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Inside Life Sciences

It's Time to Winterize!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)’s U.S. Winter Outlook predicts warmer-than-average temperatures across the Southwest and along the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard starting in December.

La Niña is likely to return for the third consecutive winter, driving these warmer and drier conditions.

Although the season is expected to be mild, winterizing your facility remains crucial – especially in the Pacific Norwest eastward to the western Great Lakes and the Alaska Panhandle, where below-normal temperatures are favored.


With the start of winter less than one month away, it’s time to ready your facility and focus on your operational resiliency.

Here are several steps you can take to prepare for the colder days ahead.

Inspect Your Roof & Physical Structure

If your roof is flat and accessible, then you may opt to perform the inspection yourself. Start by walking the outer perimeter, and then work your way inside, being sure to remove any debris or obstructions. You’ll want to confirm that there aren’t any weak spots, flashing is secure and unbent, and the roofing material shows no gapping, tears, bending, or damage.

If your roof is pitched, you may consider having an expert walk the inclined perimeter of the roof and check the shingles for damage. You’ll want to verify that gutters are clear of debris and functioning properly.

Once the roof inspection is complete, you should check windows and doorways for gapping in the caulk, pulling from the facility, and other damages. Run your hands around the casing to feel for moisture or airflow from the inside to the outside and vice versa.

Meanwhile, identify any vines, mold, or other growth that needs removal. This is also a good opportunity to ensure that your locking mechanisms are functioning, and security systems are operating correctly and up to date.

Test Your HVAC & Lighting Systems

There are two systems particularly prone to issues during the winter: HVAC and lighting. Ramping up the heat too quickly can cause your unit to malfunction – especially if it hasn’t been properly maintained throughout the year.

Complete a thorough inspection of your HVAC and lighting components before the weather gets too cold so that you have time to make needed updates and repairs.
Proper ventilation is especially important in the Life Sciences industry (for example, in diagnostic laboratories and animal control facilities), which require very specific humidity levels.

Animal control facilities must maintain a relative humidity of between 30 and 70 percent, depending on the species they house.

Because temperature and humidity impact both animal metabolism and behavior, you run the risk of adversely affecting research results if you reach improper levels.

Build In Redundancy

Even if you keep up with your preventive and predictive maintenance schedules, facilities issues are sure to occur. For example, winter storms can damage power lines and cause outages that last for days.

Every facility should have built-in redundancy – a back-up system or procedure that can be activated in the event of an emergency, enabling operations to continue until the primary system can be restored.

In addition to a secondary power source, you need an access control system with a back-up battery to ensure admission to your building in case the power goes out.

Frozen lines and pipe bursts become much more likely when temperatures drop below freezing. Should you experience a burst, you’ll want to be able to reach the affected area and stop the flow of water as soon as possible.

As climate change intensifies, weather emergencies will only become more common. Being prepared is a must if you hope to avoid safety issues, delays in production, lost profits, and other problems.

DENS can help you evaluate your facility’s emergency readiness. A facility assessment is the first step to identifying and addressing your gaps.

If you have questions about how to prepare your facility for the winter ahead, please email one of our experts.

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