By Thomas Usztoke, Vice President of Douglas Elliman Property Management.
Not long ago, ensuring that sidewalks and driveways were clear of accumulating snow and “topping off” oil tanks for heat and hot water were the extent of ‘emergency preparedness’ in New York City apartment buildings. Reflecting back on the past 14 years, the 21st Century has redefined all ideas of emergency planning. In 1999 we faced the impending “Y2K shutdown,” in 2001 it was 9/11, August 2003 brought us an eight-state-wide electrical power outage, 2005 was the Transit Strike, 2009/10 came with blizzards, 2011 Hurricane Irene and 2012 the disastrous Hurricane Sandy. Once categorized as 100-year events, the incidence of disasters and severe storms has increased dramatically over the last decade. Our 100+ years of experience in property management have given us enough perspective to not simply hope for things to get back to a bygone “normal.” Instead, we have been spending considerable time preparing for and anticipating the new “normal.”
Partners in Preparedness
Douglas Elliman Property Management (DEPM) was an early adapter to the changing landscape of Emergency Preparedness, a professional discipline that now stands on its own intrinsic worth. We’re members of the New York City Office of Emergency Management’s ‘Partners in Preparedness’ team of firms dedicated to planning and preparing for emergencies. Whether for floods, wind related storms, snowstorms or power outages, we’re continually educating building managers, superintendents and staff members on emergency related best practices. We’re providing our senior managers, property managers and superintendents with e-alerts as potential issues and situations come into focus in the tri-state area or even within specific locales.
Naming only a few, we’re monitoring 24/7 such services as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Weather Service at NOAA, and New York City’s own Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in our vigilance to ensure that our managers and residents are as informed as possible. As warranted, building managers are advised of alerts, which are then disseminated outwards to resident managers and superintendents. We take every opportunity to review and refresh everyone’s awareness of proper responsiveness, building on what has come before, and putting into practice multiple disciplines and levels of overall preparedness.
Education and Communication
As part of our own staff-centered informational seminars, we routinely educate our agents on all types of emergencies, proper responsiveness and recovery scenarios along with methods of disseminating emergency information across building staff, boards and residents as situations dictate. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we used our website to post up-to-date reports about public transportation, dry ice supplies, food and water distribution areas, and gas stations that were open and had a supply of fuel. We also posted contact information on how to reach all of the emergency responders and organizations supplying information and services to victims of the storm, as well as insurance claim information. This information was disseminated in person and in writing as well, for those who had lost power, phone and Internet service, whenever feasible.
Being informed, prepared and equipped includes relying on our longstanding relationships with a host of building materials suppliers; contractors such as plumbers, electricians and elevator service providers; and professionals such as insurance adjusters. These professionals work with us to help keep buildings functioning through almost all adversities; each works as part of the orchestrated team addressing whatever problems must be solved.
Building services and emergency preparedness are not complete without the dedication of our own employees and those of building staff members, all of whom are committed to bringing our client buildings back from the brink; whether it be an apartment-specific situation or a Tristate-wide catastrophe such as Hurricane Sandy. Proven time and time again, regardless of personal circumstances, each team member extends to our clients their own attention well above their own personal circumstances in emergency situations, day or night, weekday or weekend. Should any emergencies arise, we will post regular updates on our website at http://www.ellimanpm.com/MainSite/Emergencies/emergencies.aspx.
Disasters like Hurricane Sandy are likely to become more frequent. Working with the City, as well as government agencies and a host of private contractors and professionals, Douglas Elliman has implemented Emergency Preparedness plans for communication and response to help victims return to normal as quickly as possible.