How to train data center facilities teams for emergencies

Your guide to preparing for critical scenarios and ensuring continuity of data center operations

Data center personnel must be prepared to respond quickly to various emergency situations, from utility outages to equipment failures.

Empowering your entire facilities team—from engineers to technicians— to maintain uptime in an emergency is critical in a complex environment.

A robust training program can prepare data center facilities teams to react swiftly and effectively to all kinds of emergencies. But how can you ensure that your facilities management team is ready?

Implementing successful emergency operating procedures (EOP) training programs

Because technicians with different experience levels require different degrees of training, data centers should provide one program for new hires and a different one for experienced engineers.

Specifically, site-experienced engineers should undergo regular skills assessments and receive training as needed based on the results.

Both new and experienced team members should be trained on EOPs for responding to equipment failures and building emergencies.

Three ways facilities managers can conduct emergency training sessions:

1. Scenario modules

Scenario modules, often presented using e-learning tools, can be completed individually or in groups as a team-building exercise. These modules prompt trainees to review the actions found in the site-level EOPs, engage in site-level discussions about operating equipment outside of normal operations, and practice response sequences for typical equipment failures. They also highlight operational expectations for delivery of service and the removal of risks to the critical environment.

Scenario-based EOP training example:

A scenario-based EOP training module might depict three different sets of infrastructure during a utility outage. One scenario shows an alarm going off, prompting the trainee to click on the building management system to silence the alarm, then bring up the log and follow the remaining steps to complete the scenario. If the trainee misses a step or chooses the wrong action, the module explains why and guides them along the correct pathway.

2. Mock drills

In contrast to scenario modules, which can be conducted anywhere, mock drills present EOP training in-person and on-site. A proctor walks the team through performing the EOPs without touching the equipment so as not to interrupt service. Drills help technicians understand where devices are located and exactly how to perform the various EOP activities. These drills can also include roundtable discussions where the team reviews EOPs to validate that they make sense and that whoever is responsible for performing the EOPs fully understands all aspects of the procedures.

Mock drill EOP training example:

If it takes two people to move a breaker during an outage, but there’s only one technician on-site, the technician can enlist the help of a security guard. In a mock drill, both the technician and the security guard would practice this procedure to prepare for a real-life outage.

3. Virtual and augmented reality-based training

Finally, while not yet widely adopted in business settings, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) technology also have the potential to become valuable tools for training data center facilities teams to deploy EOPs. VR headsets allow users to navigate a 3D virtual environment that matches the real-life data center while sitting at a conference room table or even in their own homes.

Within this virtual space, trainees can practice tasks and gain familiarity with sophisticated equipment before entering the physical facility. Unlike VR, which completely replaces the user’s vision with the virtual environment, AR uses smartphones or smart glasses to add overlays to the user’s vision, creating a mixed-reality setting.

Industries like aerospace and manufacturing are already using immersive VR and AR technology to train new workers, removing confusion and ambiguity in the learning process. As these technologies become more widely available, data centers can incorporate AR and VR into their training processes to support risk-free learning in complex, critical environments.

Download JLL’s guide to learn more about how you can prep your facilities management team with the skills they need to succeed in any emergency.

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