How to Create Disaster Protocols for Your Property Management Staff [PART 1]

As many states look towards re-opening and an easing of COVID restrictionsproperty management companies are evaluating their responses to the crisis. You’ll be proud to know that by the end of March, 88% of property managers had either already implemented or were working on a Covid-19 response plan, according to this survey of 3,533 management professionals across the country. Well done!  

Still, in the wake of a pandemic that changed almost everything about the way properties operate, there’s always room for improvement. And now that the initial response period is over, property management companies have the chance to take retrospectives on their crisis-mode operations, asking questions like: 

  • What do we wish we did better? 
  • What are some things we did well? 
  • What’s one tool that would have made this event less costly?
  • How could we have better prepared our management team?
  • What was our biggest error (communication, maintenance, task assignment)? 

Now more than ever, property management companies are aware that anything can happen, and that they need a plan of action just in case.  

That’s why property management companies need to develop emergency protocols, not only for their tenants, but for their staff. Their team members need to know what to do when certain emergencies strike.  

So, in this post, we’ll go over the importance of disaster protocols for your management team, and how to create them. 

Why Disaster Protocols Are Important 

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, mathematical statistician, and former option trader, coined the term “Black Swan Event”any catastrophic event that was unpredictable. Stock market crashes, pandemics, and natural disasters are all “Black Swan” events. 

You need to be prepared for these events to mitigate the costs. 

So, a disaster preparedness plan for your team will ensure a couple of things during a property management “Black Swan Event”: 

  • You’ll be ready to act instead of devising a plan and scrambling for answers 
  • Your property managers will feel confident and know what they need to do. 
  • You’ll be able to cover your priorities quickly. 
  • You’ll avoid any preventable damages.  

How to Create Disaster Protocols 

We’ve talked with many management teams about this, and a lot of them say they don’t have the time or resources to create these plans. But it’s not as time-intensive as it sounds. 

It doesn’t have to be costly either. Here’s how to do it in a couple of team meetings: 

1) Pick Which Events Are Most Likely for Your Area/Type of Buildings 

Are your properties located in a flood path or hurricane zone? Do you have older buildings with the potential for power outages?  

The events to plan for will differ depending on your portfolio makeup, but gathering your team together and working from your collective experiences is the best way to make your “likely” list.  

2) Compile the Industry Best Practices to Handle Each Event 

Do some research and see if any of your peers have any disaster protocols in place. Each company’s priorities will differ, but you can get some good ideas from other teams’ plans.  

For example, maybe one of your peers has a great idea for how to divide the work among their team in the case of a hurricane.  Or maybe they’ve thought of some creative cost-saving methods for hurricane prep:  

  • Send a personal checkin to each tenant to make them feel cared for and safe. 
  • Hire an arborist to evaluate trees on the property so they don’t fall on power lines.
  • Test the sump pumps to make sure they work.  

For more ideas on how to protect your properties and bottom line, you can also consult with city zoning administrators or city engineers to learn how to best protect your properties 

You can look online to find resources from your local fire and police departments, and insurance agents. And of course, your team is full of experience you can tap into. Brainstorm ideas with them in a meeting.  

After you’ve gathered some good ideas and best practices, organize the information under the different types of disasters, since each requires a different set of protocols.  

3) Create Standard Protocols that Can BEasily Communicated to Your Team 

No matter how good your plans arethey’re worth nothing ithey can’t be easily communicated to your team.  

For each type of disaster, create your standard operating procedures. Remember, checklists aren’t enough. You need to know WHO on the team will oversee each action, so there’s no game of hot potato when the moment calls for action 

Also, make it easy to communicate the work. Don’t rely on your team members (or yourself) to remember their roles the moment disaster strikes 

You can make this information easily accessible in a couple of ways: 

  • Create a shared google doc with important protocols.  
  • Put the information in a centralized location like your PM software.  
  • Leverage workflow technology like InCheck, which allows you to customize SOPs for each situation. 

With InCheck, as a disaster is unfolding or has occurred, all you need to do is click a button and all your standard protocols and tasks will be sent to the right people’s mobile devices. That way, everyone will know exactly what to do.  

Hopefully, events like these won’t happen to your buildings. But preparation can put your team in a much better position should the time come when you need to enact disaster-based SOPs.  

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About the Author

Sam Rinko

Sam Rinko is a former proptech sales rep turned freelance SaaS writer. When he's not blogging about the intersection of property management and technology, he's either backpacking in the mountains, reading history and poli-sci books, or penning satirical novels.