When Disaster Strikes, IRU to the Rescue

Published Date
March 24, 2023

 When Disaster Strikes, IRU to the Rescue!

Photo: IRU Equipment
Just a sampling of the equipment stocked by IRU to deal with
emergency situations

While most UMD employees are enjoying weekends and holidays, a committed team of Facilities Management (FM) staff is hard at work addressing broken pipes, floods, power outages, and other potentially damaging issues on the UMD campus. Members of the FM Incident Response Unit (IRU) are on campus 24/7, all year long. And when disaster strikes, they leap into action. 

The IRU was established in 2017 with a primary mission to respond to incidents that occur during off hours. FM’s Brian Trest is the IRU Manager and has led the group since its inception. Along with Brian, a team of ten specialists and an assistant manager maintain 24/7 coverage including campus holidays. 

Brian describes the IRU as a quick reaction force and a force multiplier for FM. “Typically, IRU staff are the first on the scene of an incident,” said Brian. All members of the IRU have received FEMA incident command training and manage incidents through the Incident Command System, which coordinates with public safety responders. 

The unit responds to calls for a variety of incidents, including HVAC system alarms, fire alarms, trapped elevator passengers, leaks, floods, utility outages, and basic maintenance complaints. “My job is definitely one where every day is different,” said Brian.  “It can also be interesting when interacting with customers. Most know that if I am calling them, it is usually because something has occurred in their spaces. I get a lot of groans or ‘oh, no what happened?’”

The IRU also responds to unique calls for assistance from members of the UMD community. Some of the more unusual requests have included help recovering cell phones dropped down storm drains, moving tractor-trailers stuck on curbs, locating lost pets, university trees falling onto private homes, vehicles driven down masonry staircases, stolen stop signs, and numerous weather events.

The IRU’s response begins with a rapid dispatch to the incident location for evaluation of what has occurred and a determination of the resources needed to address the situation. The team performs triage and works to stabilize the situation.  “Our vehicles are fitted with equipment such as dewatering pumps, leak diverters, essential tools, and building materials to quickly stop the problem from escalating,” said Brian. After triage, IRU specialists transition the incident from response to recovery. As repair teams arrive on the scene, the IRU works in a support role providing building access, logistical support, additional manpower, and any other assistance that may be needed. 

Throughout the incident, IRU specialists maintain communication with the Customer Response Center and FM leadership to ensure that customers and stakeholders receive timely updates and understand how the incident is being addressed and how long recovery will take. The IRU staff also documents every incident, capturing the conditions with photos, videos, maps, and observations for later review and creation of an incident report. 

“Being able to guide customers through the process and mitigate impacts to the best of our ability is gratifying for my team and I,” said Brian. “Our best days are when we catch a problem before it gets big, and no one ever has to know or hear about it.”