In 2015, a foreign investment group with 30 commercial real estate holdings in the US wanted to assess how well its management teams were prepared to respond to emergencies. Its high-rise office towers throughout the US were all managed by prominent commercial real estate companies. Ownership knew the buildings were largely in compliance with local codes. But compliance does not necessarily translate into preparedness. Were the properties adhering to industry guidelines? Were they keeping abreast of changing best practices? Were all staff well trained? Were they truly prepared?
To find out, the investment group retained AK Preparedness to conduct a thorough assessment of each property’s life safety program.
Working directly with the US asset manager, AK first established consistent evaluation criteria that could work across the many different jurisdictions. These evaluation criteria incorporated industry standards published by organizations such as the NFPA and BOMA, local fire code requirements in each city, the latest best practices in rapidly evolving areas such as active shooter response, and current industry norms.
AK senior consultants then reviewed each building’s emergency response plan, emergency plan diagrams, and training curricula. Digesting thousands of pages of plan documents, our team assessed how well the existing plans complied with the range of evaluation criteria.
Armed with a thorough understanding of local codes and each building’s plans, AK’s team then conducted a site assessment, interviewing key staff about every facet of their life safety program. Were 2nd and 3rd shift staff trained on emergency response? How often were floor wardens trained, and how many topics did it cover? Were lessons learned from past drills and emergencies incorporated into current plans? Were key staff cross-trained on critical response tasks?
AK then provided ownership with detailed written assessments of each high-rise property, detailing strengths and weaknesses, gaps with local codes and industry guidelines, and best practices. The assessments helped ownership apply consistent standards for risk management across its sprawling US portfolio. Individual property management teams gained valuable insight on best practices from outside their region and how they benchmarked vis-à-vis their peers. Building teams were also able to remedy any deficiencies prior to the next disaster, helping ensure that they were in fact truly prepared.