Hurricane Sandy, the recent, deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma and the Boston Marathon bombing are stark reminders that businesses and commercial and industrial properties are susceptible to a wide variety of emergencies. Hurricanes, extensive flooding, blizzards, ice storms, fires and utility disruptions are just some of the emergencies that can impact a business’ operations, bringing fresh urgency to the need for business preparedness and resiliency efforts.
Such emergencies and disasters have the potential to cripple or even destroy businesses – of all sizes and scope – that are unprepared for such events; studies show that 40% of businesses that do not have emergency plans in place do not re-open after a major incident.
Having businesses that are resilient to emergencies ultimately helps local communities and citizens recover from disasters faster – which is why business resilience is so important to FEMA. Engaging an entire community in disaster preparedness, response and recovery activities is a main responsibility of FEMA’s Private Sector Liaisons, who work in all ten FEMA regions across the country. As the Private Sector Liaison for FEMA Region I (which covers six states and 10 Indian Tribes in New England), I arranged for our regional office to participate in the “Weathering the Storm: How Properties Can Prepare and Respond” event that NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, hosted on May 31, 2013.
The event focused on the important steps commercial property owners should take to prepare their properties and protect their tenants – a great topic that doesn’t get talked about enough. It also featured a variety of experts who discussed topics including the lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, developing a storm preparedness plan, insurance impacts and legal challenges, and “preparing buildings for tomorrow.”
With support from NAIOP Massachusetts executives, FEMA Region I Acting Administrator Paul Ford and the directors of our National Preparedness, Hazard Mitigation and External Affairs divisions, a team of FEMA experts spent several hours at the event, sharing literature with and talking to attendees interested in learning how FEMA can help them protect their business, property and tenants.
To help capture the insights from the speakers, we live tweeted the event from the Region 1 Twitter account (@femaregion1). So rather than rehashing all of the lessons they shared, here are the bite-sized messages posted during the event – some great tips for businesses:
- Vivien Li, President, The Boston Harbor Association:
Vivien Li: "Properties identify vulnerable structures & systems on your property" in anticipation of sea level rise & storm surge #naiopma— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
- Alfred Scaramelli, Senior Vice President, Beacon Capital Partners, LLC:
- John Brandstetter, Managing Director, The Brandstetter Group:
John Brandstetter: Pre-incident relationships are crucial to getting businesses back online after a disaster #naiopma— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
John Brandstetter: property owners, document your loss & keep a journal logging disaster events as they happen #naiopmaevent— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
John Brandstetter's parting message to property owners is "train, train, train on disaster response & recovery plans" #naiopmaevent— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
- Peter See, Boston Properties
Peter See: property owners have backup communications plan for if/when regular systems fail#naiopment— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
Peter See: property owners have emergency communications plan with vendors - have hard copy contact lists on hand #naiopmaevent— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
Peter See: property owners make an emergency flood plan - how will you de-energize building & protect electrical systems? #naiopmaevent— FEMA Region 1 (@femaregion1) May 31, 2013
The event in Boston last week is a great model for other communities to follow. It was successful because it provided a platform for business owners to share their stories from disasters in a way that others could apply to their own companies. Preparing for emergencies makes good business sense. The better prepared your business and employees are and the more resilient your business is, the faster your operations can recover – helping not only your business but your community as well.
I’m thankful that NAIOP Massachusetts, The Commercial Real Estate Development Association, allowed FEMA to participate. I hope other communities will learn from this event and business owners who weren’t there will take the lessons to heart!
- More information on getting your business prepared for a disaster: Ready.gov/business
- More information about the “Weathering the Storm” event
- More information on FEMA programs, free tools, and resources available to all private sector entities
- For more discussion, or to contact your regional FEMA Private Sector Liaison, please reach out to us at FEMAfirstname.lastname@example.org