There are several types of emergencies that can occur at your place of business. Whether it’s a fire, medical emergency, severe weather event, armed disturbance, or something else, property owners and managers need to be prepared to protect their investment, as well as any employees, tenants, or customers. Today we will be covering 9 emergencies property owners should prepare for. These are the more-prominent emergencies, but are not an exhaustive list. All of these events and their accompanying procedures should be covered in detail in your Emergency Action Plan (EAP).
9 Emergencies Property Owners Should Prepare For
The first emergency that we are going to talk about is a fire, and the first topic is preparation. First and foremost, regardless of the type of emergency, always call 911 first. Never call the manager or property manager before calling 911, in any situation. First responders should always be the first call you make so that you get them there as soon as possible. Secondly, always have fire extinguishers available and spread out among the building. You should also regularly train any staff that works in the building on how to properly use fire extinguishers, as well as making sure they know where they are. You should also always have an exit plan in place in case of any evacuation. Ensure the plan is posted in the building for occupants to see, and that any staff is well-trained in following it. Lastly, discuss with your local fire department how many smoke detectors you should have in your specific building(s), and where they should be placed for optimal detection and notification.
If fire or smoke is detected, immediately call 911. Be prepared to give them your building address and any pertinent details. If the fire is small and contained, try putting it out with a fire extinguisher, after calling 911. Carefully follow any direction given by the dispatcher while on the phone with 911, or first responders once they arrive. If you must evacuate the building, only use the stairs, never the elevator. Evacuate quickly and safely, then await any further instruction. If you have a property manager and/or an emergency maintenance technician, we would also recommend giving them a call as soon as possible so they are aware of the situation.
If there is a medical emergency on your property, immediately call 911. Let them know your address, as well as the physical location of the patient. Also be prepared to give them any details of the incident such as the person’s name, age, symptoms, and the events leading up to the call. You may also be asked if any medication or drugs were taken prior to the call, as well as what they ate or drank. If the patient is unconscious, you may also be asked to check for medical alert jewelry that may help point to a cause for their ailment.
Unfortunately, bomb threats are something property owners need to be aware of, too. The majority of bomb threats are phoned in to the target, usually with the sole intent to create panic and a disruption of normal activity. Preparing for a bomb threat ahead of time will help you to stay calm if the situation arises. Proper reaction from the call taker is critical to minimize panic in the building, as well as personal injury and property loss.
If you do receive a bomb threat, remain calm. Be as courteous as possible to the caller, trying to obtain as much information as you can. Once the caller hangs up, immediately call 911 and then notify property management. Follow the 911 dispatcher’s instructions. They will probably ask you for any clues of who the caller is, or where they were calling from. These questions may include asking about the tone of their voice or things in the background noise such as traffic, etc. If you do find a suspicious package on the property, do not touch it. Report it immediately to the authorities, then follow any instructions they give you.
If you yourself become trapped in an elevator, remain calm. Do not attempt to force the doors to open. All elevators have an emergency telephone that has been pre-programmed to a monitoring device. Activate the telephone and give your location to the service that answers. They will notify the appropriate company and have an elevator service technician come to your location. Be patient and remain as calm as possible until they arrive.
If someone else has become trapped in an elevator, they should use the elevator phone to contact the monitoring service. If they do not know how, or it is not functioning properly, call the elevator service for your building, then call your property manager. Do not let your building maintenance team work on the elevator. Only trained professionals should work on the elevators.
In order to prevent elevator emergencies, it is good practice to have them checked out and serviced on a regular basis. The emergency phones and monitoring service should also be checked regularly to make sure they are always in working order.
Severe Weather & Tornadoes
Severe weather can take many forms. If severe weather such as severe storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, or heavy snow and/or ice threatens your area, stay abreast of the situation via local tv and radio stations, various weather apps on your phone, or weather.com. A weather radio is also a great tool to have in the case of an emergency. If a tornado or hurricane siren sounds due to severe weather, immediately exit all offices and rooms that have windows, when possible, closing doors as you leave the room. When a tornado or other heavy winds are a threat to your building, calmly proceed to the best available shelter. If you do not have a basement or storm shelter, move to the innermost room or hallway, putting as many walls between you and the outside as possible. Sit or kneel on the ground against a wall, covering your head.
If needed, once the storm threat has passed, call 911 for any structural or medical needs. If only minor injuries have occurred, administer first aid as appropriate. Never move seriously-injured persons unless they are in immediate danger of further injury. Account for all employees as soon as it is safe to do so. If it is safe, check utilities and appliances for damage, calling to report any needs to your building manager and/or maintenance technician.
Biological or Chemical Threat
Biological and chemical spills and threats can happen, especially in a commercial environment. If there is a biological or chemical spill of some kind, do not try to clean it up yourself. Isolate the room by closing the door, and isolate any personnel that may have come into contact with the hazardous material. Shut down the building’s HVAC units and air circulation, then call 911 and your property manager. Do not evacuate the building unless told to do so by the emergency personnel. If there is a suspicious package, either leave it alone and notify authorities, or place it in a trash can using thick rubber gloves, then cover it with cloth or papers before notifying authorities.
If there is an intruder or an armed or dangerous person threatening the building, immediately lock yourself in the nearest office. Do not use an elevator or stair well to attempt escape. Remain calm, still, and silent. Contact 911 when it is safe to do so, maintaining as much silence as possible. You may resume normal work duties once an “All Clear” has been established. Notify property management so they have record of the occurrence.
Hazardous Materials Emergency
It is the responsibility of the handler of hazardous materials to know all of the regulations regarding handling, storing, or transporting the materials in their possession. If you have any questions on what materials may be covered, contact the Federal Environmental Protection Agency or other appropriate authorities. Also notify your property manager of any potentially hazardous materials stored or handled on your property so that a comprehensive plan to address storage and spills may be put in place. You should also maintain a Material Data Safety Sheet on all chemicals stored or used in your building, having them available for your Property Manager to review.
If there is a civil disturbance or demonstration on your property, call 911. Give them your name, company name, address, the size of the group, and the type of demonstration. Notify your property manager so they are aware of the situation. Instruct any fellow employees or residents to avoid communicating with or antagonizing the demonstrators to help ensure their safety, as well as the safety of the building. Evacuation during an event such as this is not probable, but if told to do so by the authorities, do so as you would during a fire evacuation.
As mentioned above, an Emergency Action Plan and exit plans should always be available for anyone in the building. But having these procedures is not enough. You also need to review and practice them regularly with all employees. You should also regularly check your emergency supplies to make sure they are ready for anything that happens. Things you should have on-hand include first aid supplies, a portable AM/FM radio, flashlights, a weather radio, blankets, spare batteries, and plastic bags. Of course we never want any of these emergencies to happen, but it is much better to be over-prepared than under-prepared!
Have you ever had to experience any of these emergencies? How did that work out? Were you prepared? Let us know below!
For an in-depth consultation or for more information about Melan, please reach out to Byrdy Kelley 301-985-2555 or by clicking here.