Building Safety for Everyone Looking Out for the Most Vulnerable

New York is home to almost 1 million people age 65 or older; approximately one in three seniors suffer some type of disability, according to the last census. In a city like New York, where anything can happen—from fire, to extreme weather, to terrorism—a disaster plan is an obvious necessity for all HOAs, condos, and multifamily dwellings. Young, able-bodied individuals generally do not focus on safety or security until an event or occasion shows a need for concern, but those living with mental or physical handicaps, or other health restrictions, need to be aware of the challenges presented by everyday living, and emergency situations. Children and teenagers, another vulnerable part of a community, often live side by side with seniors. They may also need special consideration during an emergency.

Most condominiums, multifamily buildings, and planned communities have policies and procedures in place for emergency evacuations and alerts, but a proactive plan to insure everyone’s safety and security before disaster strikes isn’t static. Annual reviews, updates, and revisions will be required to keep everyone safe, healthy and out of harm’s way. Boards, property managers and the residents themselves all have a role to play in making sure everyone is taken care of in the event of an emergency situation.

Everyone Plays a Part

The Red Cross, in their seminal pamphlet on Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities, states that, “It is important for everyone to be prepared to meet his or her basic needs by storing food and water for a minimum of three days or more,” and go on to say for those with disabilities, “You should also be ready to meet your specific disability related needs by storing sufficient oxygen, medications, battery power, etc., for at least seven days after a disaster.”

That advice, on having an adequate supply of medications and such, should not only be heeded by the disabled but also by the elderly as many are on some form of medication—be it for something major or minor, it’s better to be prepared.

“A month or two ago there was a concern for a hurricane to hit New York City,” says Cynthia Graffeo, the director of client relations at New York City-based Argo Management. “So in terms of planning for things of that nature we look for one: to make sure the building envelope is as tight as possible. So if there are items on roofs, balconies or terraces we would look to have them secured or removed so they don’t fly off and hurt someone. We also send out letters to residents. We remind them to have extra flashlights and batteries on hand, as well as drinking water and a reminder that if they take medication they should get their prescriptions filled.”

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