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The Red Binder – A Must Have For All Properties – By Patty Purdue

Posted on 29. Jan, 2012 by in all, Magazine Articles

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I am sure you are curious what the answer to this “must have” is and why is it so important?  Let me start by explaining the purpose of an Emergency Red Binder. Every employee should be prepared for emergencies and as we all know it is always too late if we are not ready.  The ability to handle an emergency with intelligence and common sense is something that you must train your employees and it starts with being ready for any emergency.
Now, sitting behind a desk and explaining the purpose is quite simple but when an emergency strikes we cannot try to take care of the problems that determine the word emergency, we have to be ready.  Unfortunately, the only way to really be versed in an emergency is to actually experience it. 
Helping your employees to remain calm and understand how to deal with the emergency is to have the tools available to assist your employee in taking control of the situation.  So let’s get into the most important part of this article and that is to give you the information that you should require of your property team.

First of all, always duplicate the information and have the book in at least two locations.  Two very good places are one in the office and one in the maintenance shop.  This binder should be set up with dividers and they should have labels for each section so that the information is easily found as this is an emergency binder and therefore, will be utilized during an emergency.  So let’s talk about the different categories you will need to have available during emergency situations:
Two major requirements of all employee training for handling an emergency should be that an incident report be completed when safe to do so and that a camera is always ready to take photos of the emergency situation.  These two tasks must be completed and gathering witness’s name and addresses to an emergency is very important.

Telephone Numbers Needed
•    Supervisor: You want to make sure that you have all supervisor contact information and educate your team on when notification is required.  This should be part of your Procedures Manual but more specifically you need to make sure that there is a chain of phone numbers for notification purposes.  Be specific and address when someone should contact a supervisor such as a fire, flood, and death of a resident and so on.
•    Co-workers: Your team member should also have their co-workers contact information including your Property Manager and your maintenance team members so that they can pitch in, if necessary.
•    Vendors: You need to set up key emergency vendors such as an Electrician, Plumber, HVAC and Window glass/door replacement including a Locksmith.  In order to have action when an emergency occurs you need to set this up prior to when you need the help of these valuable vendors.  Make sure that you have everything ready such as insurance information, pricing for the emergency,  credit set up so that payment is not a hiccup to getting their assistance and most important that they are willing to be your 24 hour emergency service provider.
•    Utility Company Emergency Line: Always make sure that your employees understand the importance of contacting the utility emergency line to get services shut off if necessary.
•    Hotel: If you have an emergency evacuation plan, every property should have at least a hotel to take care of the residents until the matter can be resolved.  Just to give you an example, we had a power shortage and it was in the middle of winter in an all-electric property so heat was not available.  Many of the residents had family to stay with but a few residents were in a very difficult position as they had no family to help them so we had the option of offering them a place to stay and the rate was a special charge for our residents until we could correct the matter.

Resident’s Contact Information
Have your team go that extra mile of knowing who lives in your property.  Do you have disabled residents?  Create a list of all senior residents or anyone who would have a problem exiting the building safely and quickly.  Do you have a way of listing their emergency contact information in case they have a casualty?  Sure, it is in their resident file but what if you need it quickly?
Include the list of residents who live in your property and update it every month and highlight anyone who needs assistance.  In an emergency, a swift response is necessary.  The ability to flip to this section of your binder and know who needs help to exit the property is a key to being prepared especially if you are questioned by emergency personnel.

Emergency Evacuation Plan
When your residents move into the property they should be given an Emergency Evacuation Plan where all residents will meet far enough away from a building and in an open area that will not be a hindrance if emergency vehicles must park.
Make the instruction easy to read and simple so as to eliminate any confusion.  Update the plan if the location changes but quarterly I would send out the same plan as a reminder if an emergency evacuation route is necessary.

Shut Off Valve Locations
This is a huge problem especially if you have an emergency related to water or gas etc.  You want to take a site map and highlight all shut offs with a color coded layout so that if the utility company must shut off a meter that it is easy to detect.  Water and sewer lines would be marked in blue, fire hydrants should be colored red, gas and electric meters a different color and if you have knowledge of other important items on your property, do not hesitate to mark them on the site map as they could be very valuable in an emergency.
On this site map you want to list all the meter numbers, utility shut offs and sewer clean-outs as well as irrigation controls if you have them on your property. You should never have to guess where any of your services are and when it is an emergency I am sure you can see the importance of this valuable site map.

•    Gas: Check for gas leaks.  If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and leave the building.  Turn off the gas outside the main valve if you can.  Call the Gas Company.  If you turn off the gas for any reason, a professional should turn it back on.
•    Electrical System Damage: If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, if you smell insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breakers.  Never step in water to shut off the circuit breakers.
•    Water and Sewer Damage: If you suspect sewer lines are damaged avoid using toilets and call a plumber.  If water pipes are damaged, call the Water Department and avoid water from the tap.

Have a First Aid Kit Available
It is most important that your team has a complete first aid kit and this kit must be available and meet OSHA standards.  You should have two first aid kits and each should contain the following items:

•    Adhesive bandages
•    Adhesive tape
•    Antiseptic wipes
•    Burn cream (minor burns only)
•    Disposable gloves
•    Elastic bandages
•    First aid cream
•    First aid manual
•    Flexible fabric bandages
•    Instant cold packs
•    Large and medium dressing pads
•    Oval eye pads
•    Scissors
•    Stretch bandages
•    Small dressing pads
•    Triangular bandages
•    Disposable mouth to mouth resuscitators
•    Pain relievers (Tylenol, Ibuprofen or aspirin)
•    Smoke detectors
•    Eyewash rinse

Note:  You should make sure that there is a first aid “check-out list” and that when something is removed that it is replaced on a regular basis.

The Media
All employees handling an emergency should be trained in the correct response to the media and it goes without saying that the words “no comment” are not an acceptable response.
A good response is to inform the media that someone in management will be responding to their questions shortly and that they will answer questions when they have had time to research the incident.  Inform the staff that they should say nothing further and just be polite and professional.

Recommendations
As someone who has “sat behind the desk” for many years, I can testify that this Emergency Red Binder is a fantastic tool in handling emergency situations.  By providing the essentials, it gives credibility to handling any type of emergency by just having the information within this binder.  The reason it is RED is because it will stand out and is easily noticeable when the emergency strikes.
A few other items you can include would be a safety program that will help to insure some of the possible emergency situations that can arise such as what to do if you are in the following dire situations:

•    Earthquakes
•    Fire
•    Flood
•    Sewer back up
•    Blood
•    Death
•    Property damage
•    Dog bite
•    Resident injury
•    Vandalism
•    Break in
•    Slip and fall
•    Police incidents involving residents
•    Drugs
•    OSHA
The RED Emergency binder should help employees in dealing with any of the above topics.  Every company should have clear and definitive ways in which employees are to respond.  This is a perfect place to provide all the information necessary to meet an emergency head on.
Finally, do not wait for the emergency to happen, train your employees by making sure that they understand why this tool should be understood before they face a problem.
Have a safety meeting and go over this binder and make it clear to all staff members what is included and why it is so important.
I guarantee you will appreciate this binder the first time an emergency is faced and you will have a team that will meet the problem with confidence and professionalism. BE READY AND GOOD LUCK!

Patty Perdue, Owner of Properties Investment Solutions is a Property Operations Consultant with over 35 years of “Behind the Desk” experience including working with struggling assets all over the country and provides Onsite Training, Consulting and Due Diligence.  Patty can be contacted via email at pattyaperdue@yahoo.com.