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Safe & Secure

By Jamie Friedlander Serrano

Four ways to improve your emergency response plan.

Making sure a facility is prepared for an emergency can take a back seat when more pressing day-to-day concerns are top of mind. But prepping could mean the difference between thriving and floundering when a disaster strikes.

Jana Coyle, Business Development Manager at BrandPoint Services, Inc., a national facility maintenance company that helps clients with emergency preparedness, said she has seen this trend emerge in facilities management. “In general, facilities managers (FMs) have gotten better at preparing for inclement weather,” she said.

Coyle shares her best strategies for ensuring a facility’s emergency response plan is in excellent shape.

1. Communication is king.

Coyle said communication is the most important component of an emergency response plan. “When disasters happen, we need to make certain that not only do we have lines of communication open with corporate personnel, but also with local facilities,” she said. “They [must] know how to reach out and reach us for emergency services.”

Part of an effective communication process includes making sure FMs know how to prepare for an emergency several months in advance of an actual event, Coyle said. Don’t wait until a few days before a storm is set to hit to help clients get organized.

2. Get ahead of supply chain shortages.

Coyle said it’s essential to make sure FMs are more focused on being prepared than being reactionary. “We want to make certain that FMs are really prepared, knowing what’s coming and what supplies they need to have,” she said.

For some weather events like tropical storms, there’s a decent lead time and predicted target area, Coyle said. Because of that, it’s important to buy supplies like plywood and sandbags ahead of time instead of waiting until a few days before the impending storm hits, when it’ll be difficult to find items.

An important part of this process, Coyle said, is also communicating who’s providing what. For example, will the Supplier provide both the plywood and the labor? Or, will the FM provide the plywood and the facilities management company provide the labor? Iron out details like this ahead of time.

3. Remember: A facility is not a home.

FMs need to understand the differences between preparing a business and a home for a disaster. For example, most commercial facilities are larger than homes, not to mention they often have specialized equipment.

“There are a lot of things that happen at a facility that aren’t necessarily going to happen at your home, and maybe all the FM is thinking about is their home,” Coyle said. “We need to provide them with a broader, more expansive experience, and bring that expertise to them to help.”

4. Not all emergencies look alike.

From inspecting roofs for weaknesses to locating water shut-off valves, there are some things you’ll have to do regardless of the impending weather event. But remember that planning will differ whether you’re preparing for a tropical storm or a winter one.

In the days leading up to a freeze or winter storm, you’ll want to focus on tasks like insulating exterior water lines and having rock salt on hand, Coyle said. For a hurricane or flood, you’ll be more focused on boarding up windows and relocating fragile items.

Coyle recommended providing FMs with an emergency preparedness checklist that breaks down what they need to do both months and days in advance

of an emergency.

Need a Sample Checklist to Get You Started?

View Jana Coyle’s emergency checklist at:


In the Aftermath

3 ways to optimize your disaster recovery

You can prepare as much as possible for a storm, but unfortunately, you can’t prevent

it from striking — there will still be some recovery once the dust has settled. These three tips will help you get started.

1. Manage your expectations. Although it can be tempting to come up with a timeline and plan right away, Erin Francis, VP of Client Services and Business Development at SMI, said

it’s important to be patient.

“You need to manage expectations because whenever you’re dealing with a recovery scenario, you don’t know what you have until you get behind the walls,” she said. Wait until the FM can go in and assess the scene to come up with a realistic recovery timeline.

2. Create a priority list. Mary Ann Velez, Senior Service Director at MaintenX International, Inc., said life safety should be No. 1 when creating a priority list. “You want to make the facility safe for customers, employees and the emergency response team,” she said. Next, you’ll want to assess and prioritize what’s needed to run the business, whether that’s HVAC, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration, etc.

3. Look ahead. Michael DiTaranto, Chief Operating Officer of Disaster Recovery Services at SMI, recommended assessing the damage to see what could be prevented next time. For example, make sure the HVAC system doesn’t have any leaks and that the source

of any water is resolved by the plumbing supplier.

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