Your phone rings at 2 am Saturday morning. There’s a fire at one of your properties. The fire department is on their way and your Maintenance Manager is frantically trying to manage the situation. It’s all-hands-on-deck and he needs help to arrive ASAP.
The property has a disaster plan – but it’s in the office and no one is allowed to enter because of the fire. Someone surely has a copy in their car, right? But who?
How long will it take to find out who has it? And then for them to relay the right information to the team on site?
And you don’t even want to think about how out of date it probably is…
Feel familiar? Don’t worry – you’re not alone.
There are a lot of disaster plans that look great on paper – but are less-than-helpful in the heat of the moment.
Today, we’re going to talk about
- How to make sure the information you need can actually be used effectively in an emergency.
- There 6 common mistakes most disaster plans make (you’re probably making at least one of them without knowing)
- The difference between disaster plan and disaster implementation plan – and why you need the latter
Is this your disaster plan?
We see four common types of disaster plans:
Type # 1 – An Experienced Staff Member
They (or maybe even you) know the property inside and out. They’ve been through their fair share of emergencies on site, so they know what needs to happen. And they are one of your most valuable employees because, well, your disaster plan is in their head. Every property would be lucky to have someone like this.
Type # 2 – A Binder
You know that big binder that so-and-so put together a few years ago? Creating those binders was a company initiative a few years back and the manager back then spent a ton of time creating a thorough emergency binder. It has tens (or hundreds) of pages on building systems, procedures, vendor lists, etc. – all that stuff you need to know when something goes wrong.
Type # 3 – Files on a Computer
It’s the tech equivalent to your binder. Maybe you have a folder in your computer files with floor plans, contracts with vendors, procedures, resident/tenant list, etc. It’s right there on your computer – all you need to do is power up, log in, find the files and then act on it…right?
Type # 4 – Shared Electronic Solution
This is the even techier version of your binder disaster plan. It may be on your company’s common or shared drive. Or it may be stored in some kind of software, or web or mobile based technology.
Here’s where they all go wrong…
Even with the best information, most disaster plans make one or a combination of these 6 common mistakes that make them less than helpful in actual use.
1. They are not easily accessed
- Can the binder be found? Can you get to it from home at 2 am? Is it in the building…that is currently on fire?
- Is it all in your head or your Maintenance Manger’s head? What if either of you are on vacation? Or changes properties or jobs? Or is covering on call?
- Who has access to your computer? Do they know what to look for and where to find it?
- How long does it take them to get into your shared drive? To find the right file?
- How many phone calls do they have to make to find what they need? (while the water is running, building is filling with smoke, residents/unit owners/tenants are panicking, etc).
2. They are too long and complicated
- Once you find it, do you have pages of information to read to figure out what to do?
- Do you have to click through 10 different sections to find out what Step 1, 2, and 3 are?
3. They only focus on emergency management
- It talks about the building – where the alarms or shut offs are – but says nothing about what should be communicated, to who, by whom, or how to manage the crowd full of panicked residents or tenants looking to you for answers
4. They don’t discuss the “who” – roles and decision-making abilities
- Does it outline what has to be done but says nothing about who should do it, who can decide what, who needs to be communicated with…leaving you with even more questions to answer and decisions to make in the moment?
5. They are written for a familiar audience
- Are the instructions written in a way that only someone who knows the property can use them?
- For example: the water shut off is located in the mechanical room. Where is that? Where in the room? Do you need a key? What exactly are you looking for? How do you shut it off?
6. They don’t have a system for updates and training
- How is the plan updated and kept front of mind…even for years after it’s created?
- How do you make sure it’s not forgotten and left to gather dust…wasting all of your hard work?
These are the most common ways we have seen disaster plans fail – causing the unnecessary damage and cost you wanted to avoid in the first place.
The #1 mistake you make when planning for a disaster
The most common and impactful mistake made in disaster plans is that it focuses only on the WHAT – not the who/when/why/where of how it will be used.
Remember the 5 W’s you learned in school? They apply here, too. And they are what makes the difference between a disaster plan and a disaster implementation plan:
- Disaster Plan: An actively maintained document containing procedures and information needed to prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from emergencies (i.e. the “what” you’re supposed to do)
- Disaster Implementation Plan: A disaster plan taken a step further to plan the “who/when/where/ why/ and how” that equip you to actually use the “what” in real life
So what should your disaster implementation plan include?
Check out this blog post to read about the “6 building blocks your disaster implementation plan should include”!
And if you’re wondering if you have a disaster plan or disaster implementation plan, drop us a note at email@example.com. Our team is happy to help you evaluate what you have and explore any possible areas of improvement.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s about empowering you and your team to manage disasters with confidence, instead of confusion and chaos.