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How to Adapt to Facility Safety and Security Challenges


Everyone's world has changed due to COVID-19. This fact is equally true for those of us responsible for managing facility safety and security. Suddenly, expectations about who's allowed into our facilities and during what periods have profoundly changed.

The whole idea of what's required to deliver a healthy work environment has been completely reexamined. Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) teams are now drawn into conversations about allowable seating densities, HVAC filter specifications, sanitation schedules, and mask protocols. In addition, security teams are continually revising access control lists and lock schedules.

In discussions with Cartegraph customers, a prevalent thread is that they're being challenged to aggregate and disseminate the information required to support urgent facility decisions. Like our users, you're likely being asked:

  • How many people can we safely accommodate given today's interpretations of dynamic federal and local guidance?
  • How can we update our seating plans to accommodate new policies?
  • How should our HVAC operations change and who determines what's acceptable from an EH&S perspective?
  • Do our building and space-access policies need to change? How so?
  • How should our janitorial processes change to address new sanitization requirements?
  • How do our building emergency action plans need to be updated to reflect these new dynamic realities?
  • What happens in a crisis if the building emergency manager isn't on-site?

As health-and-safety guidelines evolve along with expectations from our organizations and occupants, we find ourselves in a cycle of assessment, planning, execution, and re-assessment. We expect to be in this cycle for an extended period as we re-imagine the relationship between work and facilities—and redefine what it takes to deliver a safe working environment.

The challenges of sustaining operational excellence in this ever-changing environment are significant. So how can we work to build flexibility and resiliency into our overall approach to facilities safety and security? Here are four best practices that should help you along the way. 


You can't have data-driven decision-making without good data. Collecting, managing, and maintaining information takes investment, but poor data quality can be extremely costly. A Harvard Business Review article recently described a "rule of ten" which states that "it costs ten times as much to complete a unit of work when the input data are defective as it does when they are perfect." As such, putting the necessary business processes in place to ensure good data quality is imperative.


"It costs 10 times as much to complete a unit of work when the input data are defective as it does when they are perfect."


But, there are many facets to safety and security. Therefore there will be many sources of information that are important to be considered within your decision-making processes. Some of these data sets may come from your CAD floor plans—others from a variety of EH&S sources or your building management system. Still, other data may come from your employee management system, automated access control system, and CCTV camera system.

Aggregating all this information into a single easy-to-access system can be challenging. However, a modern facilities information system should bring all these sources together into one place for analysis and reporting.


German field marshal von Moltke the Elder is quoted as saying, "No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength." Rather than try to create a single infallible plan, we need to develop a series of alternatives that will help us adapt as the environment around us continually changes.

"Rather than try to create a single infallible plan, we need a series of alternatives."

We can expect that guidance from the CDC and local agencies will continue to evolve at a rapid pace. More importantly, the expectations of our managers, employees, and the general public are also evolving. A plan that may have been flawlessly executed last week could be completely inappropriate next week. We will have to be agile and flexible as we adapt to these changing expectations.


Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good. Instead, create a practical plan and execute that plan with the resources you have available. Evaluate what worked well and what didn't, and weave your data into every step. For example:

  • Data helps you build the plan: What's our approach to each location's challenge?
  • Data helps you communicate the plan: Maps, floor plans, reports all describe the policies that your team should implement—and where.
  • Data and systems help you evaluate the results: What have we achieved for environmental conditions? What are our utilization rates? How many access control issues are we seeing?

Build on the good facility plans you have and try to address the limitations. Then, plan, execute, evaluate again. Rinse and repeat. This is the classic continuous improvement process, just on a much more rapid cycle.


Charles Darwin posited that it is not the strongest that survives but the one that is most adaptable to change. Organizational resiliency is built on the ability to adapt quickly and continuously. Your facilities' information systems should be your eyes and ears in this evolutionary process.

Whether you're working for a local government, higher education, a utility, or even a commercial business, I hope these tips help your team address the ever-evolving safety and security challenges we're all facing. We'd love to hear your stories of adaptability at your organization. Please connect with our team to start the conversation.