For National Preparedness Month, we want to share the common mistakes and pitfalls we see in preparedness and life safety programs. Having worked with thousands of properties, corporations, and government agencies over the past 40 years, we’ve seen our share of strengths and weaknesses.
The Six Most Common Mistakes
- Assuming your staff is well trained. In most facilities, the senior engineer and property/facility manager typically know how to respond in the early stages of a disaster. Because they conducted staff training on the topic within the past few years, they assume their staff is ready as well. However, the single most consistent finding from our tabletop exercises is just how little second and third-tier staff have retained when it comes to their emergency response duties.
- Poor communications during an event. Poor communication is the number one reason property teams get criticized after a disaster, and poorly worded communications can be just as aggravating to tenants/employees as the lack of timely communications. Are staff trained to make announcements? Do you have an emergency alerting tool so that you can notify everyone inside as well as outside the building? In the age of social media, more than ever property teams are in a race to distribute timely, accurate information.
- Conducting half-hearted drills. Property teams that take a “this is just a drill” approach often fail to identify problems that will surface in a real event: equipment failures, overcrowded stairwells, slow response times, lack of understanding on where to go, blocking fire department access, etc.
- Relying on an outdated emergency plan. Whether it’s a plan that has been cut and pasted from other buildings, generic procedures not tailored to the building’s systems and staffing, plans that haven’t been updated in 10 years, or plans that only address a handful of scenarios, outdated and sub-standard emergency response plans continue to pose significant legal and financial risks. A plan that adheres to both fire codes and industry standards will take an all-hazards approach with procedures for responding to 15 to 20 different threats.
- Only adhering to fire code. Buildings that only plan, train, and drill to what their local fire department requires are often under-prepared. The rules and regulations promulgated by most fire departments lag behind industry standards and best practices. Fire department requirements are often fire-centric, overlooking the wide range of other disasters that regularly befall buildings.
- Assuming the cavalry will always arrive. Too many property teams assume first responders will always appear quickly and take over, and hence believe they don’t need to be ready to manage an extended event. While that’s true for an emergency at that one building, in a regional disaster (tornado, hurricane, flooding, earthquake, hazmat release, active shooter event, etc.), the cavalry may not show up for hours, possibly days. During an extended regional event, tenants and employees will be looking to property teams for leadership.
If you feel your preparedness and life safety program is in need of a tune-up, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or (206)-238-0055.