Expect the Unexpected

By Barbara Hale |

December 27, 2018 |

Updated August 4, 2021

4 minutes

How property managers can prepare for any situation.

In the world of property management, it’s not enough to expect the unexpected. You need to prepare for it. From severe weather to power outages to unannounced resident parties that are getting a little out of hand, a well-thought-out preparedness plan can guide your team through any surprises.

The first step is to be proactive in creating a comprehensive emergency plan. Preparedness makes the difference between staying in control of an unpredictable situation and intensifying potential stress during a challenging time.

But how, exactly, do you prepare for a situation that you haven’t encountered yet? By keeping your plan structured, consistent and clear. Here are 10 key elements in a strong preparedness plan, and the results will help you respond efficiently and effectively to any incident encountered.

1. Establish a clear first step.

In a stressful scenario, the “deer in headlights” reaction is common. For your team to react quickly, you’ll need to establish a straightforward first step for all the members of your team when an incident occurs.

2. Delegate key people for immediate action.

That initial notification should spur key members of your team to take action. Whether it’s maintenance teams, security personnel or IT staff, create an immediate “go team” or person for any type of incident.

3. Create a list of key people who need to be notified.

First responders aren’t the only ones that need to know what’s happening. From residents to shareholders to executives, make sure you are prepared to notify key stakeholders immediately – and make sure to designate who should contact them.

4. Establish a comprehensive messaging plan (and backup plans).

Those contact lists are useless if you can’t get in touch with them. Identify primary, secondary and tertiary methods of delivering key information in case the power is out, the phone lines are down or your PA system is damaged.

5. Identify and train key media spokespeople.

Whether you want them to or not, some incidents attract media attention – and that attention can drive even more stress and confusion in a time of crisis. It’s essential to select and train key media spokespeople that can address the media while the rest of your plan is in motion. If you have several spokespeople, ensure their messaging is consistent. If reporters approach other members of your staff for interviews, make sure your staff puts them in touch with your communications director.

6. Get all the right resources in the right places.

You won’t just need emergency power generators, sump pumps and building materials to recover from a natural disaster. You’ll also need to make sure your infrastructure is on high ground and easily accessible if a disaster strikes. Sometimes the “right place” means moving things out of harm’s way: In the case of a hurricane or high winds, make sure furniture is moved inside (or even placed in the pool) to mitigate injuries and property damage. 

7. Keep your business running.

Ultimately, an incident shouldn’t bring your entire operation to a halt. In addition to addressing a challenging situation, your team must be prepared to maintain key business operations, even with a smaller staff and limited access to systems.

8. Practice your plan thoroughly.

Once your plan is down on paper, the real work begins! Everyone on your team must understand their roles and responsibilities, and they’ll need to put them in action through a series of dry runs and dress rehearsals. With a well-trained team, snapping into action during a crisis will become instinctive.

9. Revise your plan as needed.

Here’s another great reason to practice, practice, practice: Some plans simply work better on paper. Dry runs and rehearsals may identify flaws in your plan, giving your team a chance to address them before a real incident occurs. New technologies, team members and chains of command may also require you to retrain your staff and revise your preparation plan.

10. Reach out to your management company for tips, protocols and support.

In challenging times, one of the most important things to remember is that you’re not alone. Your management team should always be able to lend advice, deploy more resources and help you through the situation as a team. They should be the calm amid the storm.

Once your plan is in place – and thoroughly practiced – the most important piece of advice is to stay level-headed. Good decisions are rarely made in “panic mode,” and panic is often a response to uncertainty and unpreparedness. With a solid, clear-cut and well-understood response strategy in place, you’ll eliminate a lot of anxiety.

For information on how to create a comprehensive preparedness plan, reach out to Village Green. Barbara Hale is Executive Vice President for Village Green.