Post-Earthquake Building Safety Inspection

1 Post-Earthquake Building Safety Inspection With the Great ShakeOut approaching on October 19, in addition to holding an earthquake drill, building and facility teams may want to consider practicing their post-earthquake safety check procedures. Because the default response to an earthquake is for office building occupants to shelter in place, …

How to Conduct an Earthquake Drill

1 How to Conduct an Earthquake Drill With The Great Shakeout quickly approaching, many buildings and organizations are considering holding an earthquake drill. But what does that involve? When planning a drill, first determine how extensive you’d like it to be.  Will it only include your organization or the entire …

Helpful Resources for your Emergency Response Plan

1 Helpful Resources for your Emergency Response Plan With September being National Preparedness Month, and with so many recent disasters fresh in our minds, we thought compiling a list of good planning resources would help property/facility teams ensure their emergency response plans are up to all the challenges. For individuals …

How To Create An Emergency Response Plan

1 How To Create An Emergency Response Plan In preparation for National Preparedness Month, happening in September, we will be publishing a series of articles sharing tips for businesses and buildings to create and implement a successful emergency response plan. Whether you’re preparing your first or updating an existing emergency …

We Are All First Responders

1 We Are All First Responders As our thoughts and prayers go out to those struggling to recover from Hurricane Harvey’s destruction, as we watch images of neighbors helping neighbors, we are reminded of a central truth in emergency preparedness: when we have an isolated emergency at our building, help …

10 Things to Include in Your Emergency Response Plan

1 10 Things to Include in Your Emergency Response Plan In preparation for National Preparedness Month, happening in September, we will be publishing a series of articles sharing tips and tricks for businesses and buildings to create and implement a successful emergency response plan. If you’re a building owner, property …

Principles of Emergency Response Planning and Training

The Big Three.  At heart, all emergency plans deal primarily with the interaction of systems, people, and procedures:

  • Systems are the features and equipment that come into play in an emergency – fire detection and suppression equipment, stairwells and elevators, communications equipment, extinguishers, HVAC, etc.
  • People include trained staff, warden teams, occupants, visitors, and responding emergency personnel
  • Procedures are the response protocols to be followed in each emergency scenario

Like Politics, All Emergency Preparedness is Local. While emergency response procedures tend to be fairly standard, the specific conditions in your facility will shape your plan. The plan for a downtown, river-front high rise that houses FBI agents, financial trading companies, and a daycare center will be different from the plan for an isolated suburban low-rise.  Adapt the standard guidelines and response protocols to reflect the facts on the ground.

Know Your Building. Nearly every emergency scenario will involve some interaction with your building’s systems. Because you’ll likely have to think on your feet and improvise, know what you’ve got to work with. Will a PA announcement be heard inside the exit stairwells? Do any tenants have their own HVAC units or ventilation equipment that need to be shut down during a shelter in place? Truly understanding the limitations and capabilities of your building’s systems can make a big difference in how effectively your team responds.

Your building’s limitations and capabilities will affect how well the emergency response plan works. Concentrate on the capabilities and develop other options to overcome the limitations.

Don’t Go Overboard. Plans are essential first steps, and you’ll want to think carefully about the range of situations you might face. But while small emergencies can be handled by the book, significant disasters tend to deviate from your carefully constructed plan pretty quickly. Don’t get bogged down trying to document a detailed response to every single “what if” scenario.  Your best asset in a major emergency is a well-trained staff capable of making decisions amid rapidly changing circumstances.

Cross-Train Your Staff.  The resident emergency preparedness expert, the person everybody intends to rely upon in a crisis, will probably be on vacation when disaster strikes. If no engineer is on-site, will someone from security or property management be able to shut down the HVAC system?  Make sure your staff and emergency team members are cross-trained to carry out critical tasks.

When the Big One Comes, You’re on Your Own. When a bad event befalls your building, emergency personnel should be on-site within minutes to take over and lead the response. But in a regional event, you could be on your own for hours, maybe even days. The planning and training work you do now will make a profound difference in a large-scale emergency.

Train and Drill. Planning is the essential first step, but plans by themselves do not save lives – staff and occupants implementing a plan are what make the difference in an emergency. Good training programs are dynamic, engaging, and offer multiple ways to learn. Training materials are convenient, but people don’t remember much when the alarms are going off – they need to practice moving to their primary and secondary stairwells.

Focus on Responses, Not Threats. The number of possible calamities that could befall your building is large, but nearly all emergency responses boil down to a few common procedures -- evacuation, shelter in place, and internal relocation (at high-rise buildings). Focus on these responses, what you’ll need people to do. Spending too much time on the causes of disasters tends to unnerve people. Focusing on responses lets them know a plan is in place and trained staff will be ready to provide leadership.



After an Active Shooter Event: Post-Incident Considerations for Property Managers

After an Active Shooter Event: Post-Incident Considerations for Property Managers

With the number of active shooter events up three-fold over the past 15 years, and with the workplace being the number one location for these events, property managers and employers are appropriately concerned about knowing how to respond effectively. 

While the best protocol for responding to an active shooter event – Run-Hide-Fight – is now widely understood, there is less awareness of how to avoid and prevent them in the first place. Even less well appreciated are the myriad factors that come into play after an active shooter event has ended. The aftermath of an active shooter event typically lasts for months.

While the immediate response options available to property and facility managers are limited, they can and should have an emergency response plan in place that anticipates the myriad post-incident considerations.

First, your property will now be a crime scene. Tenants, employees, even key building staff may not have access to portions or all of the facility for hours or longer. (After the 2016 Dallas sniper shootings, the FBI closed off 16-square blocks of the central business district for several days.) A business continuity component to your emergency response plan that anticipates these types of disruptions can help you respond more effectively and return to normal operations more quickly. 

Second, you and your employees may be held as witnesses. Taking witness statements could take several hours. Police may also request access to video camera footage.

You will want to account for your employees as quickly as possible. Because many of your staff will have fled, taking roll call will be difficult.  Will you be able to contact all of your employees, or a relative, without access to your office? Rapid notification systems and call-in numbers can help in these situations (as well as with tenant communications).

Media will arrive quickly. Adhering to your organization’s media policies will be important. You may want to set up a media area that is close but not near police investigators or potential victims’ families, who will also begin showing up very soon after the event. (One study by the Federal Transportation Safety Board estimates that for every potential victim, 8 to 10 relatives and friends will show up at the site.) Consider setting up a family waiting area away from media crews.

Cleanup and repairs may take days or weeks.  If the building will reopen before all work is completed, you may need to establish visual barriers to help reduce the emotional toll of walking through the affected area.

Insurance claims will likely need to be filed.  Your organization’s attorneys may become involved in anticipation of potential lawsuits.

Finally, your staff and employees may need counseling after the event.

No amount of planning can prevent an active shooter event, but it can help reduce the emotional, psychological, and financial damage should one occur at your property. For more information on planning effectively, contact AK Preparedness at 206-238-0055 x224, or info@akpreparedness.

Building Information Cards

Building Information Cards

High-rise buildings in most US cities are now required to have a Building Information Card in their fire control room. A recent additional to the International Fire Code, Building Information Cards (BICs) are quick-reference guides for arriving firefighters.  

When emergency responders arrive at a building, they need quick access to key building data. Does the building have pressurized stairwells?  Is diesel fuel or other hazards stored on site? Can elevators be recalled from the fire control room?  And they don’t have time to read through emergency response plan binders.

A BIC provides more than 100 data points about the facility on a single 11-by-17-inch laminated card.  The front side features a cross section view of the building depicting the locations of standpipes, stairwells, elevators, and access stairs, along with a floor plan diagram of the lobby level and location of the fire control room. The back side provides a wealth of data on building systems, the locations of hazards and shutoffs, contact information for key staff, and scores of other details.

These decidedly low-tech but highly effective tools were introduce in the early 1990s in New York City. That city began requiring them after 9/11. Los Angeles adopted a variation of them a few years later, and the International Fire Code adopted them in 2012.

While the BIC requirement has been around for several years, cities are in various stages of adopting them. In addition to NYC and LA, many cities already require them.  Some cities have only recently adopted the 2012 IFC requirements and are giving building a grace period before they expect them in place. While at least one city is requiring them only at new buildings, the majority of jurisdictions now expect to see them at all high-rise buildings, both residential and commercial. 

A copy of the BIC must be kept in the Fire Control Room. However, while the primary audience is firefighters, BICs are more often used by building engineers and other staff.  Being able to see a cross section view of the building and all key system data on a single double-sided card is extremely helpful for staff training and day-to-day reference.

For more information on BIC requirements, contact AK Preparedness at 206-238-0055 x224, or