CRE Hurricane Prep: How to Plan, Communicate and Secure Properties
As the state of Florida braces for another hurricane season, which kicked off earlier this month and runs until November 30th, it’s important to know what preparations and measures to take in advance to properly protect commercial real estate properties.
Forecasters are predicting another active hurricane season following an intense 2017 that included the impactful landfall of Hurricane Irma. This year, Florida is expected to experience about seven hurricanes – three hurricanes at a Category 3 intensity or worse – and 14 named storms, according to meteorology sources. As Florida experienced last year and in past seasons, storms of this nature can have a devastating effect on the economic, safety and well-being of communities.
In the Q&A below, JLL’s Joseph T. Robinson, Property Management Group Manager for the Jacksonville and Orlando markets, shares tips for planning ahead of the season, how tenants can stay connected with employees, and how preparations differ across asset types, from office to retail and industrial.
1) How early does hurricane preparation begin and what does it entail?
Early preparation is key in these situations so before the start of the hurricane season, all property managers should meet with building tenants and provide them with an in-depth emergency action plan. As you reach the months surrounding hurricane season, there are several proactive steps that can be taken to help reduce storm-related accidents, such as trimming nearby trees, stocking up on hurricane supplies such as sandbags, and creating a list of vendors to keep handy in the event that additional supplies are needed. At JLL, we offer a 24/7 call center that provides ongoing updates and where tenants can call to check on their building’s status. If a storm is underway and one of our properties is within its path, JLL works with local government officials to determine if shutting down the building is necessary, as well as how to best prepare the property’s mechanical systems.
2) How should tenants prepare from a communications standpoint?
As a storm approaches, tenants should stay connected with the building’s management team who will be providing updates and paying close attention to weather alerts and storm path projections. Because employee safety is of upmost concern during a storm, having an internal communications plan already in place is crucial for disseminating important information and keeping tabs on team members’ wellbeing. Since traditional communication channels are often disrupted during and immediately following a hurricane or storm, employers should establish three different methods for staying in touch with their teams. Options include devising a “family phone tree”, setting up a company hotline and having key staff members work remotely so that they can remain connected.
3) How do storm preparations differ across commercial real estate asset types?
When it comes to different property types, the good news is the more general measures, such as keeping an emergency plan and stocking up on supplies, remain the same across all commercial real estate assets. Where the preparations differ is in the structural and electrical nuances of each property type. For instance, industrial properties generally do not have the same level of electronic and mechanical infrastructure required in an office or retail building and can typically get back up and running faster following a storm. Additionally, office properties will usually have more windows and entrances to worry about than industrial parks and warehouses. Florida has also adopted some of the strictest building codes, put in place following the passage of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.