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Shutdowns and Service Disruptions

Pipes used for heating and cooling

Utility shutdowns and service interruptions are an essential part of construction and renovation projects that have new systems and equipment that need to be connected and integrated with existing infrastructure. Shutdowns are also an unavoidable part of preventative maintenance programs that ensure building systems continue to run safely and smoothly. 

In institutional settings like universities, there is no such thing as convenient timing to shut down services like power, heat or water. TMU has critical operations running continuously across campus — server rooms that require uninterrupted cooling, delicate experiments using sensitive equipment, computers running long-term simulations, live broadcasts and more. Finding a time that minimizes the disruption and that allows Facilities to provide adequate coverage to ensure accommodations and support for critical operations is challenging.

Planned shutdowns

“Planned shutdowns” are scheduled to meet the needs of preventative maintenance programs or non-urgent repairs when systems need to be taken offline for workers to safely access, inspect, repair and replace components.

They are typically scheduled after-hours (overnight or weekends) to minimize the disruption to the occupants of affected areas. Sometimes they must take place during operational hours due to the requirements of contractors, external service providers, utility providers and inspectors.

Scheduling work that requires interrupting services


Facilities Management and Development provides as much advance notice as possible for planned shutdowns. As soon as the need for a shutdown is determined, a range of possible dates for the work is identified and an email to all leaders, researchers and maintenance personnel in the affected area is sent to request their input.

This consultative step helps identify any critical conflicts with the proposed timeline and ensures that any operations that require relocation or support from back-up systems are identified and accommodations prepared.


In addition to consulting our internal user groups, work may need to be coordinated with multiple external service providers. An electrical shutdown requires assistance from Toronto Hydro and may require additional security, elevator maintenance personnel, special equipment service providers, communication network technicians and a number of maintenance and operations personnel to restore all building services and special equipment operations once power is restored.


Once the user-group consultation is complete and dates have been finalized and confirmed with service providers, a notification email is sent to all employees of departments that have space in the affected area and additional reminder is sent a day before the shutdown takes place.


A service alert is also posted online to provide the community with information about the scheduled outage and any updates. The Facilities service alerts feed provides general information about upcoming or current construction work and outages causing access restrictions, excessive noise or utility interruptions on campus. These notices are also copied to TorontoMet Today’s news page under “Bulletins”.

Unplanned Shutdowns

Unplanned shutdowns occur when there are sudden, unforeseen circumstances that require an immediate response to prevent a threat to public safety, a health and safety hazard, substantial asset damage or that without intervention would result in a major failure and prolonged outage. 

Examples include:

  • Burst pipe that causes flooding
  • Steam pipe rupture
  • Downed electrical wire
  • Natural gas leak
  • Power transformer failure or power grid disruption

In some cases, the unplanned outage is caused by external issues, such as an upstream provider’s equipment failure or a utility company’s need to conduct their own emergency repairs. 

Unplanned outages cannot be predicted. This means that in most cases, there is minimal to no notice when they occur.

If an unplanned outage takes place during regular business hours and is expected to have a short-term, temporary local impact that can be mitigated by alternative options, a service alert will be posted on the Facilities website and an emailed notice will be sent to occupants as soon as possible.

Examples include:

  • Temporary water shut-off that interrupts classes in wetlabs and redirects building occupants to alternate washrooms.
  • Chiller malfunction that reduces the cooling capacity in summer causing uncomfortable temperature fluctuations

If an unplanned outage requires the evacuation of a building or presents a significant disruption to the university’s activities, alerts will be sent to the TMU community through TMU Safe, the university’s tool for mass notification for urgent situations that pose an immediate safety or security risk to the community.

Responding to unplanned shutdowns

Facilities Management and Development has staff on site and on call to respond to sudden unplanned outages 24/7. If an unexpected outage occurs staff mobilizes to check conditions to ensure there is no danger to the community and to make sure the cause of the outage is contained. Where necessary, maintenance personnel ensure back-up systems (e.g. emergency power generators) have been deployed