Property owners face many different types of risks, including liability events that can result in media scrutiny and negative publicity, reputational damage, and additional loss of revenue. From a pool drowning at a condo to sexual assault in an office-building elevator, a deadly shooting at a mall, or allegations of tenant discrimination at a co-op that results in a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, without the right crisis management in place, a company’s potential liability can escalate in the wake of an incident.
Preparation is key to effective crisis management, and the best time to think about how to handle a potential situation is well before it happens. Crisis planning and preparedness will help you protect your tenants, visitors, personnel, shareholders, operations, and brand while also mitigating damage should an event occur.
Following are several recommendations in helping property owners and managers get crisis-ready.
Creating a culture of preparedness starts with training property management as well as the tenants. Review potential hazards and threats, and encourage tenants and employees to attend free events – such as a webinar on what to do if a child gets injured on the premises or an active shooter enters your building.
Up-to-date Contact Information
Regularly update your contact information not just for tenants but also for vendors. Every month, update the names, phone numbers, and email addresses for the cleaning crew, construction contractors, security, building engineers, and parking attendants, to confirm every person throughout the building will receive emergency notification in the event of a crisis. Also, update your employee information so that each person can be notified of the crisis immediately.
Once all contact information is updated, load it into one central system where communication can happen instantly to all parties.
In addition, telephone numbers to emergency medical services and the police and fire departments should be prominently posted, and kept in multiple locations so that they can be accessed quickly and easily. Include directions to your facility with emergency phone numbers. In a crisis, it may be difficult for staff to provide precise directions to emergency personnel.
Additionally, make sure your contact information includes your insurance agent so that you can report the event to him/her immediately.
Develop a communication strategy, as you may need to communicate the crisis while it is still happening. For example, you may need to notify your staff that a hostile intruder is in the office building. Developing some type of code ahead of time and using it when a crisis occurs will let your staff know it’s time to put the crisis management plan into action.
In addition, in the aftermath of an event, the steps you take should be responsive in nature. Planned, practiced actions can help you avert chaos and minimize the risk of additional negative consequences. During the first few minutes, focus on gathering accurate, concise information. This information will help you respond immediately and eliminate confusion later.
Organizing & Managing Different Groups
Delineating the responsibilities of property managers, tenants, and any vendors in an emergency can be a nightmare if there isn’t a plan in place. Take the time to document the different groups who need to understand the emergency procedures based on the type of crisis. For example, who is the person responsible for gathering information about the incident to convey it to the appropriate people? Who is responsible for calling the police and/or emergency services? Who is responsible for addressing media inquiries – is there a point person at the company or do you have a PR company that will handle the media?
Following are action steps to take in the event of a crisis:
- Find out exactly what happened and record it. Depending on the incident, find out who was involved, when it happened, the location, present condition and immediate needs. Determine what action has been taken so far.
- Depending on the incident, call emergency services, describing the situation accurately and quickly. You may also need to notify your broker or the insurance company directly.
- Stabilize the situation. Account for those involved, assess their condition, remove everyone from further harm and control the activity at the scene.
- Preserve the integrity of the scene to the best of your ability. Restrict access to as much of the affected area and objects as circumstances allow.
- Contact all affected parties including employees and tenants.
- Manage the media. This can have a significant impact on your reputation.
How a real estate client handles a crisis could mean the difference between peace of mind on the one hand and disaster and chaos on the other. Crisis management involves being prepared by having a clear plan in place as well as having the resources to execute the plan. With comprehensive Real Estate Umbrella insurance, an insured will have the protection needed to address his/her liability risks as well as Crisis Response coverage to provide several important resources to manage a crisis effectively. Crisis Response coverage coverage pays the costs to secure the scene, crisis management firm/PR fees, funeral costs for affected persons, temporary living costs for affected persons, emergency transport costs and other approved expenses.