Managing rental properties is not an easy task. Along with the financial responsibilities and due diligence required of property managers, the role comes with a huge responsibility for the safety of building occupants. The rise in natural disasters, severe weather events and the effects of climate change have made building safety more critical than ever. In fact, the number of disasters has increased by one factor of five over the past 50 years. Read on for the emergency preparedness tips you need to keep your residents and properties safe.
Formulate a comprehensive contingency plan
Whether you manage single-family rental homes or multi-family apartment complexes, preparation is teamwork. Every employee, from your service technician to your rental agent, plays a role in your emergency plan. Do your best to instill this mindset in your team training, and you will perform better if your property should face an emergency.
Your emergency plan should include key details for each property – including escape routes, emergency exits and emergency contact details – and be organized by type of emergency so that your staff and your residents have a clearly defined action plan in the event of a problem. For example, you should have clear instructions on how to turn off gas, electricity and water for each property that also clearly state who is responsible for these actions.
After creating a draft emergency plan, be sure to seek input from your entire team. You may have forgotten something that a service technician already knows. Collective input strengthens your emergency plan and promotes collective ownership.
Depending on the size of your property management business and the number of properties you manage, you may designate multiple employees to serve on security committees. Delegating some of the safety and preparedness responsibilities to them helps you manage the process and see the big picture. When it comes to safety and preparedness, having more hands on deck can be beneficial, especially if you’re managing properties across geographic locations or state lines.
Once you’ve gathered feedback from your team, revisit your contingency plan and implement any changes. You should review and update it quarterly. It’s also a good idea to hold drills and discuss the results with your team so they can learn from their actions. Training your staff to be prepared for emergencies can save lives in the long run. You can go further by investing in CPR or CERT courses for your teams, as well as first aid kits for each property.
Once you have a contingency plan finalized, be sure to distribute it to all of your team members, in addition to your residents, landlords, and vendors.
Educate your residents
The safety of your residents should be your utmost concern. It’s essential that they know what to do in an emergency, just like your team members and suppliers. An easy way to ensure your residents have instant access to your emergency plan is to use software that allows you to store it on their online portal. You can also print copies to include in their move-in package. If you manage multi-family buildings, make sure the escape route is clearly posted on each floor or stairwell.
In the event of an emergency, it is essential to keep residents informed. Make sure you have updated contact information and emergency contact information for each of your residents. And if you haven’t already, consider implementing mobile forms of communication like text messaging and email to provide residents with quick updates and important information 24/7. 7.
Jenny Stephens from Nebraska Lifestyles Property Management uses the bulk text messaging feature in AppFolio to send alerts to its residents in bulk, saving time and keeping its residents safe and in the know:
“One of the things we love the most about communicating in AppFolio is the bulk text messaging feature. We can just text all our residents really quickly like, ‘Hey he’s there’s going to be a really big storm in Omaha. Please let us know. Do the following.'”
In addition to sharing your emergency plan, posting your evacuation routes and using mobile communication tools, you can conduct annual emergency drill training on how to stay safe in the event of an emergency. natural disaster, such as tornado or hurricane, depending on the region. You can also send out a newsletter with resources for your residents, like how to build a house emergency survival kita list of local shelters in their area to go to in the event of a natural disaster and tips for preparing their home or apartment.
In the event of a disaster, residents can protect their belongings by purchasing tenant insurance. If your rental property is in a state that does not require tenants to be insured, consider educating your residents about its benefits and adopting tools that make it easier for them to sign up. For example, with AppFolio, tenants can easily register to receive rental insurance directly on their online portal.
Perform preventive maintenance of the property
Whether it’s adding oil to your car’s engine or upgrading your computer’s software, performing preventative maintenance on any system is beneficial. Property management is no different. Property management companies can take many proactive steps to mitigate damage to their properties from natural disasters like fires, floods, and earthquakes.
The first step is to determine what disasters could affect your property and plan accordingly. If it’s in a warmer climate, you probably don’t need to spend a lot of time looking into ice and snow emergencies. Is your property located in a fire prone area? Is there a possibility of earthquakes or tornadoes? It may be near water or a flood zone. Knowing the natural threats that could affect your property helps you reduce the severity by taking preventive measures and applying them to your plan.
efficient preventive maintenance of the property tasks such as weekly landscaping and brush removal help properties in the drier parts of the country during fire season. Something as simple as pruning or moving a tree too close to a structure can prevent a fire from spreading. You should also contact your local fire department or municipality to find out what ordinances and building codes you are responsible for. This could alter the path of a fire and prevent further damage to your property.
The preventive maintenance of the property is also the evaluation. If you notice loose or missing roofing materials or small amounts of rot on the facade of a building, don’t just dismiss them – try to assess them. Could this small or seemingly insignificant repair get worse and lead to greater damage a year later? Imagine if the small hole you eliminated last year turns into a partial roof collapse. Always be proactive with maintenance.
Maintenance doesn’t just apply to the exterior of your properties, the interior is just as important. Make sure all smoke alarms, C02 detectors, sprinklers and fire extinguishers are working and are inspected annually. It’s also a good idea to have a professional examine each of your properties annually for items that need repair, potential hazards, or structural problems.
Safeguard life and property
When you are well prepared for emergencies, you can mitigate risk and damage and, above all, keep your residents safe. Property management software with built-in document sharing, SMS and email can make it quicker and easier to keep your residents informed and your teams on the same page in the event of an emergency. To learn more about how you can streamline your property’s preventative maintenance and provide a better guest experience, check out This article.