Habitat Magazine-Communication and Training Are Key Before Disaster Strikes

By Kathryn Farrell

In New York City, there are numerous safety regulations governing commercial buildings and hotels, but they do not apply to co-ops, condos, or other residential buildings. Where commercial tenants practice drills and listen to safety directors on a regular basis, the residential sector is required only to pass out the Fire and Emergency Preparedness Guide. This guide, formerly known as the Fire Safety Guide, was expanded in 2014 to include non-fire emergencies such as medical and severe weather emergencies, power outages, and terrorist events.

What can co-op and condo boards learn from the commercial sector to make their buildings safer? Experts point to two key elements: communication and staff training.

Communication is first. In the event of an emergency, being able to explain to residents what is going on and what they need to do – whether it’s evacuate or, more likely, shelter in place – is paramount. This is where technology comes into play. “We have our own proprietary communications system called Connect,” says Dan Wurtzel, president of FirstService Residential, “which allows us to communicate with all of our residents by mass email, mass text, and by dialing phone numbers with messages.”

Other management companies use different tech tools, such as BuildingLink or OneCallNow (a broadcast messaging system). Whichever platform your building uses, it requires gathering the contact information for all residents, and keeping this up to date.

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