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Part II: Guidelines for Maintenance [7]

Executive Summary | Introduction | Part 1: Guidelines for Owners | Part II: Guidelines for Maintenance | Part III: Notes for the Consulting Engineer | Appendix I | Appendix II
Maintenance Tables | Monthly Report Form | Maintenance Checklist

Part II: Guidelines for Maintenance

A good maintenance system is also a good disaster mitigation system, as the review of damage caused by recent hurricanes and torrential rains has shown. Quite often the damage to buildings has been rendered worse by lack of sustained maintenance of critical items. Moreover, a well operated system of maintenance for buildings and equipment has the effect of being a very effective disaster mitigation measure in terms of cost and facility usage. It ensures the most economic way to keep the building and equipment in the best of form for normal use, given the original design and materials. It is therefore essential that a well-prepared maintenance plan be included in disaster mitigation plans.

These Guidelines therefore stress the need for continuous attention to all parts of the building and equipment, from sweeping of the floors to care of the grounds.

The physical condition of many Caribbean public structures is often inadequately maintained and windows and doors frequently show evidence of lack of maintenance and repair. A major effort should be made to bring the condition of the buildings to the standard where a normal maintenance crew can be expected to deal with the routine maintenance requirements of the facility. Another major problem is that the existing staff and maintenance budget are often insufficient to provide for proper maintenance, with the inevitable consequences of serious and increasing deterioration.

In considering maintenance costs it is important to remember that maintenance of such structures is a continuous and regular operational activity, rather than being a one-off activity as is the construction of a particular building, and must be appropriately provided for.

For public buildings with heavy usage such as schools, hospitals, etc., the annual maintenance budget normally amounts to about 4% of the contemporary capital cost of the building and equipment, assuming that the facilities are in good condition to start with, and appropriate budgetary provisions should be made.

However, the Guidelines do not deal with the maintenance needs of off-site electricity, telephone and water supply, as maintenance of these lifelines is carried out by the utility companies concerned. On the other hand, standby electricity plant and water systems (storage tanks and pumps, if any) must be maintained by the owner of the property.

Proposed Maintenance System

The purposes for maintaining a building and its associated plant are to ensure that the facility can:

  1. function at its designed level at all times;
  2. function for the normal life spans of the building and of the plant;
  3. resist the effects of extreme natural events such as hurricanes, torrential rains, and earthquakes without damage to occupants and with minimal repair or rehabilitation necessary after the passing of the event (provided that the original design and construction were satisfactory for this purpose).

All maintenance activities should be systematised and proactive. It is important to recognise that maintenance is not necessarily repair. Unfortunately repair is often considered to be the main purpose of the maintenance system rather than the prevention of the need for repair. For example, the regular and scheduled oiling of door hinges and window operators, or the painting of exterior wooden members is necessary to prevent failure of the equipment or rotting of the wooden members.

It is recommended that comprehensive maintenance systems should be instituted by all appropriate agencies. These systems should include the following:

  1. An organisational structure with clearly defined duties and responsibilities.
  2. Operation maintenance Guidelines and clearly stated procedures with respect to buildings and equipment.
  3. A management information system that will produce regular and dependable reports on budget, stocks, inventories of equipment, and staffing requirements.
  4. A preventative maintenance plan for equipment.
  5. A building maintenance plan, which includes roofs, walls, electricity, water lines.
  6. A continuous maintenance training plan for selected maintenance personnel.

Planning of Maintenance Activities

The planning of the maintenance activities will normally be carried out by a suitably designated official, but the planning, which should include the development of a detailed annual maintenance budget, can only be effective if there is a detailed list of areas, spaces, materials and equipment to be maintained, and a list of likely defects to be identified and corrected. The maintenance staff must therefore be trained to examine all parts of the buildings and plant in their care and to record deficiencies. Such lists must be prepared on an annual basis, but this does not preclude the immediate attention to problems that frequently occur in many public use buildings.

It must be emphasized that a careful record of all maintenance activities is essential, and every effort must be taken to avoid returning to the situation where ad hoc repair is the norm. The checklist provided in these Guidelines offers a procedure for the detailed examination of all parts of a facility and should be reviewed by the designated maintenance officer to ensure that maintenance is indeed being carried out efficiently.

Reporting of work done is another essential part of the maintenance system. A simple reporting form is included in these Guidelines but the maintenance officer may wish to devise a form that may be more responsive to the problems in the given facility. It should be remembered that the simpler the form the better will be the chances of having the form properly filled out and submitted in a timely fashion.

Maintenance as a Part of Disaster Mitigation

If a good system for maintenance is not properly organised, funded, staffed and carried out, then all other disaster mitigation efforts could prove insufficient. Moreover, experience indicates that roofs, walls, and equipment in general are more vulnerable to failure if normally operated at near breakdown, or at any level of technical deficiency.

While a properly designed and maintained building would be resistant to natural hazards, experience has shown that some additional precautions may have to be taken to secure the facility and allow it to function during and immediately after such events. The principal areas to be examined for maintaining hurricane resistance (in particular) of a facility and the corrective measures to be taken are indicated below:


  1. Replace all corroded roof sheets.
  2. Examine the purlins and rafters and replace the rotten ones. Make sure that the drive screws are driven into solid material and cannot be pulled out easily.
  3. Make sure that the ridge cap is solidly fixed to the roof sheet and that the wind cannot peel the ridge cap off.
  4. Check the wall plate to be sure that it is not rotten. If it is, replace it and secure the plate to the wall by bolts.

Doors and Windows

  1. Examine the doors and windows. They should close tightly.
  2. Ensure that the operators on louvred windows are all working.
  3. Replace all broken glass in windows.

External Areas

Flooding often follows a hurricane. Check to see how high the water reached in previous heavy rainstorms and ensure that drains are cleared to carry the rainwater away from the building, and that no storm water can get into the building.

Proposed Maintenance Organization and Staffing

Basic assumptions:

  1. The maintenance officer is responsible to the Owner for the efficient operation of the facility (including the general staff matters, buildings, equipment and grounds) and for the expenditures authorized for this purpose.
  2. Technical staff (as required) report to the maintenance officer including: carpenters, plumbers, electricians and painters.
  3. The gardeners and cleaning staff also report to the maintenance officer.

Major repair or renovation projects must be specifically authorized by the financial officer responsible for the facility, depending on the budget requirements, but normal maintenance and minor repair can normally be carried out by in-house staff without specific authorization.

The following comments are appropriate at this point:

Checklists and Frequencies for Maintenance Operations

Footnotes (Part 2)

7. This section is derived, with minor modifications, from a document entitled Maintenance as a Tool for Mitigation, prepared by Mr. Tony Gibbs for the Regional Programme in Disaster Preparedness for the Caribbean. Mr. Gibbs' permission to use the document is gratefully acknowledged.

Executive Summary | Introduction | Part 1: Guidelines for Owners | Part II: Guidelines for Maintenance | Part III: Notes for the Consulting Engineer | Appendix I | Appendix II
Maintenance Tables | Monthly Report Form | Maintenance Checklist

CDMP home page: Project Contacts Page Last Updated: 20 April 2001