Nobody likes to think that they could fall victim to a natural disaster or other kind of emergency. Unfortunately, the very nature of such occurrences is that - more often than not - they happen unannounced. Disasters can take many forms, natural or otherwise, and it's critical for facility managers to familiarize themselves with the threats their buildings may face and how to best prepare for each one.
The goal of preparedness is to maximize safety and minimize financial or material loss to your facility. Properly preparing for emergency situations is a careful cocktail of knowledge and resource management. In other words, FMs need to understand what types of disasters their facilities are most likely to face, and through good inventory management to put together an actionable contingency that best meets the needs of as many of these circumstances as possible.
Know the risks
You may be surprised to know that the U.S. is actually one of the countries most affected by natural disasters. In fact, according to ReliefWeb, the country is one of the five most disaster-afflicted, along with China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. In 2012 alone, 357 disasters were reported, costing an estimated $157 billion in damages. Storms comprise a significant percentage of emergencies facing facilities in the U.S. In fact, 2013 saw 327 weather-related fatalities, the National Weather Service reported.
Unfortunately, not all potential crisis is natural. Recent years have seen a surge in terrorism threats and active shooter incidents, forcing facility managers to prepare for a whole new type of emergency. According to data from the FBI, between 2009 and 2012, the number of such incidents shot up to nearly one per month. This represents more than threefold growth of similar incidents between 2000 and 2008.
A process of planning
Preparedness will be your facility's greatest defense when and if disaster strikes. Such planning is a combination of inventory management and process implementation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended keeping enough emergency food on hand to weather a potential incident until rescue teams can arrive. Nonperishable foods, flashlights and blankets should all be kept on-site if needed. Fortunately, a CMMS can help more efficiently track which resources are available and what needs to be procured and budgeted for.
Knowing what to do in an emergency can save time as well as lives. Implement an evacuation plan for each major contingency - floods, for example, may require different evacuation routes compared to fires. Also make sure your tenants are familiar with these plans, not just through diagrammed maps but also by holding regular drills to put theory into practice.