All You Need To Know About Emergency Maintenance

emergency maintenance

Emergency maintenance situations are the most stressful events for any maintenance team. 

Emergencies can cause a lot of damage to brand reputation, result in loss of life, and have a huge negative impact on the company’s bottom line. So, it is only natural that there is an immense pressure on the maintenance team to reduce the need for emergency maintenance to a minimum and to be able to react fast if one does happen.

That is why, in the continuation of this article, we will take a look at:

  • how one can define emergency maintenance
  • examples of emergency maintenance in the residential and industrial setting
  • different ways to minimize the number of emergency maintenance situations
  • how to define general emergency maintenance procedures

What is emergency maintenance? 

Emergency maintenance is a type of maintenance that is needed when an asset experiences an unexpected malfunction that can cause considerable health and safety problems or big production delays. The problem has to be addressed as soon as possible, hence the “emergency”. 

The major challenge though is that “repaired quickly” is rarely ever as simple as it sounds. These are often major breakdowns that require coordination between multiple team members. As such, emergency repairs pose serious operational headaches for maintenance managers. 

In worst-case scenarios, these situations require an all hands on deck approach where every other maintenance task is suspended until the emergency is resolved. 

Emergency maintenance examples

Regardless of what kind of business that a building is being used for – residential or industrial – emergencies can arise. Below we list a few examples for each scenario.

Examples of emergency maintenance in property maintenance

The kinds of emergencies expected in a residential or hospitality building will usually include:

  • fire outbreak
  • leaking roof 
  • electrical malfunction that’s causing power surges
  • major flooding
  • elevator breakdown
  • no water supply in the house/floor

Examples of emergency maintenance in the industrial setting

In the industrial setting, emergency maintenance is required to avert potential disasters that arise as a result of failed control measures or failed assets in industrial companies. Unfortunately, whether they happen by accident or due to negligence or incompetence, industrial emergencies can result in great damage, injury, and even loss of life. Some examples are:

  • fire outbreak
  • (poisonous) gas leak
  • unexpected failure of electrical power generator  
  • steam boiler explosion
  • failure of a critical asset that brings the whole production to a halt

How to minimize the number of emergency maintenance requests

Situations that give rise to emergency maintenance can never be completely eliminated, but there are ways to significantly reduce their frequency and mitigate some of the associated risks.

The most effective way to reduce the number of emergency maintenance requests is to have a solid proactive maintenance strategy that will catch and address emerging issues before they escalate into major emergencies.

There are many proactive maintenance strategies you can employ:

Combining any of these strategies with a good CMMS software will enable you to have complete control over your maintenance operations, as well as speed up the response when an emergency maintenance situation does eventually happen.

Other ways to reduce the occurrence of emergency maintenance situations include:

  • having properly trained technicians performing quality work
  • having properly trained machine operators and other employees that come in contact with dangerous and/or critical assets
  • defining clear operating procedures and maintenance checklists technicians can follow
  • using equipment/tools/machines as recommended in their respective manuals
  • using replacement parts from the original manufacturer

4 steps for setting up effective emergency maintenance procedures

Since you can never eliminate the possibility of an emergency, it is always a good idea to set up some procedures and protocols in place that will speed-up your response, minimize safety risk, and prevent collateral damage.

Here’s a short outline on how to set up emergency maintenance procedures.

#1) Define and identify your emergencies 

Start by defining situations that would qualify as emergencies in your facility. This step helps to make a clear distinction between true emergencies and other issues that, although urgent, are not emergencies. 

There will always be some overlap, but here are some explanations that can help you narrow down your definitions:

  • Emergencies will deteriorate rapidly within a short period causing safety incidents and major business disruptions; they need immediate attention. Even if they happen on a weekend, holiday, or at night.
  • Urgent situations (non-emergencies) are important as well but they can usually be isolated and attended to during normal business hours.
Another way to look at it is, if it has to be addressed right away it is an emergency and if it can be addressed a bit later, it is just a high priority work order. It helps if all employees on the premises can distinguish between emergency and non-emergency maintenance issues as this can help to quicken the reporting process.

It usually makes the most sense to focus on emergency maintenance issues that come in the form of critical asset failure as general workplace emergencies should already be covered by standard safety training that follows OSHA’s recommendations.

Gaining clarity into what could happen in potential emergency scenarios helps an organization to better manage their resources (labor, funds, spare parts, PPE, etc.) that will be required to resolve those issues. 

Of course, the scenarios that you should look at are only those that have some chance of happening. One way to estimate which failure scenario is more likely to happen is to conduct the risk assessment on your critical assets.  

#2) Define emergency maintenance workflow 

Decide how emergency maintenance situations will be reported, recorded, and processed from start to finish. Usually, this can be done with either of the following or a combination of both:

  1. Manual response: The problem is reported by an employee. The maintenance manager or supervisor reviews the work request and generates a work order to track the entire repair and restoration process.
  2. Automated response: A system is in place to detect anomalies in high-risk installations and take certain actions without human intervention. The actions of an automated emergency response system can include shutting down the immediate source of danger and generating electronic maintenance requests.
Whichever kind of response that an organization uses, there must be a system – usually a CMMS – that serves to record these incidents thereby building a digital trail of emergency maintenance over time. Among other things, this provides valuable information for continuous improvement going forward. Again, a CMMS facilitates and simplifies the processing of each emergency maintenance request whether it was reported manually or automatically.  

#3) Outline emergency maintenance procedures

As a result of the risk assessment conducted in step #1, you can pinpoint potential emergencies based on specific equipment failures and then list steps that maintenance technicians will need to follow in each case. 

That being said, listing exact steps for every scenario is not necessary. Instead, employees should have a general idea of what to do when addressing emergency maintenance requests in general (this doesn’t stop you from creating the exact list of steps for a few “most likely to happen” scenarios). 

A list of general steps (applicable to most situations) to help your team deal with emergencies could look something like this:

  1. Isolate the immediate source of danger to prevent collateral damage.
  2. Notify the chain of command and all employees that might be affected.
  3. If necessary, initiate lockout tagout (LOTO) procedures.
  4. Assess the extent of damage and the condition of the asset.
  5. Plan the repair process.
  6. Execute repair process.
Note that whatever the situation, the top priority for all parties should be preserving health and safety. Only when the danger is over can emergency maintenance work begin. At that point, the maintenance team can assess the damage and plan out the repair process.

#4) Speed up emergency maintenance response with a mobile CMMS

Apart from incidents that are caused by natural disasters, emergencies in buildings can usually be attributed to a failure resulting from human error, unexpected machine failure, or procedural flaws.

Automating maintenance with computerized maintenance management system will help to minimize the fallout consequences and speed up the emergency response process by:

  • having the ability to quickly schedule work order and notify the right members of your maintenance team
  • speeding up the diagnosing process with instant access to asset maintenance history
  • enabling real-time communication and coordination of different members of your maintenance team
  • speeding up the repair process with instant access to maintenance checklists, LOTO procedures, step-by-step safety instructions, and similar documents

Managing emergency WOs in Limble CMMS

In Limble CMMS, you can manage emergency work requests by creating work orders of the highest priority and adding relevant tags such as “Safety incident”. The system will send out email and push notifications to the assigned technician(s) to resolve the problem. 

Let’s see how that look in practice with a few screenshots.

First, a workers submits the emergency maintenance request.

emergency maintenance request
The manager reviews the request and creates an emergency work order. As you can see from a screenshot below, such a WO in Limble would be level 6 and can be tagged with something like @Safety that signals the issue is a safety risk. 

emergency work order
After the WO is scheduled, email and push notifications are sent to the assigned technicians. The technicians can then review the WO and start performing the required work. When the work is finished, they need to close the work order:

closing an emergency WO
The technicians can leave completion notes, attach pictures and comments, log time it took to complete the WO, and note down how many spare parts they used. All of this helps organizations track how much resources they are spending on emergency repairs.

Better safe than sorry

While it is hard to ever be fully prepared for emergency maintenance, things we discussed in this article will hopefully help you not to get caught with your pants down.

Having a strong proactive maintenance strategy and properly trained employees are the two most important factors for avoiding preventable maintenance emergencies. The best you can do is to have a clear plan in place people can follow when an emergency maintenance request is generated.

Through Limble CMMS, we have helped numerous businesses win their battles against emergency maintenance. Reach out to learn more.

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