Are You Ready? Handling Emergencies in Your Building

Tragedy and crisis seemed to be the theme for 2005, with tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes, and mudslides causing havoc and uprooting the lives of millions all over the world. Of course, we’d all like to think that if such an emergency ever hit New York, our city, state and federal governments would be prepared with an efficient and well-tested evacuation plan—but co-op and condo boards should know better than to just rely on that. When it comes to planning for emergencies, most likely it’s your board, management and staff who will be the first responders if a crisis does develop.

That’s why it’s so important that every residential building in the city has an emergency plan in place before an emergency actually happens—and not just for little things like kitchen fires or power outages, but even for the not-so-likely threats of disastrous storms, or even terror-related activities. Whether the emergency is citywide, building-wide, or confined to a single apartment unit, it’s vital that every multi-family building have a thorough, well-thought out plan to deal with the situation and keep everyone in the building safe.

Put it On Paper

“We have a publication called Before Disasters Strike that discusses probably 25 to 30 different types of emergency scenarios,” says Charles Achilles, emergency operations expert for the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), an organization devoted to training and educating property managers. “It’s an emergency procedures manual. It lists hurricanes, tornadoes, fire, criminal activity and spilling of human blood, bomb threats, earthquakes, elevator emergencies, medical, flood, severe snowstorms—you name it.”

Before Disasters Strike is one of many publications available to help board/management teams design and outline a solid, workable set of emergency plans for their building.

Of course, emergency plans vary with each property—what works for a 40-story high-rise on the Upper East Side may not be as effective for a five-story garden co-op in Queens. Therefore, it’s vital that managers work with individual boards to devise plans and protocols tailor-made for each building, rather than simply drafting a general, catch-all emergency manual and applying it to very different properties.

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