Set up a rally point and a command post that can serve as your office and information point until the disaster is over. Make sure people know to check in there. “There should be somebody there 24/7 the first 72 hours at least. We had a fire, and found out that people had questions, but the manager was being pulled in so many directions that no one was able to answer them,” Timothy Snowden, FirstService Residential's Executive Director of Philadelphia High-Rise Operations says. “If we have another FirstService Residential building close by, we can use that building as the command post until the all-clear is given and we have that plan in place ahead of time.”
If that’s not an option, Snowden suggests finding a close church or school that will let you set up a computer for a couple of days and offer to do the same for them if needed.
If you have residents who need evacuation assistance in your high-rise, keep a separate updated list that can be given to first responders. “It’s important that people who need assistance understand that they need to stay in their units,” Snowden says. “I know that can be scary. But imagine this: a first responder goes to the unit and it’s empty. They assume all is well and move on to the next resident on the list, having no clue that the resident is stuck three flights down because the resident tried to navigate the stairwell and couldn’t make it. First responders will find people who need help but they need to stay put.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency says to be prepared to shelter in place for 48 to 72 hours. “If there’s a major disaster in Philly, FEMA will need that time to get to you,” Snowden explains. “We want our residents to make sure that they stock up for emergencies, but the building does need to be prepared as well. I instruct managers to stock some extra non-perishable food and water beyond what our associates need, just in case a resident isn’t prepared. If you don’t know what to buy, Amazon has many food products with long shelf lives and other emergency supplies you never thought of.”
The Philadelphia Fire Code requires that condominiums develop a plan to shelter occupants inside the building in the event of a hazardous material, biological or other emergency outside the building. The purpose of this shelter-in-place plan is to safeguard residents of the building by closing windows and doors and shutting off air handling/HVAC systems, and by moving residents away from perimeter windows and doors to safer locations in the building.
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