A crisis can jeopardize the viability of a property, potentially damaging the reputations of owners, property managers, and asset managers. However, a well-prepared asset management firm will know how to respond to a crisis, ameliorating harms and resolving problems effectively.
Crises may include natural disasters, such as fires, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes, criminal acts, such as theft, vandalism, or cyber-attacks, and numerous types of accidents. While it is not always possible to prevent a crisis, planning ahead can greatly increase the chances of effectively managing one. Here are 5 important things to include in any property crisis management plan
#1 A Team with Clearly-Defined Roles
Designating a crisis management team is the first and most fundamental step to managing a crisis. The team will be tasked with planning ahead for crises, to the best of their abilities, and with responding to any actual crises as they develop.
It is absolutely vital to have a team with clearly-defined roles, and it is imperative that every member of the team understand what their role is in the event of a crisis. Establish the chain of command1 ahead of time, and make sure everyone knows who is responsible for what.
In general it is a good idea for the team to include2 the CEO, public relations manager, internal3 communications manager, safety officer, company lawyers, and an official spokesperson for the media. It is a particularly good idea to have the spokesperson take professional training4 to learn how to best talk to the media
#2 Anticipation of Scenarios
While it is impossible to foresee every aspect of a complex situation, some crises may be clearly anticipated. It is a good idea to have the crisis management team try to anticipate5 how they would need to respond in a number of common crisis scenarios, such as a fire, a flood, a break-in, or a cyber-attack.
By anticipating scenarios, team members can optimize plans to respond to particular crises, and consider best- and worst-case scenarios. Anticipating scenarios may also help identify precautionary measures that could prevent many crises.
#3 Prepared Key Messages
As with anticipating crisis scenarios, preparing key messages6 is an important aspect of planning ahead for a particular scenario. While it is doubtful that very many prepared key messages will be usable verbatim, they can serve as useful templates in the event of an actual crisis.
Prepared key messages should identify the cause of the crisis, describe what took place, give a timetable of what the organization is planning to do next, and express compassion for victims, if applicable. They should also include any relevant safety tips or precautionary measures.
#4 A List of Who to Notify and How
Many people will need to be notified in the event of a crisis: employees, tenants, owners, and the property management company (if applicable). Make a list7 of everyone who needs to be notified, and ensure that contact information is kept up to date. The order in which everyone is to be notified should also be clearly established.
Another aspect of planning to communicate with everyone is planning on the information channels8 to be used. For example, when contacting residents of a multifamily complex in the event of a crisis, it might be desirable to send texts to residents’ cell phones first, and then email residents with a more detailed explanation.
#5 Internal Communications Procedures
Employees of the organization may need to act on important information, and they may need to keep sensitive information confidential. Internal communications procedures9 can stipulate how employees will receive important information, i.e. in person, over the phone, by email, etc.
It is also a good idea to establish a policy10 for the media and social media, and clearly explain it to all employees. In the event of a crisis, employees need to understand they must not talk to the media, as this will be the responsibility of the official spokesperson.
Crises are disasters, but they can also be seen as opportunities for a well-prepared firm to distinguish itself by responding effectively and honestly. While there is no such thing as a fool-proof plan, the 5 steps recommended here will go a long way toward establishing a sound plan to confront a crisis.