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For the last week extreme heat has baked the west and southwest coast of the nation. Stories abound of melting roads, shoes and cooking on cars. These stories are only a small sample of what happens when extreme heat is applied to assets. Without proper inspections during and after the heat wave, disasters are sure to occur.

Extreme Heat is Amplified Impacting Exposed Assets

Dealing with extreme heat is much like waiting out a severe storm such as a hurricane. There is not much one can do until it passes except make sporadic inspections on critical assets to monitor the damage.

Unlike a hurricane, extreme heat conditions can be amplified under the right conditions. This occurs most frequently on dark surfaces such as roads, rooftops and anything made of metal. The darkness of the surfaces collect heat and are much hotter than the surrounding air.

As the heat builds up roads can become hot enough to melt the glue that holds a shoe together. More importantly, infrastructure such as roads can weaken, crack and/or begin to separate as the materials used expand. This week there has been numerous reports, photos and videos of roadways starting to fall apart.

Damage is not limited to roads. Any asset made of metal will also feel the effects of thermal expansion. This would include the smallest rivet to the steel frames of bridges. Even if the asset was designed with expansion joints, the extreme heat can exceed the design specifications.

What is often forgotten is that other materials such as rock also expands under the heat and this will add additional stress to a structure. Unfortunately, the problems of extreme heat do not stop at night or if it rains. In fact, the problems are likely to get to worse.

The cooling of metals causes them to contract which can leave gaps and cracks that moisture can seep into. When moisture is added to metals it starts the corrosion process. Repeating the cycle of heating and cooling over and over places assets at substantial risk of failure.

Prevent Asset Failure with Inspections and Preventive Maintenance

Since virtually every asset is subject to expansion and cooling it becomes imperative that maintenance crews keep a watchful eye on the most susceptible and/or critical assets. The best way to do this is to employ CMMS to generate a checklist to be used for inspections.

Once a checklist has been generated using the CMMS, the list can be downloaded to mobile devices to perform inspections. The inspection should be customized to identify problems and potential
problems.

After the inspections results are uploaded back into the CMMS, asset and maintenance managers can prioritize the work by the need to perform repairs or preventive maintenance. Preventive maintenance is crucial in this situation as it may prevent the asset from failing and costly repairs.

Which assets are inspected depends on their location, known condition, criticality, and industry. Experienced asset managers can use their CMMS to pull up at-risk assets. Some examples of assets to be inspected include but are not limited to:

Facility/Industry/Infrastructure Assets for Heat Related Inspections

  • Roofs and roof joints: Shingles can loosen, Metal roofs superheat, rooftop equipment says “ouch time”.
  • Piping and valves: Expansion and contraction can cause leaks, cracks and flow issues. Undetected leaks or pressure changes can be devastating and expensive to repair.
  • Seals: Seals can fail or leak with the potential for catastrophic consequences if part of fuel lines.
  • Metal window frames with rubber spacers: As the window expands the frames are stressed, rubber spacers soften. Both can cause leaks and frame damage.
  • Parking lots and garages: Parking lots can begin to melt the rubber on tires or start to fall apart.
  • HVAC: A heat wave taxes every HVAC system and this may be one of the most important assets to perform inspections on.
  • Exterior assets: Includes fuel tanks, rooftop water tanks, sheds, pools, sprinkler heads, paint and so on.
  • Fuel lines: ALL fuel lines should be inspected before, during and after an extreme weather event.
  • Fleets: Fleet interiors heat up and can melt plastics, glue and can crack dashboards.
  • Aircraft: Aircraft are only certified to operate between certain temperatures. This is because of how the metal parts expand and cause operating problems.
  • Power lines: Power lines sag in the heat and can short on trees).
  • Oil and gas pipelines: See piping and valves above.
  • Rail lines and amusement park attractions: Rail and amusement ride track may buckle or fail.
  • Flammable equipment: Self-explanatory.
  • Safety equipment: Safety equipment like most assets is only designed to operate under specific conditions. Inspect water hydrants, fire-fighting equipment and all safety devices.

In a nutshell, anything that can get too hot to touch needs to be inspected. No one wants to read about an explosion, bridge collapse or suffering due to failed assets (HVAC).