Disaster Relief Emergency Preparedness 101

 When Superstorm Sandy slammed into the East Coast at the end of October, hurling  a record breaking 13 plus-foot water surge at New York City, knocking out power  to millions of residents and devastating parts of Queens and Staten Island, how  prepared was your community? Was your building well-stocked with emergency supplies? Was an evacuation plan  in place? How about a communication system?  

 While the basics of preventing—and surviving—common disasters like fires or blackouts should be well known to anybody living  in an urban apartment building, the reality is that each building is different,  with varying physical equipment, divergent building materials, and unique  escape routes for emergencies. Since in some worst case scenarios each building  can become practically its own island during an emergency, it’s important for board members and management to devise customized emergency  plans for the community. That way if the unthinkable happens, everyone can  escape quickly and safely.  

 Plan First

 Dan Wollman and Harry Smith, CEO and director of management, respectively, for  Manhattan-based management firm Gumley Haft, recommend that a building’s board of directors establish a Disaster Management Plan, which should include  a command center, rally points, and evacuation plans, to name a few items. The  colleagues should know, since two of the buildings their company manages  suffered frightening emergencies in the summer and fall of 2006. In the first  emergency, an explosion in an Upper East Side condo destroyed the building—and in the second instance, a small plane crashed into a multifamily building.  

 While more common crises such as power outages in winter or flooding in  low-lying areas are likelier for many residential buildings, the elements of  readiness are the same for any emergency. Boards and managers can draw up  customized emergency plans for their buildings, but they must know where to  look to find the right information and with whom to work to make the plan  implementable. Soliciting the advice and the involvement of the key players who  are called on in a building emergency—such as the property manager, the superintendent, the building’s security chief and others—is the foundation of any effective plan. With some buildings, even more expert  help may be needed.  

 Expert Consultations

 In most cases, emergency response professionals will come to your door to help  long before you need them to execute an evacuation. Though the American Red  Cross is an organization known for helping those affected in the aftermath of  disasters, the group also works to educate people in how to respond to  disasters before they strike.  

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