October 30, 2012 — Most Harvard School of Public Health employees got an unexpected day off when Hurricane Sandy barreled into the Eastern seaboard on October 29, 2012. But for a dedicated crew of operations, security, and other core staff, it was just another – very windy and rainy – day at work. Thanks to their careful preparations beginning days ahead of the massive storm, and watchful eyes during the brunt of it, HSPH’s buildings felt only minor impacts from the wind and water. Power stayed on all day, keeping laboratory and other critical functions running without interruption.
“I think we managed very well,” said Ken Wenger, senior director of Operations. “We have aging facilities and there are a few things to take care of, but all the planning paid off.”
Late last week when it became clear that Sandy was going to be a severe storm, HSPH’s Facilities Management Operations team under the leadership of Area Supervisor Alex Machaiek checked all of the School’s buildings from rooftop to basement making sure that everything was securely attached and water tight. Operations staff stayed in constant contact with the University’s Emergency Operations Center and reviewed emergency procedures for situations such as evacuations and long-term power outages.
Wenger and Machaiek praised the efforts of Operations and security staff members who kept an eye on the School throughout the day and into the night. At the height of the storm, a small storage shed in the courtyard broke apart. The team worked together to secure the pieces before they became projectiles and roped off the area to keep passersby out of harm’s way. Staff members in Information Technology and others with critical roles in laboratory experiments and animal care also checked into the School’s mostly empty buildings over the course of the day.
Students heeded the warning to not come to the School, Wenger said. But for one doctoral student in Genetics and Complex Diseases, the thesis-defense show had to go on. Operations staff worked to keep the group, which included visiting relatives, comfortable during the presentation and made sure that they were able to leave safely, Machaiek said. Executive education students in town for a program on health care leadership stayed in their hotel, where they were provided with classroom space and food.
“Everyone was very supportive and understanding during the storm,” said Wenger. From Facilities Management to the representatives from Communications and Student Services on the Local Emergency Management Team, “Everyone was where we needed them, when we needed them. We were able to make informed decisions that led to relatively orderly management of the situation,” he said.
Photo by Mike Mazzanti