Why is September National Preparedness Month? The month was chosen, in part, to honor the victims of the September 11 attacks and, also, because it falls at the height of hurricane season. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month is intended to promote individual and business safety preparedness to help people effectively manage man-made threats such as terrorism as well as natural disasters. While safety should be of utmost concern every month, it’s useful for companies to designate an entire month to review and adjust safety plans and procedures.
Here are some initiatives that property managers can take during National Preparedness Month:
Use Available Resources
The Ready.gov website has a wealth of free safety resources:
- Information about becoming a safety leader, with classes offered through FEMA, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) and other organizations.
- Disaster-specific information and appropriate responses are offered for power outages, chemical hazards, severe weather, floods and dozens of other scenarios.
- Information about disaster kits, including wise food choices and management of water resources is crucial for surviving a major emergency.
Revisit Disaster Plans
National Preparedness Month is an ideal time to take a critical look at your facility’s disaster plan. Learn about best practices for disaster management and make sure that your plan matches up to the latest standards. Perhaps your building has changed since the creation of the last plan, with a new addition or additional parking structure, or an influx of new tenants? Walk through every part of the plan to be sure it still makes logical sense for current conditions. You should also talk to building occupants to ensure they have copies of the plan and to address questions and concerns. Work with tenants to nominate floor wardens and other volunteers who can assist others.
The disaster plan should not only cover ways to safely evacuate or handle dangerous situations, but should also provide a road-map for resuming business after the crisis is over. Building occupants will want to return to work and/or their residences as soon as possible following a disaster. So you may want to retain the services of construction/plumbing/ electrical contractors that might be needed for repairs or inspections following a disaster.
Focus on Communication
The official motto of the 2015 National Preparedness Month is “Don’t wait. Communicate.” The theme promotes proactivity among individuals to create and talk about disaster plans. For building managers and owners, communication is crucial to disaster planning:
- Alert tenants and other parties about how to access disaster plans.
- Keep building occupants updated about any changes to the plan.
- Use social media and other channels, such as mobile apps, to send crucial information about upcoming threats and/or to distribute updates after an emergency occurs.
By simply communicating what is being done, property management shows that they care about the well being of occupants and understand the importance of transparent communication.
Review the Details
In addition to reviewing your disaster plan, take time this month to check other areas of your readiness. One of the keys to being prepared is to be proactive, which means checking to make sure you and your team have the tools, supplies and information they need to best handle an emergency.
Here are some areas to evaluate during National Preparedness Month:
- Check fire extinguishers for expiration dates.
- Perform routine maintenance and inspection of sprinkler systems.
- Review insurance coverage.
- Restock emergency kits with flashlight batteries.
- Evaluate food and water expiration dates.
- Review evacuation plans.
- Make sure designated “safe spot” meeting areas remain ideal.
- Monitor property management staff members’ knowledge about emergency procedures, including how to shut off water or gas lines, if necessary.
Remember that safety is a daily priority, so be sure to continually consider disaster planning–not just during September. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about our system, or to subscribe, click here.