COVID-19

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 in condos

Simple actions and best practices to follow in response to pandemic
Monday, March 16, 2020
By Jason Reid

Boards and property managers of condominiums in Ontario play a significant role in protecting residents and building staff, ensuring the continuity of operations within their buildings during emergencies like the COVID-19 outbreak. Quite simply, residential buildings can take some very simple steps based on evidence and best practices, from trustworthy sources to assisting Ontario’s objectives—in slowing the spread. That is it.

Proactive property management firms are already equipped with a business continuity plan—and some with pandemic plans—to ensure they are prepared and resilient within their building operations and also protecting their family of residents. A major component within these plans is defining the role boards and managers play in preventing the spread of COVID-19, preparedness in case of related illness within their buildings, and mitigation and response to the respiratory virus that has impacted thousands worldwide, including the rising number of cases in Canada.

Condo managers should be working with their boards to consider the action items listed below. In addition, leadership at a property management company should also consider these items to ensure their own business continuity considerations.

Have a reliable source of COVID-19 information

Your leadership team should know the direct and indirect risks and impacts of COVID-19 on an individual building basis and as an organization as a whole. Your organization should have already completed a risk assessment with continuity plans updated and corporation action items prioritized as the situation changes. To ensure the most effective plans are in place, use trusted sources for information, including government websites dedicated to COVID-19 updates and public health departments. Assign a single role within the organization to maintain and monitor this information, ensuring timely updates to the leadership team.

Have a robust internal communications plan

By now, property management organizations have issued communications to their employees. Employees want and need to know that their organization is up to date on the outbreak and taking steps to prepare, mitigate and respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Ensure your organization has a clear internal communications plan that includes updating employees daily or more frequently, if need be, about COVID-19 and its effects on operations. Effective internal communications provide employees with peace of mind and eliminate the rumour mill at work.

Internal employee communications should remind everyone that you’re monitoring the status of COVID-19 internationally and locally, updating employee safety practices related to COVID-19. This includes reminders about the importance of handwashing and providing other relevant information related to the company’s response. Customer communications are often a focus, but employee communications are just as vital for a healthy workplace.

Know everyone’s role in the COVID-19 crisis

Every business unit within your property management organization, from human resources to accounting, has a role in both business continuity and pandemic planning. It’s essential to have every department at the table when planning and modifying operations in response to COVID- 19. Each unit also has their own unique risks and impacts to consider. For example, security staff who administer first aid or respond to other medical emergencies within your building will need proper personal protective equipment for themselves and the residents they are assisting. Therefore, updates on procedures when responding to such calls are necessary.

Cleanliness keeps everyone safe

Increasing the cleaning of touch points is one of the most basic steps to follow. These are points within a common area that are handled or touched frequently; for example, lobby door handles and elevator buttons. Cleaning staff should spend additional time and care ensuring these areas are sanitized several times a day. During a health crisis, this is the minimum standard of care. Shared workstations such as security desks should receive extra attention, including phones, keyboards, computer mice, communication tools and devices. All should be cleaned regularly to avoid the spread of germs. Cleaning supplies and tools should be distributed to workers to use themselves.

Keep essential supplies well-stocked

Your residential building relies on consumables and supplies to run the common areas of your building. Always ensure you have a minimum of two months of consumables and essential supplies on hand and re-stock them monthly. This was the practice during the SARS outbreak in 2003, ensuring building staff always had what they needed to keep everyone safe and bolster the resilience of their people and operations.

Know what your service providers are doing in response to COVID-19

Connect with service providers, including security, fire safety, electrical, HVAC and waste management, to discuss their responsibilities and ensure they have established and updated business continuity plans and procedures. Many smaller service providers may not have a pandemic plan or business continuity plan. Remind your service providers and trades, with ongoing service contracts, about their responsibility for employee safety and the requirements of their contractual obligations, to guarantee your building services aren’t interrupted. Ask for a written confirmation and work with your service providers to make sure your objectives are met.

 Here is a sample notification to trades and service providers.

Keep the channels of communication open with residents

By now, there should be two types of communications issued to all residents within your building.

First, hand washing signage should be posted in common washrooms and mixed-use amenities. Such signage is inexpensive but provides a high return on resident and public safety.

Second, ensure residents know that you, as the manager, are aware of COVID-19, its status internationally and locally, and that you are taking steps to minimize the risk and impact to both the building and residents. This is their home and they deserve this reassurance. Your residents will be comforted in knowing that you acknowledge the concern, have taken steps to prepare and/or mitigate risk, and understand what those basic steps are.

 Here is a sample resident/condo owner notification

Jason Reid is the senior adviser for National Life Safety Group, which specializes in fire, safety and emergency management. He has worked with international embassies, government, public and private sector critical infrastructure facilities; commercial/residential high-rise buildings; world class shopping centres and mass assembly facilities. He is also recognized throughout Canada for innovative best practices in the fire service and property/facility management industry, in achieving unprecedented due diligence in support of legal compliance and best practice emergency planning – protecting people, assets, reputation and the bottom line. He can be reached at: [email protected] Main: 647-794-5505 Toll Free: 1-877-751-0508 www.nationallifesafetygroup.ca

5 thoughts on “Slowing the spread of COVID-19 in condos

  1. Can my 159 condo building keep the gym open. Our management seems to think that 2 – 4 people in the gym are more dangerous than 4 people in the elevator.

    • According to directives from the Canadian government, people are being asked to not gather in groups of 50 people or more; however, this directive may change in the coming weeks depending on the situation. We don’t currently have a shut down, but that could change. The Condo Adviser blog hosted a webinar tonight that spoke to many important legal and management issues around dealing with common elements in the wake of COVID-19. They will be posting that webinar soon here: http://condoadviser.ca/webinars.

      That said, it was highlighted that condos should probably be consistent with what is happening outside. For instance, if gyms are closed to the community, then a condo should probably also do the same.

      • Anyone using a public/private gym right now is not taking the situation seriously enough. Given the circumstances, any non-essential activity or reason to leave the house should be prevented, including going to the gym. Find alternatives to keep you busy during this time. Go to a park and do chin-ups on a tree limb, do pushups, situps and burpees in your apartment, etc. The elevator is essential for most, the gym is not.

  2. The management of the building of 129 condo units is shutting off the water for 8 hours for its monthly maintenance on Monday March 23, 2020. Despite emails and complaints of not having water to reduce the risk of spreading the Coronavirus, they told us that they will proceed with turning the water off for the entire day. Aside from health services that is not answering calls due to high volume, who can I contact to prevent this from happening?

  3. I live in a 400+ suite condo all of our amenities are closed which I think is good and the cleaning staff have been really on-point. My concern though is the concierge’s that service the building. These guys are here 24/7 and the afternoon person whom I believes works 3pm to 11pm or 4pm to 12am along those lines receives at least I would say 50 to 75 parcles a day and going up from everyone Amazon, Canada Post, UPS, etc. He gloves up all of the time, but the sheer volume of people that come to the desk when their parcels arrive now that everyone is at home is crazy. I’m worried the support staff that run our buildings will be the ones that actually get sick due to the sheer number of interations that they have with other residents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *