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Guide to Plant Shutdown Preparation

Ensure security for your vacant or idle plant

Idle Facility Dangers

Idle facilities present special loss control and risk management challenges to both physical assets and business continuity. Large assets that can quickly lose value if not properly prepared and subject to periodic review/maintenance. Proper preparation made in advance can make reactivation less costly and reduce the timeline for bringing the facility back online.

There are 3 major exposures to idle facilities:

  • Trespassing: An idle property or empty building can become an inviting target for unauthorized entry and subsequent damage.
  • Severe Weather: Severe weather often results in water damage to the structure, whether through an opening in the building envelope or burst pipes following freezing weather.
  • Gradual Deterioration: The longer a property remains idle and the less maintenance/attention it receives, the greater the acceleration in age-related deterioration.

These exposures overlap in many ways, especially with respect to effective means of reducing them. Actions to minimize the effects of severe weather are also beneficial with respect to lowering the rate of gradual deterioration and discouraging trespassing and malicious mischief.

It is important to understand that when facilities are idle, it is for a reason; under current conditions, the cost of operating is greater than the income generated. A change in economic conditions can change the balance of that equation. The purpose of the recommendations listed here is to preserve these assets for maximum long-term value, including maximizing flexibility for future use.

Preparing for site Shutdown

There is great pressure to minimize costs when shutting down a facility. However, except for obvious, ongoing security measures, spending a few dollars in preparation provides significant future return. Consider each of the following as part of the shut-down process:

  • Secure the building envelope: Includes repairing roof leaks, ensuring windows are closed (boarded up or otherwise protected if exposed to the public), and ensuring a sturdy door/gate and lock on primary entry points.
  • Prepare for severe weather and natural hazards: Includes shut off and drain all water piping/plumbing systems, convert wet pipe sprinkler systems to dry systems, providing heat for wet piping below the dry pipe valve, clearing debris off roofs and drains, shut-off and lock out of gas and water utility feeds, and electric power.
  • “Mothball” important equipment: Valuable equipment that cannot be cost-effectively removed should be prepared for extensive idle time per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Be sure to close all fire doors.
  • Make facility less inviting to theft: Remove all stock from the site, remove light machinery/equipment that is not permanently anchored/installed. If outside storage must remain, move it clear of buildings. Discuss removal/revised placement of fire extinguishers with the local fire department.
  • Secure buildings and grounds: Repair fences and post “No Trespassing” signs, ensure exterior lighting is of quality and not easily damaged, install intrusion detection and engage security services, and inform local law enforcement and fire department of plans. Arrange for periodic security inspections if practical.

Ongoing Maintenance Activities

Idle facilities are a cash drain; there are many incentives to minimize the costs associated with on-going care for them. These pressures need to be balanced with the potential loss of value if the facility is not maintained. If the site is fully prepared for the transition to an idle facility as described in the previous section then it should remain in relatively stable condition, unless there is an input that changes these conditions.

An idled facility can become an inviting target for unauthorized people. Once the property is idled, it is easy for outsiders to assume it has no value to the owner or community. Children can be drawn to the location as a place to explore. People who steal metals to sell to recyclers may see potential profit in the site.

The best way to combat these potential upsets to the idle property preservation are to demonstrate to the surrounding community that, by the way it is treated and maintained, the property still holds value. While all these maintenance efforts involve costs, the costs are minimized by keeping them in place rather than responding to incidents. Obvious maintenance activities are the best way to ensure protection to your assets.

Severe Weather Precautions

Severe weather is usually not a surprise- it is predicted well in advance of its arrival. There are basic steps that can be taken prior to and after the onset of severe weather including inspecting the facility to ensure heating/heat tracing systems are in service, draining low points of dry pipe sprinkler systems, inspecting water piping to ensure it remains disconnected and drained, ensuring building openings are closed/sealed as appropriate, and ensuring roof drains are clear of fall leaves.

During freezing weather, consider increasing the frequency of site inspections and security patrols. After winter storms check the building envelope for openings and repair as needed and check the roof for unsafe accumulations or drifting of snow.

Repair any building envelope failures promptly after strong wind events. Prior to heavy rain storms, inspect the facility to ensure that the building envelope is secure and not leaking (especially the roof), check that roof drains are clear, and if flooding is predicted, resurrect the site’s flood plan and seal any doors/openings with sandbags and make provisions for emergency pumps as appropriate.

After rainstorms check the building envelope for openings and repair as needed, and pump standing water out of building and/or grounds as appropriate or necessary.

Our Experts Are on Hand to Assist You

TÜV SÜD Global Risk Consultants (GRC) experts are on hand to assist you navigate the plant shutdown process, ensuring security for your assets and facilities while they are idle. With over 60 years of experience in fire protection engineering, natural hazards analysis, and property valuation, we partner with you during each step of the process.

Contact Us to Learn More

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