Emergency maintenance is required when a malfunctioning asset threatens to cause costly damage or impede operations. One good example is a restaurant freezer malfunctioning while stocked with expensive food. Another is something that happened to my business late one winter’s night in Calgary, when the outside temperature hovered around minus thirty-five degrees Celsius. We had to momentarily open the loading dock’s big overhead door, and then it jammed and wouldn’t shut when a spring snapped. Cold air began swirling into the warehouse packed with expensive freeze-sensitive emulsions.

Equipment failures like these happen in spite of routine maintenance programs—it’s just a fact of life that there are no guarantees. However, the impact of an event requiring emergency maintenance can be minimized by a simple measure: a list of emergency contact numbers. Fortunately we had the door maintenance company’s twenty-four-hour emergency number on a sticker right on the door. A hastily assembled wall of cardboard boxes, a cranked-up gas furnace, and the door maintenance person’s prompt response saved the inventory from freezing.