Handling Emergencies in Multi-Tenant Office Buildings

  April 2, 2015

In dealing with large-scale emergencies in multi-tenant office buildings, having an effective emergency contact system in place is one tool that help the facility manager in such a crisis.

For Debby Pyznarski, senior general manager in Chicago for Lincoln Property Co., the biggest safety challenge in these buildings is trying to manage expectations during a major emergency. And she doesn't hesitate in offering an example: the enormous rainfall — 5 or 6 inches of rain in 24 hours — that flooded much of the Chicago metropolitan area in April 2013 and closed major roads and highways.

"I had a portfolio of 10 different buildings at that time," she remembers. "Every tenant from every building was feeling I needed to be there to address their concerns at that moment of time. I needed to replicate myself instantly.

"A building in Lisle was taking in water through their lobby doors from a pond in back. At another building, in Rosemont, they couldn't get to the building because the major highway in front was closed.

"You're trying to communicate and stay in touch with these tenants who are getting madder by the minute at things you have no control over. The phone is absolutely ringing off the hook and everybody is going, 'When are you going to be here?'"

What kept Pyznarski's head above water, so to speak, was having a system in place for contacting people in an emergency. In her case, her contact system was already loaded into an electronic broadcasting tool that provides email, voice-mail, and texting capability. "I was able to literally pull over to the side and send messages out to tenants in all of my facilities explaining that this was an area-wide crisis, that we were doing everything we could to keep them updated, that it was a very fluid situation, and that when we received information from governmental authorities we would share it. Sometimes they just need to hear from you, even if you don't have an answer. Knowing you know about it relieves a bit of the tension."

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