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Good housekeeping can reduce risk of SARS.

SARS represents the latest challenge that commercial real estate people must navigate. Several days ago, amidst a growing number of cases, doctors from the Center For Disease Control & Prevention in Atlanta emphasized that "good housekeeping" was important to controlling the spread. They advised using "standard disinfectant to kill the bacteria on surfaces.

Taking that mandate, it is vital that commercial property managers demonstrate a "battle plan" of confidence and integrity in the "good housekeeping" of their sites. Unfortunately, on top of being hit with additional costs for "homeland security" the aggressive mode of "good housekeeping" is going to mean a significant, extra expense. But what is the unthinkable alternative?

A building where a person is identified with SARS can trigger a panic or fear to the degree that people will not want to be on the premises because of the perceived risk or exposure. A SARS case has the potential to disrupt a property's normal functions and activities.

It can severely de-value the property overnight. Just imagine the consequences if your property was "quarantined."

It is well-known that a major midtown Manhattan hotel was cited about two weeks ago with one of the first cases of SARS. The hotel is now having its difficulties with occupancy. (I am told by a friend hosting a convention there in a few weeks that his regular attendees are now reluctant to stay at that site.)

Does anyone remember "Legionnaire's Disease" about 20 years ago. It was a bacteria supposedly spread through air contact with water from a building's air conditioning system. The graceful, old Bellevue Stratford Hotel in downtown Philadelphia was highly publicized with a few cases of it. Within a few years, the hotel closed up.

"Good housekeeping" means the property manager's pledge that all precautions and preventative measures have been taken to eliminate hazards. Universally, a building's owners, tenants, users, and visitors want to be re-assured at this time.

Especially in a property like a hotel or a transportation center that lends itself to transient traffic or casual visitors it is important to begin using the appropriate chemical products that eliminate surface bacteria, and germs, Laro, which has the responsibility for cleaning many public properties has the awareness to bring effective chemical agents for different situations be it for restrooms, medical facilities, a hotel premises, a lobby, etc.

Examples of some of these include: ammonia-free glass cleaner, germicidal cleaner and disinfecting agents for restrooms, PH neutral cleaner on a floor, detergent agents on carpets, and others.

The "good housekeeping" strategy means arming personnel with refresher training, so as they clean they just don't "go through the motions." They need to be more aware and perform their work with vigilance in this crisis, so that every square foot of a property's space is accounted for. It includes thoroughly wiping down all surfaces, and using HEPA vacuums on carpets, walls, drapery, etc.

This effort needs to be inspected by the cleaner, inspected again by supervisors, and inspected again by quality control personnel who will continue interviewing the cleaners and viewing the physical site.

In terms of germs and bacteria through air contact, the best industry practice for environmental inspection of ventilation systems is a minimum of once a year.

It includes a video crawler in air ducts with environmental swipe tests to detect microbial contamination. Unfortunately, it is widely known that many property managers forego this project and may do it every few years, or even only when a known problem surfaces.

During the SARS crisis, not only should this initiative be carried out now, but it should be re-done every few months. It is critical to isolate the ducts applying anti-microbial agents that are approved for duct work. Again, special HEPA vacuuming should be used. In some cases, for airborne germs and bacteria, ultra-violet lighting is being used.

And if it is known that a person was sick with SARS on the site, cleaners should be wearing proper masks, booties, gloves, and "HAZMAT" suits.

We all know the havoc and heightened concern that the presence of anthrax caused by terrorists, created over a year ago. There does not appear to be any terrorism to blame for SARS. However, its contagion has already affected many more people than those exposed to anthrax.

By a property manager making this solid commitment and communicating it to the users and visitors of a premises, it can go a long way toward minimizing the potential for tragedy to strike.

Bertuglia is the director of Long Island operations for Laro Service Systems, Inc. and Harvey is vice president of technical development for Tradewinds/Windswept/Environmental Restoration.
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Article Details
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Author:Bertuglia, Robert
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 30, 2003
Words:768
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