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Facilities Management - Supporting Defence sites during the coronavirus crisis

Category: Armed forces, Women in Construction, Real Estate and Construction, gender diversity, Gender Balance, construction, ministry of defence, gender bias, facilities, COVID-19, Defence Infrastructure Organisation

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Facilities management includes work to plumbing in accommodation. [Crown Copyright/MOD2018]

One of DIO’s key roles is to support the Defence estate by ensuring sites can operate safely, legally and securely. This includes facilities management services – looking after the buildings on the estate and providing services such as cleaning, catering and gardening to ensure those using these sites can live, work and train without any distractions. We work with a range of partners who carry out these roles on our behalf. This work brings difficulties but in the current environment this has required both us and our partners to work harder and more closely than ever before.

The coronavirus outbreak has posed many challenges for facilities management staff, partners and our customers but we have strong relationships with one another and this has made it much easier to respond to the current crisis.

DIO is responsible for both ‘hard’ facilities management including things like lighting, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, and fire safety systems and ‘soft’ facilities management which includes cleaning, catering, window cleaning and waste management. We have contracts with various providers who carry out this work in the different regions of the Defence estate on our behalf.

While it may not seem obvious at first that these services would be affected by the coronavirus outbreak, it has had an impact throughout Defence and requires careful management on a daily basis.

For example, sites that remain open to Armed Forces personnel still need to be cleaned. Cleaning regimes have been adjusted to ensure that touch points that could spread infection (doorknobs, light switches, cupboard handles, etc) are cleaned more regularly. Where personnel are self-isolating on sites specific cleaning measures need to be undertaken in line with government guidance and waste needs to be disposed of in a specific way to reduce the risk of further infection. Decisions need to be made about which shops and food outlets should remain open and how best to enforce social distancing in these areas. Adequate supplies of food, personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies need to be maintained and on sites where Armed Forces personnel are not currently on site but may return to undertake Military Aid to Civilian Authorities (MACA) activities, catering and cleaning facilities need to be prepared to bring these services back online at quite short notice.

In addition, plans had to be developed to ensure that electric, gas and plumbing systems remain safe in buildings where staff are not currently on site. There is a particular risk of legionella in plumbing systems where staff are not using water so plans have been put in place to ensure plumbing systems are flushed out regularly so they remain safe for when staff do return. Fire safety systems also need to be maintained on all sites to ensure they are working correctly.

An Amey contractor carries out essential maintenance work. [Crown Copyright/Amey2020]

This work is being done jointly with our industry partners and our customers. Our industry partners carry out much of this work on behalf of DIO. At the beginning of the crisis in the UK, daily calls were set up with both hard and soft facilities management suppliers to ensure that we were in constant contact with them about the many ways sites were impacted by coronavirus. Where guidance was not already available, new guidelines were developed together with partners, customers and the relevant agencies to ensure a clear and consistent approach between all sites.

As well as the strengthening relationships with our industry partners we are also working more closely with our customers. We are working more closely with those based at MOD establishments to remain informed about their changing requirements as well as keeping them informed about our capacity to deliver, support their guidance for their people and keep focused on maintaining critical assets and services.

This has strengthened our relationships with our suppliers, without them we know that we couldn’t carry out the many vital services required to maintain the essential facilities that our Armed Forces customers rely on. We thank both our suppliers and our customers and all of their staff as well as DIO staff for their dedication, expertise and partnership during this time and throughout the year.

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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email info@vercida.com for more information.

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