1. Have a contact list handy.
It should include work and cell phone contact information for residents in each apartment home, their emergency contacts and a note if they own pets; corporate and onsite management and maintenance personnel; emergency services such as fire, hospital and police; and key suppliers such as insurance companies, utility companies, electricians, plumbers, elevator and fire alarm system workers.
2. Have emergency prep plans.
In the event of a hurricane, all outdoor furniture, grills, trash cans, plants and anything that could be lifted by heavy winds should be secured or moved indoors. In case of a flood, make sure you have sandbags ready to help with flood control. If you know your parking lot doesn’t drain well in certain areas, block the areas ahead of time so residents avoid parking there.
3. Create an action plan for staff.
In some emergencies, it’s a matter of life or death. One of the worst things you can do is not have a step-by-step action plan in place that details who is responsible for what during serious matters. It should be detailed, outlining to-do items from start to finish (such as who to call and what to do) in a scale-down option format. This allows staff to effectively address the matter according to its seriousness and ensure nothing goes astray.
4. Provide ongoing resident communication.
Communication with residents in the state of an emergency is crucial for their safety and it is recommended that you set up alerts to be sent out before, during and after the emergency. We can easily send email and text alerts and updates through our resident software—no one misses a beat.
5. Identify site plans and exits.
Every site plan should include details on how to shut down or repower the property’s gas, water and electric systems. Emergency exits and instructions should be clearly identified in key areas of the building (such as the lobby, next to stairwells and elevators, etc.) so residents are knowledgeable about proper evacuation.
6. Offer temporary housing.
In an emergency, it’s not unlikely that both the property manager and maintenance staff will be onsite 24/7 to ensure that all systems are working properly and the residents are safe. Therefore, it’s not only convenient for you but also for them to make temporary housing arrangements in guest suites or model apartment homes on the premises until the emergency has been addressed.
7. Stock up on water.
Depending on the type of emergency or natural disaster, your local water supply could become contaminated, leaving residents and staff without clean water from several hours to several days. Therefore, it is extremely important to stock up on bottled water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the general rule of thumb is to have two quarts (a half-gallon) of water per person, per day available. Additional reserves will be needed if the property is in a hot climate or if someone is sick, pregnant or with a child. An additional gallon of water should also be stored per day for pets.
8. Have a back-up generator.
Back-up generators become increasingly important to run building elevators and fire-alarm systems if the power goes out. You’ll need plenty of flashlights, power banks for cell phones and walkie-talkies in case cell phones are not an option.
9. Make annual updates.
Staff roles change, new types of disasters arise, equipment gets updated and new national guidelines are reported every year. Therefore, be sure to make annual updates to your emergency plan to ensure you are following the correct protocol and notifying the right personnel.
10. Remain calm.
Aside from creating a plan of action, another important thing is to remain calm. Staying calm and effectively communicating your emergency plans to your residents guarantees you will keep them calm and gain their trust -- leading to potential lease renewals in the long run. Don’t worry, this is what you’ve prepped for!