Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Dealing with Disaster: IREM Members Survive the Midwest Floods of 2008

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Dealing with Disaster: IREM Members Survive the Midwest Floods of 2008

Article excerpt

Even during the best of times, property managers know they must be ready for disaster to strike. Building emergencies (fires, power outages, bomb threats, medical emergencies, etc.), weather-related emergencies (tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, wild fires, etc.), geologic emergencies (e.g., earthquakes, landslides) and other types of emergencies (including nuclear accidents, acts of terrorism and even swine flu outbreaks) are beyond a property manager's control. Yet, while disasters such as these cannot be prevented entirely, their effects can be mitigated and losses minimized through effective planning and timely action.

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The opportunity for effective action greatly increases if property managers are prepared before a disaster occurs. Every property should have emergency procedures and business continuity plans in place that address the property's unique needs, in order to minimize damage and facilitate a coordinated, proactive response. IREM Members have risen to the challenge through many adverse situations, and have learned from past disasters how to become even more prepared for the future. The Midwest Floods of 2008 are examples of disasters that tested the mettle of many property managers who responded quickly to preserve their assets.

DISASTER STRIKES THE MIDWEST

It has been more than a year since the floods of 2008--brought on by heavy rainfall in early June--barraged the Midwest and left behind a wake of devastation. Even today, many homes and businesses are still struggling to recover from the catastrophic damage wreaked by the deluge.

Great damage was immediately evident: the loss of life, displacement of people, and failure of power, sewage and transportation systems. The floods stopped businesses in their tracks, destroyed residential areas and sent property managers scrambling to protect their assets. Those with disaster plans in place were best positioned to mitigate, if not prevent, the results of these calamities.

After the waters receded, the crisis was far from over. According to Bob Anderson, public affairs officer for the Mississippi Valley Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, water damage--to furniture, carpeting, electronics and other property--and potentially deadly mold were only two of the many aftereffects that Midwesterners faced.

"Flooding no doubt can cause total devastation to a facility," said Douglas Papineau, director of the U.S. General Service Administration's Iowa property management office in Des Moines. "Knowing the potential risks and having a plan to minimize the impacts is paramount."

GETTING A JUMP-START ON DISASTER

Connie Chapman, RPA, director of management at Ryan Companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had a written flood-proofing plan for the Great American Building, an eight-story, 140,000-square-foot office building that her company manages and uses as its headquarters. Because of the building's location near the banks of the Cedar River, such a plan was required by the Cedar Rapids Floodplain Management Ordinance.

The plan was reviewed each spring and required preventive measures such as placing expandable plugs in all floor drains and sandbagging the outer walls against plastic sheeting to a height of two feet.

As river levels rose in spring 2008, Chapman took additional proactive measures. She recorded model and serial numbers from ground-floor equipment in case it became necessary to replace parts; set elevators to the second floor and locked them; lifted items such as computer servers from the floor onto desks; and contacted contractors about work that would be needed as soon as the water receded.

Des Moines was another hard-hit area in 2008. Krista Capp, CPM[R], vice president of property management at Hubbell Realty in West Des Moines, knew the company's buildings in the downtown River Point Business Park might be affected by flooding. …

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