One of the most important jobs of a property manager is to keep our tenants safe. That’s a big job, though, and some parts are easier than others. For example, regularly inspecting your properties to guarantee habitability is a standard undertaking, and providing ongoing maintenance services can ensure that all major property features remain in working order.
More difficult to manage, however, are those situations caused by natural disasters, and if you own properties in the Houston area, these can be unfortunately common. The tornado index for Houston is especially high, with the national index calculated as 136.45, while Houston’s is 377.41. Flooding, hail, and wildfires are also fairly common in the region. It takes significant precautions to protect your tenants and your properties from these events, and you can never be fully prepared.
As a Houston area property manager, what can you do to handle these potential natural disasters? Addressing these four factors can help reduce the likelihood that your tenants will be negatively impacted.
Although all property managers are responsible for the regular upkeep of their structures, those who live in areas with a high incidence of natural disasters need to be especially well prepared. Installing appropriate windows for major weather events, regularly inspecting the roof, and choosing siding materials suited to common natural disasters are all important aspects of emergency preparedness.
If, as a property manager, you’re worried about wildfires harming the exterior of your buildings, selecting a fireproof material like fiber cement siding can help reduce the likelihood that a fire will affect your tenants. This is also good insurance against other accidental fires, such as those caused by discarded matches, cigarettes, or backyard grills. You should also recruit your local fire department to teach tenants and staff about the proper use of fire extinguishers and to review evacuation protocols on an annual basis.
One thing to keep a close eye on as a property manager is emergency lighting. It’s easy to ignore the function of these lights, even when performing routine inspections of fire and carbon monoxide detectors, but these lights can save lives in an emergency. Make sure to activate them regularly to make sure the bulbs work and that the sensors are in working order. Sometimes moisture can get inside of the sensors and cause them to malfunction. It’s easy to fix such a problem, but you’ll still need to know about it in advance.
Create Evacuation Options
Because safety should be your first priority in the event of a natural disaster, it’s important for property managers to assess and share the best ways to be safe during an emergency. Tenants are best protected from a tornado inside of a safe room built according to FEMA specifications, but this may not always be an option. If your properties don’t have a communal safe room, discuss the best in-home options with your tenants, such as small, windowless rooms like closets and bathrooms towards the center of the home.
If your properties include multi-story buildings, you may also want to discuss group safety plans with your tenants. Those who live on upper floors should not remain in their apartments during a tornado, as upper levels can be torn away during the worst of these disasters. Instead, tenants should have access to communal areas on lower floors or be paired with other tenants for emergency situations.
Back Everything Up
Power outages are fairly common across the country and can be caused by everything from major natural disasters and high winds to simple local incidents like traffic accidents and construction. Just because power outages are common, however, doesn’t mean that property managers should discount them. Instead, you should be prepared with items like battery powered radios, generators, and other supportive equipment for such events.
Not every power outage calls for the use of a generator, but in areas like Houston, a summertime power outage can send temperatures sky high, putting your tenants at risk of heat stroke and other heat-related illnesses. Generators are also vital for the health of residents who may rely on refrigerated medication or other medical equipment for their health and safety.
Improve Communication Systems
In the event of a natural disaster or other local emergency, time is of the essence, and that’s why you’ll need to make sure you have excellent communication systems in place. Today, many people prefer to receive text alerts when a problem arises, but this isn’t always possible during extreme weather conditions or after an extended power outage, when phones may no longer be working. You should always plan for several methods of communication so that tenants can’t miss the signal to evacuate or take other precautions.
In apartment complexes, one emergency communication option is the alarm system. Although we typically only think about fire alarms, these alarms can be used to signal an evacuation for any reason. Other systems should be devised for emergencies that require sheltering in place.
Don’t forget to include additional property staffers in your communication system, especially those responsible for turning off utilities like gas or water when problems arise. Quickly communicating a gas leak to trained staff members, for example, is vital to prevent residents from inhaling potentially deadly chemicals.
Care When You Need It Most
In the event of a local natural disaster, property managers need to act fast while under immense stress. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for emergencies in advance and rehearse response procedures to ensure your tenants and properties are thoroughly protected. This is the most difficult and most important part of your job as a property manager.
Worried about your current disaster preparedness efforts? Contact Green Residential to discuss your concerns today. With over 30 years of experience with Houston area property management, we’ve lived through the hard times and helped guide our many clients through annual severe weather events. We can help you develop a better emergency preparedness plan and assist with factors like proper maintenance that form the bedrock of any disaster response plan.
The time to prepare is before you’re faced with an emergency, so act now. Green Residential is just a call away, ready to offer assistance when you need it most.