder climates are built so that the water pipes are well-insulated against subfreezing temperatures. Buildings in southern climates, however, are not always so well-prepared. Unfortunately, the polar vortex seems to be hitting plenty of cities not so used to such drastic cold snaps. Facility managers should make sure that their exterior facades and pipes are protected from freezing temperatures. They should also run water every so often so as to relieve water pressure and mitigate potential bursts.

However, facility safety isn't just about building maintenance. With temperatures below zero, you'll want to make sure you and your tenants are all properly bundled and safe from freezing temperatures. Post warning signs about the cold and, if need be, close down the building if your HVAC is having troubles.

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