While it is human nature to procrastinate and focus on immediate, day to day needs over preparing for an event that may never occur, recent hurricanes, earthquakes and other disasters offer a valuable lesson to commercial property owners, lenders, and investors: It is critical to consider the “what ifs” at your property and to prepare and plan accordingly.
Gary Ganson, Nova Consulting’s National Practice Leader/Director of Industrial Hygiene Services, has worked in the Occupational Health field for nearly 40 years. He has seen firsthand how natural disasters can devastate properties and pose a serious risk to the individuals who go into buildings in the aftermath.
Gary and his consulting team worked with a banking client after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to help retrieve and recover valuables and ensure teams were protected along the way. Based on this experience and others, he summarizes his recommendations for how owners, lenders, and investors can approach the challenge of preparing and dealing with disaster.
Prepare for Potential Risks
Properties and employees can be at risk from the devastating impact of natural disasters from tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, blizzards, etc. Taking the time to consider the unique types of disasters your property is more likely to encounter is a good idea. In addition, think about the risks that all property owners face, including fire, cyber-attacks, burglary, and terrorism.
Ask the following questions:
- What types of natural disasters may we encounter in our particular locations?
- What can we do to prepare our people and properties for the natural disasters we may encounter?
- What can we do to prepare our people and properties for the other risks, like fire or crime?
Create & Communicate a Plan
Whether your organization has an internal team that can allocate resources to this step or you reach out to experts for help, it is critical to take the answers to the questions above and build a plan that gets communicated to all people.
Your plan should include processes for handling every potential disaster that could occur at your properties, natural and otherwise. Having plans clearly documented and communicated will help ensure that your properties can minimize and prevent damage, injury, and devastation when the unexpected does occur.
Training key personnel, those who will execute plans and all employees who may be affected by an event is critical.
Prevent the Events that You Can
While none of us can control Mother Nature or prevent a criminal from trying to access our properties, property owners can and should practice prevention whenever possible.
Fire, for example, is something that can be prevented in some cases through the proper handling of hazardous materials. The likelihood of certain crimes, cyber and otherwise, can be lowered by taking certain precautions.
Develop Emergency Action and Response Plans
As you consider the potential for a disaster to occur, develop a plan to address the “what ifs” and then execute the plan. Whether it is a fire response, tornado, cyber-attack, hurricane, or even an armed individual, a plan fully communicated will reduce the likelihood of a poor outcome. Each plan should be written and your property management personnel and staff trained on the response and prevention actions.
- Fire Prevention Plan: How to respond using a fire extinguisher and evacuate (where to go).
- Emergency Action Plans: How to respond to a natural disaster.
- Cyber-Attacks: How to prevent or minimize the damage to your business computerized and online services.
- Armed or threatening Employee or Individual: Help prepare businesses and employees to respond when they are threatened.
While these are just a few of the tips to help property owners and business managers prepare, prevent or minimize the damage and injuries from the unexpected, don’t wait until it happens. In a fast-paced world where each day involves “putting out fires”, it is just as important to prepare your organization to handle an actual fire, among other things.
Gary Ganson, CIH, CSP, MBA | Industrial Hygiene Group Manager
Mr. Ganson currently provides direction for national clients and staff for hazardous materials services and is the national director for industrial hygiene services. He is a Certifed Industrial Hygienist and Certifed Safety Professional.