by Cliff Ford
Emergencies happen. It's the harsh reality of the world we live in. While we cannot always predict what will occur, as property owners we can take steps to ensure that our buildings and tenants are prepared for any future emergencies. Being prepared not only protects your tenants and on-site staff, it's good business sense - speaking volumes to your tenants about the service and care they receive from you and your staff.
Over the past couple of years, the Canadian Government has been informing the public of the need to be aware of emergency preparedness. The goal is to have all the supplies readily available to survive self-sufficiently for 72 hours - allowing the authorities to focus their energies on resolving the problem - whether it be an environmental catastrophe or a terrorist-related problem.
Preparing for emergencies in a multi-residential building is no different than your home. The more vigilant in preparation you, as a property owner, can be ahead of time, the more likely your tenants will stay safe and secure during a crisis. Here are four steps you can follow to begin preparing your building for emergencies:
Know the Risks
Although the consequences of major emergencies can be similar, knowing the risks specific to your region can help you to prepare better.
For instance, in Ontario, regional risks may include flooding, severe storms, forest fires, and transportation accidents. As well, there is the possibility of acts of terrorism on Canadian soil. Being prepared and knowing what to do in advance could save lives.
Emergencies can occur suddenly and without any advance warning. Although local, provincial and federal officials are prepared for emergencies, individuals play a vital role in preparing for times of crisis when emergency services and other government resources may be strained. As multi-residential property owners, we can do our part to prepare both our buildings and our tenants for the unknown emergencies that can strike. Knowing the unique risks of your region will better prepare you and your tenants for the worst. To learn more about the risks associated in your region, contact Emergency Management Ontario at 1-877-314-3723 or www.ontario.ca/emo.
Make a Plan
Every building needs an emergency plan. It will help you and your tenants know what to do in case of an emergency.
Public Safety Canada provides a step-by-step guide for developing your plan. You can get the package by visiting www.getprepared.ca. Once completed, keep this document in an easy-to-find, easy-to-remember place (for example, with your emergency kit).
St. John Ambulance recommends that every property have at least one person who is trained in First Aid. If you have on-site management, your superintendent or property manager would be the ideal candidate. If, however, you do not have on-site management, consider offering an incentive to your tenants if they get licensed in First Aid. A small investment on your part could save lives at your building. St. John Ambulance offers First Aid courses throughout the province. Visit their website at www.sja.ca to learn more.
Included in your emergency plan, it is also recommended that you have a copy of tenant information. Often, in a crisis, valuable time can be lost searching in numerous locations for all the information you need. Having a list of your tenants' emergency and alternative contact information, special health needs, and even their children and pet's names will provide authorities with the details to ensure everyone is safe and secure.
Lastly, an evacuation plan is a must during an emergency. Your fire department can work with you to not only plan for evacuation of the building but also suggest local meeting places for your tenants to gather. Should the emergency extend beyond just your building, as in the case of a natural disaster, it is important to know community centres, schools, or other complexes that will allow for shelter.
Prepare a Kit
In an emergency you will need some basic supplies. You may need to get by without power or tap water. You may have some of the items already in your building, such as a flashlight, battery-operated radio, food, water, a first aid kit, and blankets. The key is to make sure they are organized and easy to find.
Depending on the number of units in your building, you will have to determine what is most necessary for storage. Buildings with 6-10 units could develop an emergency kit that included food and water rations for all its tenants, but a building comprised of 80 units or more would be difficult to properly stock rations for all the tenants in the building. The larger your property, the more important it is to delegate the preparation of emergency kits to your tenants.
Your building's emergency kit should be stored in a safe place but one that is easily accessible by your superintendent or on-site manager. Be sure to have a copy of your emergency plan stored in the kit as well. For help in gathering the supplies needed for your building's kit, contact the Canadian Red Cross at www.redcross.ca. Pre-packaged kits are available through the Red Cross, St. John Ambulance, Salvation Army or from a number of retailers throughout Ontario.
Inform your Tenants
While it's important to be prepared as a property owner, it is also vital to inform your tenants about steps they can take in preparing for the worst. Each unit of your building should be encouraged to have an emergency kit of their own supplies.
The best way to inform your tenants would be to provide each of them with the Emergency Preparedness Guide which can be obtained free of charge from Public Safety Canada. This will allow your tenants to read about the risks in your region, how to make an emergency plan and how to prepare their own emergency kit.
You can obtain extra copies of the Emergency Preparedness Guide to distribute to your tenants by visiting www.getprepared.ca, firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 1-800-O-Canada (1-800-622-6232).