Understanding what types of Vandalism to expect in your facility, and how to fight back
We’ve all been there…
Slogging down the road, you stop at a gas station and while your car is parked, you take the opportunity to visit the restroom. As you make your way past the slushy machine, past the petrified food-in-a-bag, past the beer fridge, the dread spreading like tendrils inside you. “On a scale of 1 to 10,” you ask yourself, “how awful will this bathroom be?”
It’s an important question to ask yourself as a customer. If this restroom is clean and functional, chances are you’ll make a point to stop here in the future. And maybe while you’re here you’ll buy a pack of gum and a gallon or 2 of gas, almost as a thank you to the station for taking such good care of the facility. This is called customer loyalty.
As a facility maintenance team, it’s an equally important question to ask, no matter the type of facility you manage. Gas station restrooms are the bare baseline, imagine a place where customers actually expect a clean restroom (hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, etc.) places where you could not only not earn customer loyalty, but actively lose it. Considering the type of customer you serve and what sort of loyalty you hope to build is key when evaluating the right types of vandal resistant solutions to employ.
There are 4 primary motivations for vandalism, each of which can be seen most often in certain types of facilities
Intent to protect or improve oneself
In most consumer facing restrooms, the most common damages we encounter stem from customers attempts to protect themselves.
Number one, most people kick the flush valves. Most of the time, kicking the flush valve is not an attempt to break the toilet, but a desire for personal hygiene. There’s something inherently icky about sharing touch-points in a public toilet. It’s why the paper gasket is provided. This also extends to all manner of creativity in keeping possessions off of the floor, and gaps in the partitions covered, sometimes leading to damaged partitions.
Number two, due to low-flow faucet regulations, we often find aerators removed. For the customer, this is simply an attempt to get more water for washing hands. For the facility, this becomes a potentially costly code violation.
Intent to harm the facility
This is most often seen in public facing restrooms, such as parks, schools, and grocery stores. It usually involves graffiti, carvings, broken mirrors or other hardware. Unfortunately, because of its public facing nature, this is the most common, most recurring, and most discouraging for your law-abiding customers.
We’ve seen everything from stainless steel partition doors punched through in a women’s restroom at a high school, to pencils bludgeoned through electronic sensors on faucets. In the age of TikTok challenges, this is commonplace in many high school restrooms. This type of vandalism messages to your customers (teachers and students) that the place is unsafe. Not only is it a bad look, it lowers your capacity for water services to your customers and if extreme enough can cause the facility to shut down.
Intent to steal
Often this is related to raw goods, like scrap metal that can be recycled for cash, or whole goods that can be resold. From the facility perspective, the outcome is similar to the Intent to Harm motivation, Intent to Steal results in making a facility unusable, by removing its ability to function. Also like the Intent to Harm motivation, this is most common in public restrooms that have low visibility, such as in parks. It is much less common in business offices and hospitals.
Recently, a parks customer of ours had an entire outdoor bottle filling station stolen, costing the district in both repair parts and labor. Depriving the community of clean drinking water at the park.
Intent to harm themselves or others
There are whole product lines dedicated to anti-ligature and vandal resistant restroom equipment. These are intended for the highest risk restrooms, such as in prisons, mental health wards, and public parks. In many of these cases, the customer is government entities , and their mandate is to limit liability for individuals who may harm themselves or others, either intentionally, or due to altered states of mind. It’s not uncommon to see addicts remove metal caps and aerators in order to cook drugs in them. This sort of desperation can be the mother of invention.
Specifically in prison settings, the anti-vandal equipment can also serve as a deterrent to escape attempts. For example, we had a prison customer with an inmate who attempted an escape by creating a flood, thus rendering the guards tasers useless. In that scenario, had the prison installed the Programmed Water Technology (PWT) solution from Sloan, they would have been able to inactivate the flush valve and faucet, stopping the flooding.
If you do find yourself with a vandalism problem, give us a call at 800.336.8900. We have extensive experience helping our customers find the right vandalism deterrent for a wide variety of applications.