Corporate Realty Prepares For Hurricane Season With Tenant Emergency Preparedness Checklist

NEW ORLEANS – Maureen Clary, CPM, Director of Asset and Property Management for Corporate Realty said during hurricane season, their property management team reviews emergency procedures, updates their contact lists, coordinates with their emergency vendors and advises their tenants on severe weather protocol.

         “After 25 years in the property /asset management business, I’m often asked what a property manager does,” Clary said. “My usual answer is that being a property manager is like being the mayor of a small city. As a manager, you are responsible to your tenants for their safety and welfare and responsible to your clients for sound management of their asset.

         “A recent security threat in a local office building brought to the forefront the importance of having a qualified property management team in place,” she said. “When the threat was received, the management team immediately initiated the policies and procedures that had been reviewed countless times. By following a well-established protocol, the threat was assessed and proper authorities we notified. The threat was determined to be unsubstantiated and operations returned to normal.

         “In addition to creating and reviewing our own emergency procedures, we have also written a Tenant Emergency Preparedness Checklist to help our tenants,” she said. “This brief handbook explains the points every organization, small or large, needs to think about in order to prepare its own disaster recovery plan. By using this plan, should a disaster occur, your organization will be able to recover quickly and resume operations effectively. Each organization structure and circumstances are unique and this plan can be tailored to suit your needs. Remember, there are no cookie-cutter templates – one size does not fit all. However, there are common elements among all plans. This handbook will assist your organization in developing a plan to Prepare, Respond, and Recover.”

         Corporate Realty’s Guide to Emergency Planning, Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity includes the following:


Is Your Organization Prepared?


         Have you thought of how your organization would respond if a natural disaster interrupted your work? While it’s not something we want to think about, natural forces are not selective in the organizations they impact. Without adequate planning, organizations can suffer losses that may have been lessened by proper preparation.

         This brief handbook will explain the points every organization, small or large, needs to think about in order to prepare its own disaster recovery plan. By using this plan, should a disaster occur, your organization will be able to recover quickly and resume operations effectively. Each organization structure and circumstances are unique and this plan can be tailored to suit your needs.

         In creating a disaster plan, don’t be overwhelmed by the task. Work on it in sections and prioritize as time allows. The most difficult thing is getting started; the second most difficult task is keeping the plan current.


What is a Disaster Recovery Plan and Why Should You Have One?


         A disaster recovery plan is a user’s guide for how to preserve an organization in the event of an interruption. In order for it to be useful, it must be created before the interruption occurs. The interruption can be as simple as a computer crashing or as devastating as a Hurricane Katrina. The goal is the same – to preserve the organization.


There are three critical components to a Disaster Recovery Plan:


1. Emergency Planning – developing a plan to respond to a disaster or interruption in service

2. Disaster Recovery – steps taken to restore functions so that some level of service can be offered

3. Business Continuity – completing the process of getting your organization back to where it was before the interruption.


         Part of writing a disaster plan is to think ahead to the possibilities of what could go wrong and make contingency plans. However, you cannot plan for every scenario. The goal is not to create a separate plan for a tornado, a flood or a blackout but to create a plan that will address a majority of the risks.

         To begin, ask the following questions:


• What are the potential identifiable disasters?

• How would each affect the organizations systems and programs?

Factors to consider include:

• Historical: What types of emergencies have occurred in the community? (for example, hurricane, flood, utility outages, etc.)

• Geographical: What can happen as a result of our location? (transportation routes, power plants, etc.)

• Human Error: What emergencies can be caused by employees? Do they know what to do in an emergency?

• Physical: Consider what could happen as a result to the location of your facility. (i.e. access to your office, loss of power, water damage, structural damage, building collapse, etc.


         Ultimately, there are several potential scenarios to plan for, regardless of the interruption or catastrophe:


1. Only your local office is unusable. For example, one or more offices become temporarily unusable because of flooding or minor damage.

2. The entire building is gone.

3. A temporary disruption of services, such

as an electricity outage.

4. An impact in the larger geographical

area, rendering the area uninhabitable for an unknown amount of time.


Assign a Team – You Can’t Create a Plan Alone


         It is important to assign the right team to help create your disaster recovery plan. Depending on the size of the organization, the team should include representatives of the various departments to provide needed input. Departments could include personnel, computer and technical support, and finance, board of directors, and facilities management.

         For the plan to be successful, the team must have the authority to make short-term emergency decisions. There must be a chain of command. This chain should include those in leadership but not necessarily senior leadership. The members of the Emergency Management plan should be those fully familiar with the disaster recovery plan and available to implement the plan in the event of an emergency.

         The team must be able to implement the plan in a logical and orderly fashion based on the nature of the organization and its services, as well as the type of disaster or interruption. This should all be addressed during the planning stages.

         Remember, the organization must be able to implement the plan even if the person or team who created the plan is not available.

         It has to be legible and understandable. Common sense must rule. The plan must be tested and employees must be trained on plan implementation.       As the organization changes, the plan must be updated to reflect those changes.


Analyze your Organization


         To begin to develop your disaster recovery plan, an organization must first determine their critical services and functions. The following questions can help you begin:


1. What are your organizations services and functions? (i.e. What do you do?)

2. What staff is responsible for what functions?

3. Which functions are critical and which are less so?

4. Whom do you serve? (who are your clients, what are their needs, etc.)

5. Where do you serve them? (on site, at their office, etc.)

6. How do you serve them? (what do you provide: information, research, advice?)

7. How are the services provided? (via phone, internet, in person?)

8. What are your personnel requirements? (are services provided by staff, contractors, etc?)

9. What are your equipment requirements?

10. How do you services impact the

organizations functioning? (For example, if fee for services is crucial, what will happen if you cannot perform those services)

         In order to have a contingency plan, differentiate your organization’s services. If, for example, a phone system is critical, should you invest in having phone service with multiple providers? If it’s your computer or website, this may be where you want to focus your resources. If you service depends upon on site visits, should you make arrangements with another organization to set up temporary office?


Make the Plan Step-by-Step


Step 1: Human Resources


         For all organizations, people are the most valuable assets. It is important to protect your employees and have lines of communication before during and after a disaster. Areas to consider are:


• Include disaster planning and preparation as part of your employee policies

• Keep updated information on your employees

• Encourage employees to develop an individual disaster plan for their families

• Develop payroll/HR policies

• Will employees be paid if they are unable to return to work?

• Will employees be given cash advances if needed?

• Can your employees be paid via direct deposit?

• If employees have hardships after the disaster, how will you handle leave? Obtain and prepare re-entry letters for key personnel and disaster response team to return to the facility

• Develop a plan for employees to work from home if your facility is closed for an extended period of time; include clear expectations


Step 2: Vital Records


         A document retention and storage program is critical to any disaster recovery program. The organization must determine what to keep and what to be stored off site. Much of what to keep will depend on legal requirements for your organization and the disaster recovery team should consult with tax advisors and legal counsel to determine what records you are required to keep.

         Questions to ask in this phase of the organization planning include:


• Does the organization have a fireproof, crush-proof safe or file cabinet to store crucial documents?

• Have all critical documents been scanned and stored on a CD, on the intranet, the cloud, or in a password protection section of your website?

• What is your organizations intellectual capital? In other words, who knows about your services, your administrative functions?

• Who could provide this information if those with the answers were unavailable? Does anyone else know these answers/ information? Is it written?

• Is all insurance coverage current and does the organization have a clear understanding of the policy coverage, exclusions, deductibles, etc.?


Step 3: Information Technology


         With the increased dependence on computers and technology, a computer crash can be just as devastating as a natural disaster. If computers are integral to your organizations operations, below are steps to take to as part of your disaster recovery plan.


• Inventory all computer hardware and software

• Create a diagram of your network structure (your IT consultant can assist in this function)

• Maintain a list of vendors and contact information for all IT functions including website hosting, e- mail service, cell phone service, etc.

• Document all passwords needed to access files and data – store this information off- site.

• Know how to program phones to forward numbers, change voice mail messages, retrieve voice mail messages and any other functions

• Have the ability, and know how, to update your website from outside your office

• Train employees on how to access their e-mail from alternate sites. In addition to your organization e-mail, set up a free e- mail account for emergency use. Document and share this e-mail with key personnel.

• Have a plan for data back-up and make it part of your office routine.


         It is recommended that organizations utilize the services of an IT consultant to assist in evaluating the organizations needs and developing this portion of the disaster recovery plan.


Step 4: Physical Premises


         Whether you lease or own your premises, it is important to create a site map and check list for your physical premises. Steps to include:


• Evaluate and document your space including floor plans, fire extinguisher locations, emergency exits, designated escape routes and areas of refuge. Are the batteries for emergency lighting checked regularly? Do electric door/ keypad locks have manual bypass locks? Do people know how to use

fire extinguishers? Are your emergency routes posted? Is there a “safe room” to move computers and records on site during an emergency?

• Review insurance policies for coverage, deductibles, limits, etc.

• Keep an updated inventory of all furniture and equipment

• Photograph all property kept on site and off site. This is valuable to have for insurance claims, particularly in cases of total destruction.

• Develop a relationship with contractors and other service providers who can be available to assist with restoration as soon as it is safe to return to your facility. Include the contractors’ contact information in your plan.


Step 5: Communications


         During and after a disaster, an organization needs a system in place to communicate, whether to let employees know the organization is closed or to contact certain personnel. This can be as simple as a phone card that employees carry listing names and phone numbers, or it can be radios or cell phones with emergency contacts stored.


• Create a contact list for all employees including every known way of getting in touch. Include home and cell phone numbers, alternate e-mail addresses, and phone numbers of relatives and friends who might be an evacuation location for employees.

• Organizations should make alternate contact arrangements should phone be unavailable. Arrange for a way for staff to get information on what to do, where to report, etc. This can be done with a call-in number outside the impacted area, or through a website that can be updated by the disaster preparedness team.

• Beyond employees, have a plan to get messages out to the media if necessary. Identify a spokesperson that will interface with the media and develop relationships prior to a disaster.

• Prepare a script as part of your plan including how to communicate with your organization, arrangements that have been made to continue your services, etc.

• Have contact information for all clients, volunteers, and any others that depend on your organization.

• Consider setting up a corporate Facebook page. With the increased use of social media, Facebook is an excellent way to stay in touch with employees, clients, and vendors.


         For more information



Categories: Today’s Business News