The recent hurricane on the East Coast may be over, but the cleanup process is just now beginning. Beyond debris pickup, property managers and owners across the area are learning what preparations worked well, and what they can do better next time.
Regardless of your location, this is a good time to ask yourself if you would have been ready to handle Sandy. While those of us who were just temporarily inconvenienced may be ready to thank our lucky stars and move on, disasters such as these should move us to preventative action.
Thankfully, the fourth edition of Before and After Disaster Strikes: Developing an Emergency Procedures Manual from the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) has arrived on the scene just in time to help property managers and other owners get started on this vital, yet daunting process.
Far from just counting fire extinguishers and first aid kits, this book offers checklists of the more obvious risk management activities (broken out by both disaster and building types), and a comprehensive look at the more esoteric, easily forgotten elements of disaster planning. Are you storing the right types of information backups, so you can get back to normal business operations ASAP? Do you have the right kind of insurance? How will you get the word out to tenants, as well as outsiders and the media?
However, the main purpose of this book is to help you establish an emergency procedures plan, including considerations such as how tenant profiles can change the nature of your plan, how incident reporting procedures should work, and more. This handbook also includes a helpful overview of the key emergency management players whose knowledge and specialization you should tap to create your plan. Also, this book covers federal laws governing your emergency response, so you can plan in compliance.
Turning back to Sandy and friends, Before and After Disaster Strikes notes that, in the U.S., 63 million permanent residents live in hurricane-prone zones, with more arriving as tourists. Here are some tips for how to prepare for the next Sandy from IREM’s chapter on hurricanes:
- Consider purchasing permanent storm shutters for windows. If that investment turns out to be too costly, have ⅝-inch marine plywood pre-cut for all of your windows ahead of time, so that this protective barrier is on site and ready to install.
- Get flood insurance. Most property and weather-related insurance does not include this in flood-prone zones. Don’t assume you can pick this up last-minute, either; most flood insurance has a 5-day waiting period before it goes into effect.
- Make sure your emergency management team knows:
- how to shut off utilities
- locations of gas pilot lights
- how HVAC systems are controlled
- procedures for securing hazardous materials on site
- Consider purchasing back-up systems, including:
- portable water-removal pumps
- battery-powered emergency lighting
- gasoline-powered generators