BOMA International has been working swiftly to collect and provide information
on building security and tenant safety to the association's members and tenants
of commercial buildings, especially in light of the tragic events of Sept. 11,
2001. The following information comes from a number of authoritative sources,
including the collective wisdom of BOMA International's local associations in
106 locations in North America, and abroad.
For the purposes of this article, an emergency is any event that jeopardizes
the occupants, the contents, and/or the physical structure of a building. This
definition covers a broad spectrum of possible occurrences, both natural and
human-based in nature. While bomb threats, crime, terrorism, and civil disturbances
are the emergencies most commonly considered security-related, a disaster could
just as likely involve fire (arson), vehicular incidents, building system interruption,
or hazardous materials incidents. By addressing security, emergency, and recovery
planning issues at the same time, it is possible to eliminate some unnecessary
overlap and repetition. This should lead to a comprehensive plan, which reduces
the threat of emergencies through prevention, early detection, notification,
effective evacuation or relocation measures, control/mitigation, and recovery
Why Do I Need A Plan?
An effective emergency plan can prevent incidents from becoming significant.
When significant emergencies have occurred, the lack of a planned response or
the failure of people or building systems to respond as planned have frequently
been contributing factors.
Actions taken in an emergency are rarely effective unless they are planned in
advance. The longer it takes people to react effectively, the greater the potential
for significant losses. In the event of an emergency, improper or nonexistent
emergency plans can make a bad situation worse. Prior planning can prevent poor
Finally, it may be best to develop an emergency plan for the following reason
- it's the law. In some cases, emergency plans may be required be any of the
following entities: federal, state, or local regulatory agencies; corporate
policy; insurance companies; or certain types of tenants. For example, the U.S.
General Services Administration (GSA) requires all federal agencies to develop
an emergency plan. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
also requires emergency action plans for workplaces with more than 10 employees.
The Goals of Emergency Planning
It is extremely important to identify the goals of an emergency plan at the
outset of the planning process. These goals will form the foundation of the
entire plan through development, implementation, and maintenance. One of the
main goals of any emergency plan should be to minimize the emergency's impact
on the building, its occupants, and contents - including both physical property
and business operations. To achieve this goal, an emergency plan must specify
the actions to be taken prior to, during, and after the types of emergencies
that can be anticipated.
The goals of a specific plan will vary depending on the facility. However, certain
goals should be part of any emergency plan.
Plans that are poorly designed, poorly implemented, and/or poorly maintained
never work. However, when a good emergency plan exists, people are confident
that it will work. If people believe in the plan, they will follow it and will
look to designated personnel for guidance. The plan will work as designed.
With no emergency plan, or with one that is poorly designed or executed, people
will perceive that they are on their own. If building occupants are not familiar
with the plan, they will be unsure of how they should respond in an emergency.
BOMA International has begun posting this information at the new Emergency Resource
Center located on the web (www.boma.org/emergency) to help people review building
security and emergency preparedness issues.
Much of the information being made available by BOMA is drawn from the association's
recently published guide called, Are Your Tenants Safe? BOMA's Guide to Security
and Emergency Planning, which is a second update to the original guide. The
book outlines procedures for creating an emergency plan, considerations for
specific types of emergencies and security threats, security planning, choosing
a security methodology, and release of information when a crisis occurs.
BOMA International President Sherwood Johnston III issued the following statement
regarding the tragic events of September 11: "These events go to the very
core of our humanity. To all of those people directly affected by these terrorist
attacks, we extend our heartfelt sympathies. These events have changed us all.
We need to pause and reflect on what has happened, and remember the greatness
of our nation as we come together to support those in mourning, and to help
rebuild. We will do everything possible as an association representing building
owners and managers to help people affected by the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon. In the days and weeks ahead, we will concentrate on
helping to restore a full sense of security in America's workplaces."
More information about security and safety issues is available on the
BOMA International website (www.boma.org/emergency).