In both industrial and residential settings, emergency maintenance becomes crucial when there’s an immediate threat to lives, property, or assets. Take a processing plant, for example: emergency maintenance is the go-to solution to ensure the facility remains safe and operational. On the other hand, in residential scenarios, emergency maintenance is indispensable for protecting human health and safety.

What is Emergency Maintenance?

Emergency maintenance or breakdown maintenance is what is done when an asset or equipment unexpectedly breaks down or undergoes a sudden change, posing an immediate threat to health and safety.

By definition, these emergencies occur without warning, making it impossible to schedule emergency maintenance. Nevertheless, every maintenance program must have well-thought-out plans to tackle emergencies when they happen.

When is Maintenance Considered to be Emergency Maintenance?

People often get confused about emergency maintenance compared to other unplanned types of maintenance. The main mix-ups occur between emergency maintenance, run-to-fail maintenance, and reactive maintenance. Because these three types of maintenance share similarities, they may seem interchangeable. However, some key differences set them apart.

Reactive maintenance occurs when something breaks unexpectedly and there’s no plan to prevent or fix it beforehand. What makes emergency maintenance different from this lies in the timing and urgency of repairs – emergency maintenance only occurs to assets that can cause serious repercussions with their issues and breakdowns. In contrast, reactive maintenance can happen to any asset, not just those that pose significant risks to production and safety.

Run-to-fail maintenance, on the other hand, is a deliberate decision by the maintenance team to let the equipment run until it breaks down. In contrast to emergency and reactive maintenance, this decision is proactively planned because it has been determined to be the most cost-effective and efficient way to use the asset. While run-to-fail maintenance means that nothing is done to prevent failure, it’s a strategy often used on non-critical assets that are quick to repair, have short lifespans, or aren’t designed for repair.

Examples of Emergency Maintenance

Emergency maintenance is prompted by specific situations, typically falling into one of three scenarios:

  1. Health and Safety Threats: Urgent maintenance is initiated when a maintenance issue poses a threat to health and safety. Examples include floods near electrical systems or the failure of protective guards on machinery with hazardous moving parts.
  2. Critical Asset Failure: This occurs when a vital production asset experiences serious faults leading to complete failure, immediately impacting production or safety.
  3. Preventive Shutdowns: Systems are intentionally shut down to prevent the failure of connected systems. An example is sections of a power grid shutting down to avoid cascade failures across the larger grid.


Emergency Maintenance vs Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance deals with problems after they occur, prioritizing the restoration of functionality over preventive measures. Emergency maintenance is a subset of reactive maintenance, specifically dealing with urgent situations. The key disparity lies in the time sensitivity and critical nature of emergency maintenance compared to the broader category of reactive maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance vs Emergency Maintenance

The core idea of preventive maintenance is to avoid breakdowns by performing necessary maintenance on assets on a set schedule. This means doing things such as scheduled checks, routine tasks, and following maintenance schedules. On the other hand, emergency maintenance is a reaction to immediate problems, which means it is impossible to prepare for them in the way you can prepare for other situations with preventive maintenance. However, emergency maintenance can be avoided by making sure your team engages in preventive maintenance, so problems are caught or prevented before they happen.

How to Steer Clear of Emergency Maintenance

Avoiding emergencies needs a proactive approach. That’s where preventive maintenance strategies come in. This involves setting up schedules, doing regular checks, and quickly dealing with any needed repairs or replacements, all so that issues can be preemptively caught or prevented.

Root cause analysis also plays a great role in a proactive operational strategy. Practicing RCA helps organizations figure out recurring problems and solve the underlying issues so those problems don’t happen again. Take the example of a burst water pipe – after fixing the damaged section, the maintenance team can execute an RCA to identify its cause and prevent similar incidents.

When you’re trying to avoid emergency maintenance, using a CMMS is a game-changer. If you’ve got one with preventive maintenance capabilities built in, it won’t just focus on fixing things after they break – it will also give you the knowledge and tools you need to plan and enact proactive measures for preventing emergencies. But how, exactly, does a CMMS do this?

  1. Plan Preventive Maintenance

    A preventive maintenance schedule helps teams plan and execute regular maintenance tasks in advance. It helps organize inspections, routine upkeep, and timely fixes, ensuring potential issues are addressed or prevented before turning into emergencies.

  2. Keep an Eye on Asset Conditions

    When you enter data into a CMMS, you get a real-time look at how assets are doing based on things such as their temperature, pressure levels, and more. You can program a CMMS to tell you when an asset reaches a certain reading so that you know when to take action to prevent a disaster and costly repairs.

  3. Find the Root Cause

    In case incidents do happen to occur, a CMMS aids in root cause analysis. The data you enter into it helps you identify patterns and possible causes of the issue. This way, maintenance teams can take corrective actions to stop similar emergencies from happening in the future.

  4. Handle Work Orders Efficiently

    Quick and organized work order management is achievable with a CMMS. When you use a CMMS this way, you make sure maintenance tasks are assigned and completed as fast and as efficiently as possible by the right teams, preventing small issues from recurring or possibly turning into emergencies.

  5. Manage the Lifespan of Assets

    If you have a CMMS or EAM (enterprise asset management) system, you can use the data you collect about your assets to keep on top of their life cycles. This data will allow you to see how assets are performing as well as their maintenance histories, which allows maintenance teams to plan and prioritize maintenance and replacements accordingly.

  6. Improved Communication and Teamwork

    Lastly, a CMMS boosts communication and collaboration among maintenance teams, leads, managers, and supervisors alike. Having quick access to information and efficient communication channels means faster response times and better coordination during important situations. Plus, all the data you track can be easily used to paint a picture of maintenance from the discovery of the problem to the completion of the maintenance task.

Execute Efficient Emergency Maintenance with NEXGEN

Except for incidents caused by natural disasters, building emergencies typically result from human error, unexpected machine failures, or procedural flaws. Using a computerized maintenance management system like NEXGEN to automate maintenance can minimize the consequences and hasten emergency response by:

  • Quickly scheduling work orders and notifying the right members of your maintenance team.
  • Speeding up the diagnosis process with instant access to asset maintenance history.
  • Facilitating real-time communication and coordination among different members of your maintenance team.
  • Accelerating the repair process with instant access to maintenance checklists, step-by-step safety instructions, and similar documents.

Curious about what NEXGEN can do for you? Click the link below to schedule a demo with us today.