The importance of America’s facilities engineering, maintenance, and operations professional was underscored on Sunday when nearly 81,000 people sat in total darkness for a few seconds at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The power outage brought Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants to a halt.
“Thanks to America’s facilities engineers, incidents like this are extremely rare,” said Laurence Gration, CEO of The Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE), an organization dedicated to promoting the careers of facilities professionals. “But without proper training, procedures, and fully funded maintenance budgets, AFE believes that incidents like this one would be much more common—and would take far longer to correct when they inevitably do occur.”
Many organizations are quick to cut funding for building maintenance and operations, but Gration said such cost cutting is likely to cause incidents like the one at the Giants football stadium—“although in most cases, on a much smaller scale than at Meadowlands Stadium.”
Gration noted that when facilities like Giants stadium face a power interruption, millions of people become aware of it because of television exposure. But a disruption can occur at any facility, particularly when companies cut their maintenance and operations budgets in ill fated attempts to save money.
“Whether it is Giants Football Stadium or a four-story apartment building at the corner of Elm and Main Streets in Anytown, USA, there are many often overlooked ramifications to cutting maintenance staff and budgets”—including the safety and comfort of the facility’s occupants, the cost of major repairs and systems overhauls, and most of all, the cost of business disruption.
“Our recent informal study of facility owners indicates that only 25% to 30% of building owners consider potential business interruptions to be a significant factor when deciding to cut maintenance and operations budgets,” Gration said. “Hopefully, many of those building owners were watching the game on Sunday—so they can be reminded of the huge potential cost of trying to save money by cutting those maintenance and operations budgets in the short term.”
The $1.6 billion Meadowlands building that opened last spring went completely dark before backup lights almost immediately came on. Play was held up for a total of 11 minutes in the Cowboys’ 33-20 victory over the Giants.
According to The Huffington Post, Mark Lamping, the chief operating officer of the stadium, estimated the complete blackout time as “five to six seconds….The positive is that the emergency preparedness and protocol worked exactly the way it was supposed to work. The systems worked as designed.”