How to prepare, clean and disinfect commercial buildings for COVID-19
Don’t fall for these common myths when planning for or responding to COVID-19
Brought to you by BluSky Restoration Contractors
BluSky Restoration Contractors works with managers and owners of commercial buildings and hospitality properties to develop strategies and plans for dealing with COVID-19. Who should be in the room to develop your building’s plan? BluSky Restoration Contractors will work with your team, using hypothetical situations based on real-life events, to ensure you’re prepared and that your team is on the same page.
This planning and discussion phase is critical for an effective response. If you’re not sure where to begin, call BluSky Restoration Contractors at 888-882-5875 or visit goblusky.com.
For commercial buildings — hotels, apartments and condominiums, hospitals, offices, ski resort lodges, etc. — COVID-19 can be as much a liability risk as it is a health risk.
Any building that’s professionally managed and owned will have to appropriately respond to a positive COVID-19 case or outbreak, but determining what that response looks like varies greatly depending on the type of building and its ownership.
Because there’s no one-size-fits-all answer, it’s essential to incorporate certified cleaning and disinfecting professionals into your planning discussions.
“Each customer we work with has a different financial and legal risk aversion,” said Ryan Rusler, vice president and branch manager at BluSky Restoration Contractors, an emergency service and property restoration company that’s helping commercial buildings improve building hygiene throughout the pandemic. “Building owners want to keep people healthy and have peace of mind that their building is on the higher level of building hygiene, but at what cost?”
What is building hygiene?
Cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting and sterilizing mean different things. In simple terms, cleaning means physically removing unwanted substances
— dirt, germs, viruses, bacteria, etc. — from a surface. When you wash your hands, for example, you’re using soap and rinsing with water to physically remove contaminants and visual dirt, said John Temoyan, vice president at BluSky Restoration.
“That’s cleaning. But when you’re sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilizing, those are chemicals,” he said. “From a simplistic sense, sanitizers reduce the number of disease-causing contaminants; disinfectants are more powerful in that they inactivate them, but not all of them; and sterilizing kills 100% (of the contaminants).”
It’s technically impossible to disinfect a building, but you’ll hear the term thrown around a lot by people or companies trying to get your business.
Certified and trained professionals
As an emergency service company, BluSky is prepared for environmental disasters. Its teams have been working in mountain communities throughout Eagle County and Western Colorado for the last 12 years, handling emergency responses from floods to fires to mold.
“We fix broken buildings. When the calls came out for COVID, we have frontline team members who are trained and certified to wear respirators and other PPE (personal protective equipment), so we’re set up for this type of chaos,” Rusler said.
Watch for scams in times of crises
The team at BluSky has seen it all when it comes to scammers trying to capitalize on a crisis. There are people trying to sell snake oil for mold in buildings, and now they’re trying to sell it as cleaning crews.
“People are out there touting a variety of products, services, and methods that are guaranteeing results,” Temoyan said. “If there’s a profit motive, people will come out of the woodwork. There are unfortunately some really good salesmen selling some really bad things out there.”
Rusler has heard of folks guaranteeing the removal of COVID from buildings, as well as companies claiming they can test for COVID in buildings.
“Even if you could do that, there would be no reasonable way to do it,” Rusler said. “If I sneeze on a desk and two days later I find out I have COVID, unless you swab that exact spot where I sneezed, there would be no way to confirm.”
What’s really happening is homogeneous testing — some randomly selected areas are tested and they come back negative, so a company will claim the space is clear.
“People have an emotional reaction when dealing with environmental issues,” Rusler said. “You have to remove the emotion, step back from the situation and repeat what someone is reading or selling. Does it seem logical? If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”
Proactive vs. reactive
Building owners and managers who want to proactively protect against COVID-19 may choose to hire professionals to regularly clean and apply disinfectant to high-touch areas — places like lobbies, elevators, stair railings, door handles and restrooms.
BluSky likes to work with clients during these planning discussions to determine what makes sense for the customer. They’ll assess risk aversion along with factors such as access, building type and foot traffic.
“If you have a 100-person group and only five are coming into the office, what’s the frequency of professional cleaning and disinfectant application that makes the most sense?” Rusler said.
On the reactive side if there’s a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a building, it’s generally an emergency situation. BluSky’s crews will come in and strategically apply disinfectant to the areas where the infected person had been.
“For both the proactive and the reactive, we prefer to meet with the management of that location, regardless of the type of building, in the initial planning stage,” Temoyan said. “Even in a reactive situation, there needs to be planning.”