Disaster Emergency Preparedness: Best Practices for Multifamily Professionals
When disaster strikes, does your team have a crisis protocol in place before, during, and after the incident? In the case of a hurricane, there is advanced notice, whereas other emergencies come without warning.
In the wake of Hurricane Harvey that unapologetically swept through Houston, many multifamily operators are no doubt feeling the impact. As Florida braces itself for Hurricane Irma, the tragedy hits really close to home for GTMA since we work with properties in both areas, and our website partner and sister company Razz Interactive is based in Miami.
While our thoughts and hearts go out to those affected, it’s important to take note of the social responsibility we all have as multifamily professionals. Whether we are on-site or overseeing a community from a distance, these natural disasters serve as a reminder to us all that a catastrophe can happen at any time, creating a state of crisis for residents.
Catastrophes are not limited to natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and fires; they also include shootings and terrorist attacks. As GTMA prepares for the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we felt it was important to help our client partners establish new policies and procedures regarding any type of crisis situation.
Here are a few best practices we’ve formulated for all affected client partners:
STOP all regular posts, tweets, advertising campaigns, etc.
To post or not to post? It’s a valid question. One thing we’ve learned from managing communities in Houston at the height of Hurricane Harvey is that victims are turning to social media first for survival before reaching out to local authorities. That’s because it’s what they know and trust as a reliable form of instantaneous communication.
In light of this behavior, we believe it’s better NOT to post than to post some local event or entertaining article amid a disaster. When disaster strikes, the last thing you want to do is appear horribly insensitive by posting anything unrelated to the disaster. For this reason, promotional posts of any kind should NEVER be posted to social media during times like these.
We also recommend pausing ALL paid media ads in affected areas. This is something we have proactively done in preparation for Hurricane Irma passing through Florida under the notion that people are least likely to search for an apartment during a time of crisis.
DO post disaster tips and/or helpful information that address resident concerns.
So what do you post on social media when disaster strikes? Posts sending love, thoughts, and prayers to those affected are certainly acceptable. We highly encourage sharing helpful information, such as local, county and national emergency contact information, preparation checklists and safety tips.
As an added best practice, we recommend preparing responses for frequently asked questions that will likely surface before, during and after a notable disaster. DO post updates concerning the condition of the property, office hours, power outages, timing for repairs and clean-up, grace period extensions for late rent payments, and any other relevant community information.
When GTMA is managing an affected community, we always ask our clients to send us periodic updates as soon as they become available so that we can get those announcement posts out sooner rather than later.
BE socially conscientious of how management policies may affect human well-being.
There’s a fine line between a policy that protects a management firm’s assets and a policy that threatens a resident’s sense of personal security. While it’s definitely advisable to remind residents what those policies are, it’s important to also give them alternative solutions to assuage their fears and concerns.
For example, if a property’s policy is to hold residents liable for any damage that occurs as the result of boarded up windows and doors, this can create some tension among anxious residents in the community who feel helpless. We recommend providing residents with alternative solutions that will make them feel safe and secure. This also humanizes property management to show that it genuinely cares about the lives and well-being of its residents.
GIVE back and think about what you can do to help.
Another thing we always love to see is when developers, property owners and community managers band together to give back to those in need. Anticipate the needs of those affected and explore ways to offer support. With water shortages putting the people of Florida in a state of panic as Hurricane Irma approaches, consider stocking up on water and collecting supplies, and turning your parking area into a distribution center for hurricane relief efforts.
If you’re going to offer concessions, we highly recommend not getting too specific with the details to avoid diminishing the impact of the thoughtful gesture or gift. Some people may find the concession generous, while others may feel it’s not enough. Instead, provide contact information where people can learn more, and team up with your digital partners to help you spread the word.
Wherever you may be, remain calm on behalf of the communities you serve. Be vigilant about keeping residents updated because they are counting on you more than you realize. Lastly, prepare for curveballs throughout the disaster stages. Since there may be new, actionable information that comes to light, be ready to pass along that information if you know it can help those affected.
Lastly, plan ahead. We cannot stress this enough. This is the perfect time to review your crisis protocols. Keep your digital partners informed of what you’re doing to manage the crisis. When disaster strikes, will you be ready? We sure hope so after reading this!