Dec. 9, 2010

Be prepared for winter break

by Paula Van Brocklin

Open or closed?

Winter break schedules

Last year's partial university shutdown during winter break saved nearly $118,000 in energy costs, so university officials again are encouraging departments and units to shut off the lights and lock the doors Dec. 23 through Jan. 2; the shut-down is not mandatory. Officials also acknowledge that employees often take leave during winter break since classes are not in session and campus activity slows down.

According to facilities planning and management, at least 30 buildings will be locked during break, though staff and faculty may be working inside. Building supervisors should contact Bob Currie at FPM by Dec. 22 to indicate whether a building will be closed or to request a temperature setback.

If your department chooses to temporarily close, here are some tips for keeping your offices and buildings safe and energy-efficient.

Turn off the lights and more

  • Shut down all computers, printers and other accessories, such as speakers. Leave your office computer on if you need remote access from home, but power off the monitor, printer, speakers, etc. A computer's sleep mode uses less energy than full power, but information technology services recommends shutting down computers completely to protect data. A machine may be left on during break if it's providing access to a critical application. If possible, plug computers and printers into a power strip and then shut off the power strip before you leave.
  • Turn off and unplug copiers.
  • Shut off and unplug small appliances, like coffeepots.
  • Unplug all chargers for cell phones, MP3 players and similar devices.
  • Check faucets in bathrooms and break rooms to make sure they are completely turned off and not dripping. If you notice a dripping faucet, contact your building's maintenance team.
  • Facilities planning and management staff will adjust building temperatures centrally upon request. If you can manually adjust the thermostat in your office, turn it down to 65 degrees.
  • Close fume hood sashes completely or open them only minimally.
  • Shut down unnecessary climate-controlled plant growth chambers.
  • Shut down cooling water systems to eliminate potential flooding issues.
  • Remember to turn off your office lights and as much public lighting (hallways, bathrooms, conference rooms) as possible before you leave.
  • Check windows to make sure they're shut tight.

Keep in touch

If your department is closing over break, discuss how to handle incoming phone calls. One option is to direct all departmental calls to one voicemail box to be checked periodically by designated employees during the break. Employees also should change their personal voicemail messages. Consider stating the dates you will be absent, and if you'll be checking your voicemail or e-mail messages. If necessary, include an off-campus number where you can be reached.

Wear your boots

Facilities planning and management crews will work reduced hours during winter break. Snow removal will be limited, which means parking lots and building entrances may not be plowed by 8 a.m. FPM staff also will not plow lots or sweep sidewalks for less than 2 inches of snow outside of weekday business hours (Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.).