You’ve seen it all this year. Tropical storms with record flooding. Sewage backups. Fires. Residents or employees with COVID-19. All that and more – on top of the “normal” chaos of your job. Because dealing with emergencies in property management wasn’t already difficult enough, right?
If 2020 has proven anything, it is that “disasters don’t wait” – which is FEMA’s theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month (hint – it’s this month!). And it’s true – disasters aren’t waiting patiently for the pandemic to end so they can have their turn.
But here is the good news (we need some of that these days!) – you don’t have to wait either. Taking time to prepare for emergencies now goes a long way in reducing the chaos and uncertainty of emergencies – and may very well save lives.
Keep reading for the most essential items to include in your emergency plan!
Consider the 5 W’s of Emergency Communication
Communication is the most important part of managing an emergency. Let me say that again – it is THE most important part of saving lives and protecting your property. Make sure your team knows the answers to the five W’s of emergency communication:
- WHAT is your property’s communication plan? How will you communicate as a team, with residents or tenants, or with upper management?
- WHO is responsible for communicating with each group?
- WHEN will each group be contacted? What needs to be communicated before, during and after an emergency?
- WHERE will the information be shared? On your property Facebook page? On bulletins posted around the property? Will you share it via phone, text or email? All of the above?
- WHY are you communicating the information? Think about the action you want the information to prompt. Do you want residents to do something proactively? Is there something you DO NOT want employees to do? Focus on the purpose and desired result of what you are communicating so everyone has clear expectations.
Avoid Evacuation Confusion
Luckily, situations that require evacuation or sheltering in place do not happen often. That also means that you may not be as confident in your ability to help your team and residents through that situation. Discuss the questions below with your team on a regular basis to help protect your lives and those of your residents.
- What kinds of emergencies might require you to evacuate your building or your town?
- What is your evacuation procedure and route if you need to leave the building or area? Where is this information posted for employee, resident, or tenant use?
- What kind of emergencies might require you to shelter in place? We have seen recent examples of this – active shooter situations, the oil refinery explosion in Philadelphia, chemical spills. Just remember that sheltering in place for these is very different from the shelter in place mandates for COVID-19.
- What would prompt you to quickly shift from evacuation to sheltering in place or vice versa? Some situations, such as a fire or active shooter, may require a sudden change in strategy. If evacuation during a fire is not possible, how should you residents safely stay where they are? In an active shooter scenario, how should you quickly exit the area if remaining in place is no longer safe?
Don’t Forget Special Considerations
As you build your plan, be sure to evaluate any specific needs of your property, residents, tenants, and employees. Including these considerations in your plan will save lives.
Consider factors such as:
- Ages – young children and elderly adults will likely require extra assistance
- Locations frequented – where may people be when an emergency occurs?
- Dietary or medical needs (including special equipment)
- Disabilities or impairments – these could be physical, auditory, verbal, or cognitive
- Cultural, language or religious considerations
- Pets or service animals
Once you have identified the relevant considerations, be sure to discuss the necessary roles that may be required to provide that special assistance. Who would be responsible for providing that special care?
Thinking beyond the WHAT to identify the WHO is key to reducing the chaos of managing emergencies.
Build and Share Your Plan
Once you have the components of your plan, put it all together in a format and location that can be easily accessed at all times.
Think about who may be involved in an emergency on site – both during and after hours. Who may find themselves responding first? Or notifying residents? Or assessing damage? Or coordinating with emergency personnel?
Do you need a backup copy (or several)? Will they be stored electronically, in the leasing office, in a manager’s car?
The world’s best disaster plan will leave you in the dark if it cannot be found or accessed when it is needed. Make sure your plan is stored in a place where it can quickly and easily be used in a time of need.
Disasters Don’t Wait – So Neither Should You
You had a lot on your plate before this year and 2020 certainly has not made your job any easier. We all know having an emergency plan is important – but it rarely feels urgent until you find yourself in thrown into the midst of a disaster.
Do yourself – and those around you – a lifesaving favor. Plan today for tomorrow’s emergency…because disasters won’t wait.
Not sure where to start?
Call SecureCore to explore what a mobile disaster planning platform could do for your team! We provide the planning, training and platform to put your disaster plan in your pocket – ready to be used at all times.Schedule a discovery call today!
Not ready to talk but want to learn more? Check out our website!
Looking for more information?
Be sure to check out FEMA’s National Preparedness Month resources at