“Ask Kari”: Maintenance During COVID-19

Industry News,

As you very well know, things have changed drastically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, this change applies to something we try to avoid, but in this instance we cannot and that is: Maintenance Service Requests. Although there are several different ways to address maintenance requests during a pandemic, for those that necessitate a maintenance worker to go inside someone else’s home, let’s be sure we “cover” what is needed. No pun intended.

In this article, we will be discussing the fundamental necessities for addressing maintenance requests during COVID-19. Specifically, we will go over the basic steps all technicians or vendors should be taking, protocols for managers and tenants and above all, proper communication.

It’s fair to say that a basic step for addressing service requests is to diagnose the issue, identify the “who, what, where and how” to remedy the issue and then coordinate the scheduling of an appointment to complete the job in a safe manner. In those, perhaps now known as “traditional, pre-COVID” steps, things are still in order. However, if it is not already in your playbook or standard operating procedures, be sure to add these more “modern” basic steps to your protocol. From how things seem to be looking for the next few or many months, these procedures may be as fundamental as merely scheduling the work.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC, which has now become the most famous initials in 2020, has consistently reminded us of the importance of safety measures for interaction with others. The first of course is being simply to avoid anyone who has been infected with or has potentially been around someone who has been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days. With that being said, the first and simplest safety precaution should be to ask the question, “Have you or someone you know been exposed to COVID-19?” This should be the first question (or at least one of the first questions) you ask a resident upon receiving a work order, scheduling a work order or before entering a unit after an appointment has been made. Asking someone if they are having symptoms or have potentially been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19 should be listed as a top priority and now, a basic step to service requests. With this information, you will then have the basic understanding on if or how to move forward, or cancel the job if need be.

Following this first step, others recommendation made by the CDC includes keeping distance from others (6-feet apart: “Social Distance”); wearing a mask or face covering that covers your nose and mouth; washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizers or products with at least 60% alcohol – apply thoroughly on hands and wait until they fully dry. Be sure to limit or avoid completely any hugging, handshakes or even elbow bumps. Although this list of items might seem overdone by now, the fact of the matter is these basic steps will help reduce the spread of this virus. We all must be reminded and remind others to continue to do this.

Now, additional protocol for vendors, technicians, managers and even tenants is to ensure the proper protective gear and steps are being taken for addressing work orders. For this, be sure to examine other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for items that may protect you during your maintenance such as: Gloves, Shoe Coverings, Clothing Coverings, Goggles, and Head Coverings.

If you, as an owner or manager, are attending a service request, depending on the job at hand, be sure to give consideration to the additional protective equipment you can use to help protect yourself and others. If you are an owner or manager then ask your tenant, be sure to prepare the workspace, including making a pathway, and advise persons inside the unit that someone will be entering to perform the maintenance. Working together is imperative to promoting a safe, clean and COVID-19 free environment for all parties involved.

When addressing specific duties or necessities, be sure to use these helpful tips to help keep everyone healthy:

  • HVAC (Air Conditioning) Filters – As more and more of us are staying indoors, we need to replace our filters to maintain good circulation of air in our households. The best practice is to have tenants remove filters and leave it outside for a technician to dispose of after leaving a new filter. If not, assist in making task for technician as uncomplicated as possible to avoid additional time and interaction
  • Preparing a Path to Issue – Whether it be a bathroom faucet leak, broken window, or appliance malfunction, be sure to have the tenant clear out a straight path or help clear a path to minimize space and contact with items.
  • Sanitize Your Way Out – After completing the task at hand, be sure to sanitize all the items you or your tools have touched. As you leave the unit, trace your steps back out and be sure to sanitize any possible items you may have touched on the way in.

Lastly, and not least, be sure to constantly communicate with your residents. Keep them informed about each precaution you are taking part in. As managers or technicians, continually speaking about the protocols you are taking, each and every safety measure you perform to help prevent the spread and the act of sanitizing items touched or areas of high traffic, conveys the message that you are ensuring the best and safest outcome.

In addition, by following these precautions, you will be communicating the highest level of care and concern for your residents, employees, and vendors. Placing proper hygiene practices or social distancing signs also relays the message that the manager, technician, and ownership are mindful of a tenant’s well-being. So be sure to ask questions and speak about COVID-19 to encourage awareness for how we as a community should act towards one another. Maintenance and service requests are part of our lives. Seemingly equal, COVID-19 is currently a part of our day to day lives. Accordingly, naturally accepting these concepts when dealing with service requests, is something we need to implement even as of yesterday!