While September 11th probably stands as the biggest emergency New Yorkers have faced to date, many other, less-catastrophic crises arise in the city every day, from fires to water main breaks to building collapses. And whereas residents have long been accustomed to inclement—and sometimes dangerous—winter weather, it wasn't until Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012 and cost nearly five-dozen lives and roughly $19 billion in property damages that the city realized its vulnerability to natural disasters as well as man-made ones.
That's why, now more than ever, it’s critical to have an updated emergency plan in place that reflects the unique needs of your particular building and community. The end goal in any emergency event is a clearly defined, safe evacuation plan.
“There aren’t a lot of firms who work in this residential emergency planning space because it is a difficult business model,” says Philip M. Hecht, a partner at Howard and Hecht, LLC, a consulting and technology firm with a focus on business continuity and helping organizations mitigate the risk of disasters. “You often have a property manager who has to deal with the board, which is a volunteer organization with different backgrounds and agendas. So it’s often hard to bring in emergency planning and resiliency professionals—particularly to the residential high-rise market. Boards have to do emergency planning not for the next disaster, but to protect the building—it’s an arch over facilities, people and process.”
Ralph Petti, president of Continuity Dynamics, Inc., another international firm focused on the areas of risk management, business continuity and disaster recovery planning, says boards and management should first understand what programs and resources are available, and build their emergency plans from that knowledge.
“Many new programs have been announced since major events such as 9/11, the Con Ed steam-pipe explosion and Hurricane Sandy,” Petti says. “The leadership of boards and management organizations must draw upon the visibility and impact of such events and capitalize on those awareness opportunities. The consequences of not following such are apparent every single day in instances of fire, power outages, worker strikes and other significant events.”