June 27, 2016
By: Jacques Legrand, Senior Chief Engineer, JLL
Man-made or natural disasters can strike any property in any location at any time, putting even the most seasoned property managers to the test. The key to surviving a crisis situation is to plan, plan and plan some more. Having a disaster response plan in place will save time, money and lives when crisis situations arise. In an emergency situation, every moment brings different challenges and no two problems are alike, here are five ways to prepare for a disaster.
1) Establish close working relationships with tenants and vendors
Maintaining close alliances with critical vendors is absolutely crucial to successful disaster recovery and a simple vendor contract is not sufficient. Engage critical vendors regularly and regard them as an extension of the property management team. Working with critical vendors to ensure the property is operating properly today will help minimize the impact of a disaster tomorrow.
Part of establishing close working relationships with tenants and vendors is making sure the entire building is trained on how to respond in the event of an emergency. Training should include response teams, building owners, vendors and tenants.
2) Have a formal disaster response plan in place
Develop a detailed plan for how your team will react to every type of disaster, whether caused by natural causes, human action or failures in building operations. When developing plans think before, during and after.
- What preventative measures can you take?
- Who are your first responders?
- What’s the game plan immediately following the emergency?
A key part of a formal disaster response plan is a predetermined communication strategy. The usual means for communication may not be available in the wake of a disaster so communication across multiple platforms, including social media, is imperative for clear and consistent messaging.
Once finalized, share the disaster response plan with vendors and tenants, so everyone can respond in concert if and when an emergency occurs. Meet regularly to keep the plans current.
3) Know your property inside and out
Walk through your building regularly, taking note of any changes or abnormalities in structure. Memorize where every shutoff, fire extinguisher and emergency generator lives, and regularly service all of those items to ensure they are in good working order for when you need them.
4) Understand your property’s energy supply
In the event of a disaster, recovery efforts often push building systems beyond their normal usage levels. Emergency lighting, extra fans and vacuums, for example can over-extend the building’s back-up systems, making the problem even worse.
5) Ensure the property is properly insured
Work with an agent or attorney to secure the appropriate amount of coverage. Be sure the plan covers the people who work at the property, not just the structure itself and re-evaluate the program annually. And because insurance can’t cover everything, also have a backup plan. This may require an emergency fund to turn to if coverage is insufficient for the disaster at hand.
Building disasters are often unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean you can’t prepare. Property managers who follow these simple steps can drastically diminish the negative impact of a disaster when it strikes.
Jacques Legrand led the recovery efforts at 1515/1555 Poydras in New Orleans, Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In the years since, he has used his experience to develop best practices and real-life applications for preparing for and responding to disasters. Legrand will leverage this experience, to speak alongside Rob French, principal at AK Preparedness, at the BOMA 2016 International Conference and Expo, June 25 – 28 in Washington, DC. His talk is titled, “How Ready are you? Create and Manage a Disaster Preparedness Plan.”
About the Author
Jacques Legrand is a Senior Chief Engineer and 34 year veteran of JLL. He is responsible for the planning, directing and coordination of engineering operations, tenant construction management, repair and maintenance budgets, engineering training and development programs, and capital project management. He is a LEED Green Associate and holds a BOMI SMA certification.