Facilities managers have to deal with unforeseen problems each day they go to work—ranging from the minor hiccup to a potentially catastrophic disaster (hopefully never the latter).
No matter the scale of the issue, it’s important to be prepared. The BOMA 2019 International Conference & Expo—bringing together commercial real estate professionals and experts from across the country—will tackle a range of topics that can help you step up your preventative maintenance measures and ability to address a multitude of challenges.
The people you network with on the show floor, too, are a treasure-trove of experience and knowledge of the tactics that do and don’t work.
A Firsthand Experience
What’s the craziest day on the job you’ve had, and how did you overcome it? For Becky Hanner, principal at Hanner Commercial Asset Services, that day included a fire.
At the time, she was a property manager for remote properties and living in North Carolina. It was a Friday night, and she was preparing for her son’s birthday party the next day when she received a phone call: Her building in South Carolina was on fire.
During the 5-hour drive south, she got on her phone to speak with the tenant, and arranged for a vendor to secure the premises and soon as the fire department was finished putting out the fire. She also notified the owner and the insurance company, then updated the surrounding tenants of the status.
“By the time I got down there, all was secured,” Hanner says. “I took lots of photos, took care of the paperwork, spoke with the tenants, got in my car and drove back home.”
The cause of the fire was revealed to be a neon sign that got too hot. Hanner made it back home in time the next day to still enjoy her son’s birthday party.
When Disaster Strikes
In 2011, Sean Ahrens, then a project manager at Aon, shared with us the day he experienced his first earthquake. He was on the 11th floor of a building in New York City when he felt a swaying motion. Building management announced minutes later that occupants should remain where they were and wait for more information.
Occupants began to evacuate. Throughout the ordeal, Ahrens remarked on the chaos that ensued and how no one was there to direct people how to safely evacuate. There also wasn’t a predetermined gathering point for evacuees.
[Read more: 10 Common Mistakes in Your Emergency Action Plan]
Several weeks later, Ahrens met with the ASIS International Commercial Real Estate Council and brainstormed what lessons there were to be learned, including these three:
1. Immediate information needs to be provided by the building management regarding what to do. Failure to provide information will lead others to provide unverified information for you.
2. More frequent drills need to be conducted, and these drills need to review multiple types of emergencies, including an earthquake. Chemical release, active shooter and flood may also be prudent emergencies to consider.
3. Gathering points for mass evacuation from multiple buildings have to be pre-identified and communicated to building occupants. Some emergencies may require sheltering or moving away from a building—it needs to be determined how that will occur.
Unforeseen events, both big and small, likely happen for facilities managers on a daily basis. Whether it’s learning that the foundation of their office tower is leaning or that their airport needs to be evacuated. It’s being prepared for anything that matters.
As BUILDINGS editor-in-chief Janelle Penny puts it, “You can’t always avoid an emergency, but you can be smart about how you manage it.”
What’s the craziest day you’ve had on the job, and how did you overcome it? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your experience.
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