From Texas to Florida to California, communities are initiating the process of recuperation and rebuilding following disaster. For owners and operators of apartments affected by hurricane, flooding or fire damages, this means rehabilitating our residents’ homes, but also helping local staff with their own challenges of displacement and loss.
To that end, NMHC President Doug Bibby brought together a panel of industry leaders during the 2017 NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition to discuss the importance of having a good, well-rounded emergency plan and basic emergency communication protocols in place. Just taking a few basic steps ahead of time can go a long way to making the aftermath of an unexpected event more bearable.
Doug was joined by Greg Benson, managing director for national marketing for Greystar; Clyde Stutts, COO of Cortland Partners; and Alan Walsh, senior vice president of human resources at CF Real Estate Services. Each of the executives spoke to recent experiences dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes in Texas and Florida. Cortland Partners has nine properties in Houston, of which three were heavily damaged, while Greystar, which was founded in Houston, has 165 communities in the area and more throughout Florida.
Kicking off the conversations, Greystar’s Benson noted that, as the company started in Houston, it had experience with hurricanes and had already established a playbook, but they also took advantage of new technologies. They realized that their teams needed to sharpen how they communicated both internally and externally and also reinforced their IT infrastructure following the flooding.
CF Real Estate Services’ Walsh agreed on the importance of having a plan ready beforehand and noted that while there is always a small degree of panic ahead of a major event, as the storms were aligning they made sure to over communicate with residents, onsite staff and senior management.
In terms of how they specifically dealt with this autumn’s storms, they all noted the importance of prompt and ongoing communication whether through traditional tools like phone and email or through social media.
In a variety of cases, onsite staff weathered the storms at the properties and regional corporate staff went out of their way to go to local communities to help residents. Almost across the board, staff went above and beyond to help residents and protect communities. The panelists agreed that when it came to acknowledging their efforts, traditional rewards like spot bonuses were used and were important, but just as important was personally thanking them for their efforts and noting the difference they made in front of colleagues.
As many properties sustained damage, it was important to move quickly after the storm to help residents and go about repairs to communities. As an example, Greystar, which had more than 1,000 apartments damaged, rescinded all move-ins and applications and took down all online postings so as to free up as many units as possible. In terms of revenue management, they turned the systems off at first so not to risk price increases. They also lined up vendors ahead of time both in the area as well as from across the country to help with repairs and renovations.
Overall, while the impact from the storms was substantial, having a plan in place, emphasizing strong communications and trusting onsite staff are all key to a successful disaster response.