No strata community ever wants to find itself in the middle of an emergency, but it can happen anytime and anywhere. Whether you face an outbreak of a community transmitted virus, a fire, a gas leak, or a natural disaster, the impact of an event can be reduced if your strata community has prepared for it.
Good planning and fast, appropriate responses can potentially save the strata community from substantial damage, avoid liability and prevent injuries.
No doubt, your schemes Council meetings are already packed with agenda items, but it’s important to make emergency preparedness planning a priority.
According to Emergency Management Australia, a division of the Department of Home Affairs, emergency management incorporates a wide range of measures to manage risk to communities and the environment. It comprises of four elements: prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.
Strata schemes can apply these elements to assist with managing risk to their strata community.
Strata companies have a key role in preparing for and responding to emergencies because they are responsible for the common property and assets.
Regular maintenance of the common property buildings and systems in accordance with all regulatory and insurance requirements, combined with good housekeeping, can assist with preventing losses and ensuring safety.
Maintenance inspections of strata schemes should include identifying parts of the common property that could become wind-borne debris that could damage someone else’s property, or seriously injure or even kill someone. Routine service of fire protection systems and equipment set out in the Australian standard AS 1851-2012 should also be part of a strata schemes maintenance process.
WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services recommends strata scheme housekeeping to always keep fire stairs and escape routes completely clear. Never wedge open fire doors into fire stairs as this will allow smoke and heat to enter the escape route. Smoke alarms should not be covered and never to store items high up adjacent to sprinkler heads or smoke alarms.
Like other homeowners, strata owners and strata councils need to be prepared to deal with emergencies. Ensuring adequate insurance is only one part of emergency preparedness.
Most strata schemes will have a “Who to call in case of an Emergency” list and “Building Fire Evacuation Plan” included in a welcome information book, but seldom will it contain instructions on what actions residents should take in other types of emergencies. Strata companies should consider creating Emergency Plans for bushfires, cyclones, storms, gas leaks, water leaks, flooding, criminal activity, and medical emergencies.
An Emergency Plan is a written set of instructions that detail what residents and visitors in the strata scheme should do in an emergency. It should be easy to understand and tailored to the strata scheme.
To assist in developing a framework for Emergency Plans, “AS 3745 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities” is an essential reference. Guides and publications on various government and utilities websites can also be very helpful with information to include in Emergency Plans.
Emergency Plan safety information should be displayed in communal areas and provided to residents. The key information provided to residents ought to be tailored for each resident’s circumstances.
• The individual resident’s mobility including any impairment, or any circumstances affecting their ability to evacuate or respond to an emergency situation.
• The location of the resident’s residential premises or unit – different residences may have separate assembly areas or emergency equipment.
The effective response to an emergency by strata residents is the performance of the prepared Emergency Plan. This sounds good in theory, but in a time of panic and confusion can make it difficult to accomplish.
Strata companies should consider creating formal emergency response roles in advance to ensure a faster and more coordinated response. Roles can be created and assigned based on skill and expertise of residents or others can be trained in the responsibilities. Roles could include: Chief Warden, Floor Zone Warden’s, First-Aid Attendants, and Communications Specialists. Responsibilities could include meeting police and/or fire officers to coordinate actions and priorities and performing a roll call of strata residents.
Once the dust has settled, the strata council should meet to review the situation and determine a course of action. For common property damage caused by an emergency event, immediate steps following should include contacting your strata manager (if you have one) to advise the extent and to assist in lodging your insurance claim. If you don’t have a strata manager then contact the strata scheme insurer, take photos and make lists of everything that has been damaged, and check with the scheme insurer before cleaning up or authorizing work.
Short-term recovery considerations could include generators for temporary power, alternative accommodation, and increased security.
As time passes, your circumstances may change, and having your Emergency Management and Recovery Plan up to date will ensure you are always ready in the event of an emergency.
Originally published by “The WA Strata Magazine”