As an investment property owner, it's important you're prepared in the face of unplanned events. You never know when a hurricane, blizzard, flood, fire, or other destructive event could affect your properties, and when that happens, it's not just those buildings themselves you'll need to worry about -- it's your tenants as well. That's why it's crucial to establish a disaster plan for your properties. If you don't have one yet, here's how to get started.
Step 1: Assess your property's vulnerabilities
Though it's impossible to predict a disaster, there are logical conclusions you can draw based on a property's structures and locations. For example, if you own a building in a flood zone, it stands to reason that a major weather event, like a hurricane, could cause damage. If you take steps to safeguard that building -- say, by adding waterproof sealant to walls and floors, or installing a barrier, like a flood wall, around your building -- you may be able to minimize the damage.
Step 2: Put the right insurance in place
This should really go without saying, but the right insurance could spell the difference between recovery and financial ruin in the event a disaster strikes. Make sure your properties are properly insured, and consider upgrading policies as needed.
When a disaster strikes, you'll need to know who to call. Put together a list of local agencies that can respond to a disaster. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is one potential resource, you may have comparable local agencies that can respond more quickly due to proximity.
Step 4: Map out an exit plan and share it with your tenants
During an emergency, your tenants may have to quickly evacuate one of your buildings. That's why you'll need to supply them with a well-designed exit plan that clearly highlights emergency escapes and protocol. Not only should you share this with your tenants by mail or email, but you may want to create a video that walks them through it. Furthermore, your exit plan should include suggestions for meeting places so your tenants can check in following an emergency and everyone can be accounted for.
Step 5: Establish communication channels with your tenants
When you're in the midst of an emergency situation, you can't afford to be scrambling to contact the people you rent to. Instead, you'll need a way to reach out to them quickly. As part of your disaster plan, establish a text message chain, group voicemail system, or email blast so you can press a few buttons and potentially reach dozens of tenants in an instant. In fact, it's a good idea to have multiple communication channels in case one fails.
Being prepared for emergencies isn't just the smart thing to do as a property owner; it's your obligation. Take the time to establish a disaster plan. It'll not only help keep your tenants safe but also protect you from liability and help ensure that your financial recovery is as smooth as possible.