When the Unthinkable Happens – Emergency Preparedness, Part II

By Alexandra S. Jackiw, CPM®, CAPS, C3P

We live with uncertainty every day and, clearly, we have never experienced some of the unique challenges that are testing us today.  Uncertainty can bring fear, chaos, and a lack of clarity when we have to tackle situations that we may not have encountered in the past.  The key steps to managing uncertainty – when the unthinkable happens – is to anticipate, plan, prepare and practice.

Anticipating what could or may happen in our businesses is required of leaders every day.  But the only way we can create clarity out of the uncertainty and prepare our on-site property management teams to respond when the unthinkable happens is to develop a detailed, written plan.  As discussed in my previous blog, the written plan should focus on addressing four specific areas of concern — harm to individuals, damage to property, unlawful activity, and reputation management.  The plan should also answer the Who, What, When, Where and How questions outlined below.

  1. WHO are the key stakeholders?
    • Residents
    • Family members or caregivers not residing with the resident
    • Municipal officials
    • The community at large
    • Investors and owners
    • Lenders
    • Regulatory agencies
    • Police and emergency personnel
    • On-site staff
  1. WHAT actions need to be taken?
    • Provide medical assistance
    • Adjust building systems
    • Report a crime
    • Document an event
    • Notify stakeholders
    • Mitigate physical damage
    • Provide insurance information and reports
    • Assess staffing needs
    • Resume normal operations
    • Manage reputation damage
  1. WHEN should plans be initiated?
    • Complete an assessment of your property’s current reputation
    • Determine when stakeholders will be contacted
    • Provide staff training and continually reinforce action steps
    • Identify notification and reporting requirements
    • Understand the process of releasing a crime scene
    • Establish procedures for resuming normal operations
  1. WHERE should the focus be placed?
    • Ensure that responses are based upon specific situations
    • Identify locations for business continuation
    • Determine what emergency supplies are needed and where they will be stored
    • Establish how to deploy resources where needed
    • Determine the location of a “command center”
    • Document all infrastructure concerns
    • Create a specific procedure for addressing media inquiries
  1. HOW will the plan be implemented?
    • A Policies and Procedures Manual must be in place that explains the HOW in detail
    • An Infrastructure Manual must provide specifics on all equipment and systems and who to call
    • A Public Relations Crisis Management Plan should be a priority and integrated into the Policies and Procedures Manual.

In order for your on-site team to be prepared when the unthinkable happens, you need to take the time to think through all potential eventualities and have a well-written plan in place.  Once your plan is developed make sure that each team member understands their specific role in implementing the plan.  Training should be ongoing and the plan should be discussed regularly during staff meetings.

It’s not a question of IF something unthinkable will happen, it’s a matter of WHEN.  Will your team be prepared?  Give them the tools they need to be confident they can respond appropriately when the unthinkable happens.

In the third and last blog in this series we’ll discuss the components of the Policies and Procedures Manual, the Infrastructure Manual and the PR Crisis Management Plan.