If Disaster Strikes, are you Prepared?

September 2016

Natural and man-made disasters are occurring with increasing frequency and portfolio managers are keenly aware of the panic that can ensue during an emergency situation in a multi-unit residential building. It is therefore important to consider whether or not your operation is ready to respond to an emergency. In dealing with any emergency situation, a fundamental resource to ensure an effective response is a thorough, written, Emergency Response Plan (“ERP”) for each property.

What is an ERP?

An ERP is a document which succinctly sets out all of the steps required from each key party when managing an emergency response in your building.
Each member of your management team should be thoroughly familiar with your ERP in order to properly implement it when an emergency arises.

Tips for Building an Effective ERP

While considerations, priorities and necessary measures will vary between buildings, the following are some useful steps to creating and implementing an effective ERP:

  • Conduct a risk assessment: This assessment is required to identify needs and prioritize risks. In conducting your risk assessment, consult with your insurer, legal counsel, and seek out available information from local emergency response authorities. It is important to know where management’s responsibilities begin and end.
  • Establish leadership within your ERP: Establishing this early will help to streamline response times and will foster effective management of the recovery process.
  • Create and evacuation strategy: This should include where to find a confidential emergency contact list for all residents; accommodation plans to ensure all residents are afforded safe and effective means of evacuation; and, up to date floor plans for emergency response teams. Since this involves the collection and use of confidential personal information, you should ensure your Privacy Policy permits this use of information.
  • Communicate the evacuation strategy to residents: Post your evacuation strategy in the building and establish meeting places so that residents know how to contact management, and so that emergency response teams will be able to more quickly determine who may still be inside the building.
  • Compile a list of emergency response professionals: This list should include contacts for first responders, emergency service providers, disaster restoration professionals, and insurance companies, in order to shorten recovery times.
  • Develop a resident communications plan: A communications plan should be developed for use during and following an emergency, primarily to ensure timely communications between management and residents. This plan should provide communication strategies to ensure management is aware of residents’ concerns, to document recovery steps, and to provide updates to residents on the status of the recovery process. Another component of the plan should designate who is responsible for media communications.
  • Conduct frequent monitoring and updates to systems and training: Frequent and documented monitoring and updates to emergency systems and personnel training are key components of an effective ERP.
  • Treat your ERP as a “living document”: Your ERP should be subject to ongoing revision and updated risk assessments.

Most housing providers recognize the need for effective ERPs and should, therefore, take steps to create and implement their own ERP reflective of each property’s unique needs and risks. Emergency Management Ontario has created a Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (HIRA) process that provides a helpful framework for businesses seeking to create and implement an ERP. HIRA can be used as an assistive resource in creating an ERP that suits your building.

Author

Laura practises in the area of administrative law, including condominium, residential tenancies,municipal, planning and zoning, expropriations, and property tax and accessibility law. Laura is a member and active contributor to numerous condominium, development and housing industry organizations. More →