Covid19, along with the social unrest this spring has taught us that emergencies can and will happen. We need to be prepared for the matter of “when”, not “if”. This virus and the riots have forced organizations to look inward and consider the safety and well-being of our employees and customers. There has never been a better time to evaluate your resources, memorialize your “Lessons Learned”, and create an EAP (Emergency Action Plan). A little planning will go a long way in dealing with our current situation and will be valuable when (not if) we are presented with another emergency. As leaders, we are expected to facilitate and execute these plans, as well as conducting a critical assessment to determine if we are ready for whatever may happen next.
Our role in residential property management requires us to have a responsible and sensible approach to keeping our staff and residents safe during critical times. As I lay out the basics of an EAP and Disaster Plan, keep in mind that this plan is only as good as the training and accountability of each team member.
Emergency Action Plans can be a simple written plan. EAP’s consist of:
1. Lists of emergencies that can happen and how to approach them: fire, bomb threat, hazmat spill, earthquakes, medical emergency, flood, weather related issues (tsunami, wind, hurricane, etc.).
2. Evacuation routes, location of fire extinguishers, location of first aid kits, wheelchairs, flashlights, and alarm systems. (should be inspected regularly)
3. A written guide of who to call in case of an emergency including Managers, Maintenance Personnel, Regional/District Managers, and ownership. These numbers must be continually updated with employee turnover and chain of command established.
4. Evacuation locations with a system to be used to ensure that everyone on the property is accounted for.
5. Locations (addresses) of any disabled person who will need evacuation assistance.
6. Maps and locations of utility shut offs along with “how to” and the location of any special tools that may be necessary. (perhaps stored with the EAP)
EAP’s should be distributed to each employee as well as located in offices and workshops. Each employee should receive training on the EAP during new hire orientation and sign that they have received the information.
This is a comprehensive plan intended to provide preplanned response to those unexpected or disastrous events such as:
Hurricane, Earthquake, Flooding, Terrorist Attacks, Active Shooter, Civil Unrest
Disaster Plans are prepared by the company with input from security companies, insurance providers, and risk management. This plan will focus on the immediate short-term needs of employees, residents, and the public. Maintaining communication, access, identifying the injured, and providing medical attention are key components to this chapter of the plan. Consideration should be made for long-term needs, food, shelter, and transportation. Additional emphasis will be on the protection of the property and environment as well as the restoration of business to normal.
It is necessary to evaluate potential hazards and assess potential harm to 1.) people 2.) environment, and 3.) property.
Identify the resources you will need for:
People- food, clothing, shelter, sanitation (water and toilets)
Property- protection from fire, flood, and further damage
Environment- identify controls needed to protect from further damage or release
Include instruction on how to establish your chain of command, establish your communication systems, implement medical services, and shutting down existing systems. Complete instructions on how to evacuate, locate auxiliary power, implement support systems, and how to perform post responsive activities (turning systems/utilities back on)
The most important component to any EAP or Disaster Plan is that you must train your employees and management team if you want a smooth disaster response. Conducting drills will prevent panic and confusion during disasters and employees will know and understand their roles.
If you feel like you have been ambushed by the events of 2020, you are not alone. No EAP could have prepared us for the confusion and anxiety that we have experienced this year. We are all facing extraordinary circumstances where real world solutions are necessary in a workspace facilitated by Zoom. Each of us has had to pivot our personal and professional plans, goals, objectives, and not to mention our budgets (do not get me started on rent deferrals!). As leaders, our teams are looking to us to respond and react appropriately with empathy and compassion. And we need to do this while taking care of ourselves and our own families.
I found a great reference by Navy SEAL leadership expert LT. Janson Redman. He writes about how to thrive under a “life ambush”, anything that leaves physical, mental, emotional, or even financial scars. It can be the loss of a job, divorce, illness, or even a pandemic. LT. Redman says it is time to REACT!
R Recognize your reality.
E Evaluate your assets and position.
A Assess your options and outcomes
C Choose a direction and communicate it
T Take action
I, for one, am trying to take this approach with each new obstacle that comes my way this year. Adapting to change is imperative and long-term thinking is vital if you are going to survive the short-term challenges. Executing and implementing an EAP and a Disaster Plan is a great first step in REACTing.