Note: This article was updated in June 2022 to reflect the most current information.
With the Atlantic hurricane season upon us from June to November, property management companies need to have an emergency preparedness plan to protect the community. An essential component of the plan is implementing a reliable technology platform to help you proactively handle emergencies. Such technology platforms enable you to easily stay in touch with residents, ensure a safer community, and bring back operations to an optimal level of performance. Although there are many property management software tools in the market, we wanted to share how the ease of use, flexibility, and reliability of Pilera’s tools can benefit management companies and communities in an emergency situation.
1) Resident data
As a board or manager, you need to have access to accurate information quickly and on the go. That way, you can reach residents quickly when you need to. Many management companies also require that residents keep their contact information up-to-date in an online portal. In Pilera, residents have the ability to self-manage their own data. Residents can update:
- Contact information (phone number, email address, text number) and preference
- Language preference – Pilera supports over 100 languages for email and text translation.
- Alternate addresses
- Alternate or emergency contacts such as family members, friends, or doctors
- Guests and notes for each of them.
- Upload documents to their unit and share them with their manager.
Emails and text numbers may become invalid over time. In Pilera, managers receive frequent reports in their inbox showing all residents with invalid text numbers or emails. With this information, you can personally reach out to the resident and correct it so they won’t miss out on any messages. The resident profile also gives additional context into issues with a resident’s communication preference.
2) Automated communications
It’s essential that managers and board members communicate with residents before, during, and after an emergency.
Before an emergency
Managers can send residents important reminders or resources to help prepare. Based on their location, one resident may need different information than another resident. To ensure you’re sending the right information to the right people, it’s helpful to create distribution groups. In Pilera, you can create a people and unit-based distribution group that maintains itself when a resident moves in or out of the community. Examples include residents who live on waterfront properties or individuals in an emergency management committee.
During an emergency
During an emergency, it’s vital to get out a message quickly. Through Pilera, managers can send “force” emergency calls that bypass resident preferences. Residents will receive an email, phone, and text message if they have provided the management company with that information. The reliability of your communication tool is equally important. Pilera has built-in fault protection and retry algorithms that will get a message sent, even in the toughest conditions.
During Hurricane Sandy, Pilera saw an uptick in messages being sent by more than 238 times the site’s normal usage. Our system was able to effectively withstand the high volume of calls being made.
After an emergency
After an emergency, managers can review the message center in Pilera for every communication sent out and the delivery status. Managers can see whether a resident has opened an email or text, clicked on a link, listened to a live phone call, or if the phone call went to voicemail. If they see that a resident has not opened any messages, they can contact them individually to ensure they received the message or correct any contact information.
3) Document management
Educating your residents about weather-related emergencies that are most likely to occur in their community is vital. Pilera’s document management system gives you a secure way to share important documents with residents. When you add new documents, you can notify a resident about it through email.
Managers often add documents such as emergency plans, shelter information, community and building maps, evacuation procedures, safety kit lists, and contact information for local law enforcement, hospitals, and non-profit services.
Our client, Cynthia Holland, president of Stratford Towers, emphasized the importance of being able to access community information, remotely. She explained, “from emails to auto calls, to insurance and legal files remotely, to clean up documents – we were able to handle all building needs easily remotely”.
4) Maintenance & vendor management
After an emergency, managers will evaluate any structural damage in the community once it is safe to do so. It’s important to have a list of vendors with their updated contact information, license expirations, and insurance expirations. That way, you are calling vendors who have up-to-date licenses.
In Pilera, you can maintain a list of vendors, their contact information, and license expirations. You can then create and assign work orders to their in-house maintenance team or external vendors. In the ticket, you can attach images and set due dates for quick completion. Each manager can filter the dashboard to see just the tickets they need, such as tickets assigned to vendors or other staff members. Additionally, residents can submit maintenance requests in the portal and review updates.
5) Community contacts
It’s important to provide residents with contact information so they can reach out before, during, or after an emergency situation. In Pilera, managers can post contact information in the portal for residents. Examples of contacts that managers should consider including are:
- Board members
- Local law enforcement
- Local shelters
- Red Cross and other nonprofit agencies
- Insurance agents
Management companies and communities alike have benefitted by using the Pilera platform to educate residents about potential emergency situations, effectively convey important information to residents during and after an emergency, and bring operations back to an optimal level of performance.