Preparation and Communication are Key in Disaster Preparedness

Multifamily Executive has a good article about how preparing your apartment communities for disasters and communication is a critical component:

Jill Heron was thankful to have community partners to turn to when a flood damaged 60 units at a Flaherty & Collins property last June in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Communication amongst staff members, residents and community partners was crucial as the company dealt with the water’s aftermath, says Heron, vice president of property and asset management at Indianapolis-based Flaherty & Collins…

“You have to make sure that people who are relaying information are calm and are relaying accurate information and are effective communicators,” she says. “It’s easy to lose your head in a situation very quickly.”…

Flaherty & Collins uses a mobile application to let residents know what is happening in the event of a crisis. They also have a text system for efficient emergency communication.

“We had that during the flood,” Heron says. “We were able to keep the communication going on with the residents.”

Unfortunately some disasters are extreme enough that communication systems break down completely and it’s at that point that you have to trust your preparation. Kansas-based firm Cohen-Esrey learned that the hard way after a tornado tore through Joplin, MO:

Clean-up crews weren’t able to get to the property in the days following the disaster, phone communication was spotty, road blockages prevented senior-level managers from getting into the city and the Cohen-Esrey on-site team was left to take charge without direct corporate instruction. Huffman recalls looking at the wreckage on television and trying to get through to his team to deploy resources.

“We were working with just a few text messages here and there,” he says.

Although none of the buildings on the company’s property were completely leveled to the ground, all of them were damaged to the point of being unsalvageable and had to be rebuilt. But two years later, Huffman can still speak with pride about the work his team did amidst the destruction.