The universal truth about disasters and emergency situations is that they almost always take you by surprise, giving you little or no time to react. That’s why it’s critical to have a comprehensive response plan in place. We are fairly certain that most management companies have already developed some sort of plan, but how often are those plans reviewed to ensure that they are current? And how well are they communicated to all potentially affected parties?
Following is a quick review of the steps necessary to create and execute an effective emergency response plan.
Anticipate the Worst
First consider everything that could possibly go wrong. Depending on the natural hazards that exist in your geographic area, this could include flooding, ice storms, hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, etc. — as well as the emergency situations that are common threat regardless of location, such as fire, gas leaks and power outages. Also, depending on the location or demographic composition of your communities, there could be other possible threats such as increased incidents of trespassing and violence.
Once you have created a comprehensive list of all possible threats, develop a plan of how your staff and residents within affected communities will deal with them and document that plan thoroughly.
Consider emergency scenarios that will require residents to either evacuate or take shelter in place. If you must evacuate residents, where will they be evacuate to? And if it’s a “shelter in place” scenario, do you have all of the necessary supplies to make sure your staff and residents are as comfortable as possible? (e.g. bottled water, flashlights, batteries, etc.)
Especially don’t forget to consider and document the location and special needs of residents who may require assistance in emergency situations such as those with mobility issues or hearing, visual or mental impairments. All such details can be stored in your property management software’s CRM database, giving staff instant look-up access, even remotely using mobile devices.
Communicate the Plan
Having the best plan in place does nothing if no one knows about it. With a residents portal you can keep an emergency procedures document in a convenient library or “online bookstore”, encouraging new and existing residents to download and familiarize themselves with the content. This saves printing and administration costs and also allows you to easily provide updated documents as required.
You will almost certainly need to communicate important information and instructions to staff and residents during times of emergency or special circumstance. A residents’ portal allows you to quickly broadcast messages en masse via email, text msg and the portal message center, ensuring the best possible chance that your urgent messages will be received in a timely manner.
Train the Troops
Assemble a committed team of staff and volunteer residents who will be willing and able to quickly jump into action if required. Provide periodic “refresher” training and remember to bring new employees and volunteers up to speed. And although no one really looks forward to these events, it’s imperative to “train” your residents on what to do in case of emergency, by conducting periodic fire drills and other evacuation procedures.
Test & Take Stock
Make sure all properties under your management are 100% ready should disaster strike. This means regularly testing all fire prevention and repression equipment such as smoke detectors, alarms, extinguishers and sprinklers. Also critical to test regularly and keep in good working order are back up power generators and emergency lighting systems.
And remember to refresh and replenish supplies that may get used up or expire over time, such as water and batteries. The maintenance module of INFO-Tracker™ property management software makes it easy to schedule routine maintenance and send alerts to your staff to ensure that the schedule is adhered to.
The world and the circumstances within it are continually evolving and changing. That’s why you should revisit your emergency procedures plans at least once every 6 months to ensure that your residents, staff and assets are adequately protected.
And last but not least… Have a “Back Up” Plan
The data of your residents is one of, if not the most valuable asset you have. Be sure to protect it from both environmental and human hazards by hosting your IT systems with a reliable service provider that performs frequent data backups and has iron-clad security protocols in place.
Get your free copy of The Property Manager’s Guide to Proactive Management — And make the time necessary to plan for an extraordinary future.