March 13, 2017
Facilities Management
Bill Paulus


MEP pays off; two ways to prepare for an emergency

Dear FM,

Plans, call lists, emergency systems - since late last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for FM to be prepared for unexpected events. Here’s why.

Early Thursday morning, we received word that there was a problem in the steam tunnel connecting the SE Steam Plant with the new Main Energy Plant. A steam line had broken, causing a loss of steam pressure to the campus. As a result of the break, the tunnel was engulfed in steam, making it unsafe for a crew to investigate. When the tunnel was safe and secure they discovered the floor had buckled, causing a steam trap pipe to rupture.

As it turns out, MNDOT was pumping grout into a void above one of their storm water tunnels, which is about 10 feet below our steam tunnel. The pressure of the grout caused the floor of our steam tunnel to heave, and dislodged a small section of steam trap piping. The picture below shows the tunnel that morning. The main pipeline itself was not damaged, and the trap line was isolated and repaired, but we still needed to temporarily shut down the SE Steam Plant. Fortunately, we had a backup system in place.

Steam Tunnel Floor

It’s a big win for FM and for the University that the Main Energy Plant (MEP) was fired up and ready to supplement the steam supply to campus.This situation, while not one we could have planned for, is exactly why we have worked for more than three years to design and build the new plant. It’s already helping fulfill our mission to provide a welcoming, reliable and safe campus.

Even so, I can’t help thinking how much worse the situation could have been. The high pressure steam line broke suddenly, and if someone had been in the area they could have been seriously injured. We evaluated and resolved the broken line within a few hours, but if we’d lost all steam pressure, there could have been dramatic consequences to the campus; steam not only heats our buildings but is used for sterilization of hospital equipment, hot water for sinks and showers, cooking equipment, dishwashers and humidity control.

While you might conclude we had a bit of early Irish luck, being prepared for events like the one above is critical to our success in such situations. In that spirit, I want to highlight a couple of things we can all do to be ready for an unplanned event.

Emergency communication
In the event of an emergency, do you know how you will receive and share information?
  • Have all the necessary contact names and phone numbers in your phone or reference documents. Consider cell and home numbers for after-hours contacts.
  • Work with your team so everyone knows how information will be shared in an emergency.
  • Identify who your backup is in case you are unavailable.
Injuries on the job
If someone gets injured on the job, do you know what to do? Talk with your supervisor and read the full policy after you review these key steps:
  • Immediately notify your supervisor that a workplace injury incident has occurred.
  • If an injury is a potentially life threatening emergency, call “911” immediately.
  • For non-life threatening injuries, assist the employee in seeking appropriate medical care.
  • Within eight business hours following the report of a work related injury or illness, complete the “First Report of Injury.”

Thanks to all who investigated and resolved the steam tunnel issue last week. Your technical expertise and established processes allowed you to respond quickly to a situation that affected the entire Minneapolis campus.

Have a great week, 


Weekly Notes

  • Shout out to FM staff from Waste Recovery Services, Landcare and District Operations who supported the inaugural game of MN United Major League Soccer at TCF Bank Stadium. More than 35,000 fans attended in the snow storm and the stadium was kept operating and safe in part due to the FM team contribution.
  • Congratulations to all those who are celebrating March anniversaries at the U
  • OIT encourages all employees to register for two-factor authentication, which enhances your computer security by adding a second layer of confirmation to your login. The additional security will confirm your identity by sending code to something you have (such as your phone, laptop or other device) and asking for something you know (your password). Attend the following help clinics to get set up for this easy service.

Thursday, March 23: Technology Help walk-in location - East Bank
Coffman Student Union, room 101 9 a.m. - noon
Thursday, March 30: Technology Help walk-in location - St. Paul
St. Paul Student Center, room 4 9 a.m. - noon

Have an item to share with all FM? Send it to Christie Wells to be included in the Weekly.

Bill Paulus the interim AVP for FM
Bill Paulus is the interim Associate Vice President for Facilities Management. He regularly publishes memos to communicate information and issues that affect FM staff.