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The HABITAT Plain-English Guide to Emergency Preparedness

New York City, Long Island, Westchester County

Sept. 8, 2014

Make sure that all new building residents receive a copy of the emergency plan when they move in. Keep a copy along with all the other important building documents. Post it on your building's website. Just make sure that all residents know that there is a plan, and that they be familiar with what they need to do in an emergency.

Meet and Greet

Try to host at least one annual residents meeting devoted to the emergency plan. While it's not necessary to do a walkthrough for the entire property, go over the basic steps of the plan. Have the managing agent or someone from the fire department on hand to answer any questions residents might have. And do perform a thorough walkthrough with the building staff, and make sure they know how to shut off utilities or elevator service if necessary. 

Keep the plan and related materials as clear as possible. Make separate versions for building staff and residents, so that neither group can be confused about its role. Keep the information visually clear; use many checklists and headlines in order to prevent anyone from glazing over potentially important items. 

Make sure every resident has an up-to-date list of emergency contact phone numbers that includes the managing agent, building staff, board members and any local services that might be relevant. The board and staff should each also keep a list of all the contractors and personnel who can be called on to work in the building in cases of damage and needed repairs.

Handy Handbook

The Community Associations Institute publishes a handbook, Natural Disasters: How Community Associations Protect themselves, which discusses the planning process in depth. One useful suggestion is to make a thorough inventory of the physical plant, including the brand, model, and serial number of all co-op/condo mechanical property. The book, and a helpful, lengthy summary, are available here.

While emergency planning can be a stressful process, planning can lessen panic if an emergency occurs. Reducing a plan to its most basic steps can give everyone a feeling of confidence. Whether it's a hurricane, fire, blackout or earthquake, a solid emergency plan can make all the difference in determining how your community survives.


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Adapted from "Lessons from Afar" by Michael Gwertzman (Habitat, February 2004)

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