Avoid Disaster Using These Emergency Management Best Practices

by Katie Sloan

By: Brad Oppenheimer, property manager at Halpern Enterprises.

While many aspects of a shopping center — from lighting and facades, to signage — can be controlled, dangerous situations like extreme weather conditions cannot. They can, however, be planned for.

Below are the seven best practices we’ve established over five decades of managing shopping centers that will help you effectively manage any crisis at your shopping center:

1.     Train for emergencies.

Part of what sets Halpern apart from other management companies is that all of our property managers cross-train by managing each of our 30 shopping centers. Because of this, there’s always a manager available who is experienced with the complete set of shopping centers. Be sure all your managers are familiar with your full portfolio of properties.

2.     Have a backup plan.

Know who is on call when the assigned property manager is not available. Especially during holiday or summer travel when staff goes on vacation, there should always be a property manager available and on-call as backup.

3.     Have an experienced team in place.

Once you’ve been notified of an emergency, there is no time to figure out who to call. You should have a team already in place that can handle emergent issues. These team members include a reliable and experienced maintenance manager who is already familiar with the shopping center and its on-site equipment.

Your property managers will have a list of all the tenants to contact, but he or she should also have a list of appropriate vendors to be called and a list of community officials to contact in case of emergency.

4.     Rely on the solid relationships you’ve built with tenants and community officials.

Sometimes city officials or local police might be the ones who alert you to an emergency situation at your center. If you’ve already established good working relationships with municipal officials or local police departments and shown to be good corporate citizens in their communities, they will be more invested in your center and will be proactive in helping you manage any crisis situation.

Building these relationships before you need them is one way to minimize response times and mitigate damage to your center.

5.     Keep an eye on the situation.

If possible, remain at the center yourself, or ask your maintenance manager or a representative of the management company to remain on-site to monitor the situation. Have this person document what’s happening – the situation, your responses and when vendors were called in. This documentation will serve as an accurate record of events, in case it’s needed for insurance or legal purposes.

6.     Communicate with the tenant and other relevant parties.

During and after the emergency, keep affected tenants in the loop about the situation and how it’s being handled. By setting and managing their expectations early, you build their confidence in your handling of the situation.

Provide regular updates so tenants understand that you care about minimizing the inconvenience to their store and prioritize getting their business open and operating again as quickly as possible.

7.     Show up!

Finally, when possible, ask a high-level manager show up to the center. While not every company is able to do this, Halpern has found that tenants appreciate having one of our shopping center’s owners show up to answer questions and allay concerns.

While rare, emergencies do happen. Use the tips above to put a plan in place, and you’ll have established relationships that ensure prompt initial response times, keep bodily and property damage to a minimum and get quick service from the vendors who help get tenants back open for business quickly.

– Brad Oppenheimer is a Property Manager for Halpern Enterprises, based in Atlanta. As part of the company’s property management team, he has experience with site identification and acquisition, as well as with tenant negotiations for planned and existing developments. 

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