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Lessons Learned: Boston Marathon Bombing & COVID-19 Facilities Protocols

Written by Brian Lillard, Vice President, Facilities Management Services

One of the interesting results of the pandemic work from home dynamic is the small glimpse into the home workspaces of our co-workers and customers. Family photos, vacation mementos, and often deer antlers (I live in Texas) pepper the screens of those we converse with throughout the day and bring out a sense of character. The background in my personal home office includes a photo of my alma maters football stadium and, a framed poster from the 2013 Boston Marathon in which I was a participant. The poster from the marathon is the one I get the most questions about. When the inquirer learns the poster is from the 2013 Boston Marathon, questions invariably turn to the bombing and my experience on that fateful day. While I was not directly impacted, I did experience the aftermath that affected so many.


Boston runningFor those who are unfamiliar, the Boston Marathon is a production like few others. The 26.2-mile course begins in the suburban town of Hopkinton and winds through the towns of Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline and finally Boston.  One of the many unique features of the race is the incredible support from start to finish.  Hundreds of thousands of fans line the course providing support and motivation to participants regardless of ability. 


The race itself is a logistical wonder.  With over 116 years of experience the race organizers and, The Boston Athletics Association (BAA), have seen it all.  With over 30,000 participants the mere act of herding them all to the race start line is an achievement, as the organizers must provide course control, hydration, and medical support for an event that begins at 6 a.m. and ends at 6 p.m.  From freezing temperatures, to the record high heat of the 2012 race, to the exploits of Rosie Ruiz, the organizers have had many obstacles to learn from, none of which will compare to 2013’s terrorist bombing.  In each instances the BAA has refined their planning in hopes of better managing similar crises in the future.  In my opinion, the response to the bombing by the BAA could not have been more effective. Communication was key and the BAA did an incredible job of communicating with participants; I received my first email from the BAA just a few hours after the event ended and continued to receive updates weeks after. 


The response of the BAA to the marathon bombings is an excellent example of how to prepare for the unexpected and, provides a parallel between the race and the current pandemic particularly from a facilities maintenance standpoint.


Integrated Facilities Management


This leads to the question, what can you do to best prepare your facilities for future events like the pandemic? Here are recommendations from my peers in TDIndustries Engineering Department and ASHRAE:

  1. Update and refine your emergency plan to accommodate new information and close gaps realized from the current pandemic.
  2. Increased Filtration MERV 13 or higher (based on system type and current operational parameters)
  3. Increased Ventilation (based on system capacity and ability of controls to modulate outside air to not create poor space temperature control.
  4. Employ Ultra-Violet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) to treat cooling coils and drain pans.
  5. Control Humidity levels above 40% relative humidity but less than 60%. Airborne particles travel further in dry air.
  6. Disable strategies that reduce ventilation air such as Demand Control Ventilation or technologies that reduce ASHRAE 62.1 Ventilation rate procedure for calculating require outside air.
  7. Verify equipment is operating and being controlled as necessary to meet design intent- consider increasing periodic maintenance, replace equipment nearing end of useful life.
  8. Controls systems in place for pre- and post-occupancy flush cycles to remove contaminants- Building automation system could be programmed to initiate pandemic mode.
  9. Create a building occupancy plan, how many employees, conference/break and bathroom occupancies, foot traffic flow and janitorial cleaning requirements.


You should consult with an HVAC engineering professional, like TDIndustries, prior to implementing these strategies as some may fall outside of your systems operating parameters.


While we hope to never experience another pandemic or witness a bombing in the future, proper planning can help navigate the situation whenever facing an unprecedented crisis. For more information on ways TDIndustries’ integrated facilities management team can assist, click below.


Click here: Facilities Management Assistance


Categories: Blog   COVID19   Facilities   IAQ   Healthy Buildings