AHI Facility Services has had a pandemic plan in place since the H1N1, or swine flu, pandemic of 2009. It is included in the safety manual provided to every new customer, and is revisited each year with existing customers. Communicating with customers the importance of pandemic preparedness also includes educating them about the role they play, says Haddock.

“We educate about things like proper hand hygiene — making sure they’re washing their hands properly, using antibacterial products — and cough etiquette. We encourage them to stay at home and contact their doctors if they feel sick,” says Haddock.

AHI also provides extra hand sanitizing stations near restrooms and common areas, and asks customers to provide sanitizing wipes for employees to use to wipe their work stations and areas.

A cleaning and disinfecting strategy, part of the company’s pandemic plan, is implemented to prioritize every conceivable touch point, including all door handles and hand railings, every restroom touch point, and common area touch points such as elevator buttons, lobby phones, coffee and beverage areas, vending machines, and tables and chairs.

“We can do all the touch-point cleaning possible, but it’s also key for people to understand that they have a part to play as well. People need to be educated about the importance of personal hand hygiene, and empowering them to take care of themselves properly helps prevent the spread of any germ,” says Haddock.

While some BSCs have a more general plan that outlines a change or increase in cleaning processes and procedures during a pandemic outbreak, others provide specific instructions for cleaning each specific infectious disease. San Diego-based Pristine Environments addressed the Ebola scare with an Ebola-specific plan, says Naser Gjeloshi, senior vice president, East Region.

“The flu is airborne so it’s a little bit harder to contain, but Ebola is actually easier to contain, as it is only spread through bodily fluids,” says Gjeloshi. “With most disinfecting procedures, you go to furthest area of the room and work your way toward the exit. But with Ebola, you start at the entrance and work your way through the room then come back to the exit, so you’re disinfecting as you go rather than the traditional way. Workers would have to wear special protective suits and respirators and use very specific PPE procedures.”

Pristine also designated and trained certain employees to oversee and perform additional cleaning during an Ebola outbreak, says Gjeloshi.

Internal communication is also very important during a pandemic outbreak. For example, Pristine Environments communicated about Ebola in English and Spanish with its employees, and stressed that they shouldn’t worry about their jobs if they needed to stay home because they were sick or taking care of a sick family member.

Communicating with customers about the importance of cleaning in the context of pandemics is a good way to get on their radar screens and drive home the value of having an expert BSC.

“It’s important that building service contractors communicate the valuable role of cleaning in preventing the spread of disease in terms that are relevant to building owners and managers,” says Balek. “All too often, [facility executives] view cleaning as a cost to be minimized, therefore it is important that BSCs credibly communicate the economic value of effective cleaning.”

Having a plan in place helps differentiate BSCs from the competition, building a level of comfort and trust and providing an additional value to customers.

“We were prepared, and customers were very impressed that we had something in place,” says Gjeloshi. “We may not technically be the first responders, but we are in the buildings and we clean the buildings, so most of the time, clients rely on us to be prepared.”

Lisa Ridgely is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee. She is the former Deputy Editor of Contracting Profits.

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Cleaning, Disinfecting Can Stop Spread Of Illness