CondoEmergency

Preparing for common condo emergencies

Wednesday, June 5, 2019
By Margo Malowney

Warmer months are a great time to reassess disaster readiness for “predictable” condo emergencies. The time to start preparing for these risks is always now in order to best prevent suffering later.

Risk management and disaster planning for most properties has a lot to do with where a property is located, but very generally, the main hazards to plan for include fire, flooding, tornados, earthquakes and severe storms. Condo managers have to ensure they are properly prepared for these “predictable” hazards. Below are some precautions that can be taken:

Fire prevention

Consulting with a fire protection company is recommended in order to find out what types of sprinklers, alarms, devices and extinguishers are required in the building and ensuring the property is up to code. In many areas of the country, fire codes have recently been substantially upgraded, and major changes and improvements have been made to the minimum requirements for condominiums and apartments. It is always a good idea to keep storage areas organized and clear and ensure places such as common areas, laundry rooms and recreational areas have smoke alarms and are free of any electrical hazards.

Flood

Waterproofing the building is essential. A property does not have to be completely flooded in order to suffer damage, as smaller water leaks can cause harm throughout the building. Preventive measures can include sealing off any cracks and weaknesses in your structure and installing water alarms and flood sensors. It is also important to clean out gutters and downspouts surrounding the property. Failing to keep these areas clear can force water back into the structure.

Lastly, install a backflow valve on the main waste line and any storm lines to prevent sewage backups. Buildings located in urban areas and areas where infrastructure is aging can be especially vulnerable to this type of loss. Storm water infrastructure in many parts of the country that were designed many decades ago are now not capable of handling the ever-increasing amounts of run-off in the spring.

Tornado / Wind

According to Environment Canada, Canada reports an average of 62 tornadoes per year. Though they seem uncommon, the Ottawa – Gatineau tornadoes that swept through southern Ontario last fall demonstrate the impact they can have.

It is imperative property managers monitor local weather apps, stations or sources and communicate any tornado-related threats to their residents. The construction or designation of a safe room should also be considered, according to International Code
Council guidelines. All exterior doors and windows should be closed so high wind, rain and debris does not come in.

For any existing structures, consider retrofitting the building for greater wind resistance and structural reinforcement. Clearing branches or trees surrounding buildings and power lines will also help mitigate the risk of falling limbs causing
damage during a tornado. Have the roof and building inspected for any loose pieces and damaged areas. Look into repairing any weaker areas that could give out if there were high winds or a tornado.

Earthquake

Canada is affected by 5,000 earthquakes annually. Most earthquakes reported are of low magnitude and do not surpass seven on the Richter Scale. Although the likelihood of encountering an earthquake may be low, precaution remains important.

The best prevention against earthquake damage is understanding your specific building risks. Many preventive measures can be implemented during design and construction of a building but for properties that exist today, it is best to consult a
structural engineer who specializes in this field. Your goal is to understand your unique structural risks and plan accordingly.

Severe storms

Canadians are no strangers to severe winter conditions. A major storm can be anything from a thunderstorm, rain or hail to ice storms and heavy winds.

It is important to make sure HVAC systems are in good condition and do not require any maintenance or repairs. Severe storms may have damaged vents or clogged them with debris. Over time, the ducts can have a build up of dust, dirt and debris which can affect air quality throughout the building. Although this last point may not relate directly to a storm, it is a good time to consider the health of your residents.

Planning for a power outage should also be considered. Between seasons, have a professional inspect the power generator and fuel storage. Additionally, it’s important to check for cracked pipes, issues with electrical and water systems or other mechanical issues. Regular maintenance and checkups on these items will help prevent property managers from spending extra dollars on future damage.

The longer minor damages are left unattended, the more expensive and complex the repairs could ultimately be. It’s important to get ahead of the problem in order to protect residents and your budget.

Margo Malowney is vice president of marketing and communications at FirstOnSite Restoration.

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