Behind the Scenes: Exploring the Vital Role of Building Managers in Crisis Management

Posted by Dino Biordi

While building owners and tenants rightly expect their properties to operate smoothly day-to-day, unforeseen crises inevitably arise, requiring rapid, decisive response. From natural disasters to burst pipes to cyber-attacks, critical events demand strong crisis management to protect occupant safety, data security, and business continuity. 

Building managers play an indispensable role in leading crisis response thanks to their on-site presence, access to resources, and tenant relationships.

In this blog, we will talk about the crucial role of building managers during a crisis, highlighting how their extensive knowledge can help mitigate costly repairs and loss of life. 

What Does Building Managers Do?

Building managers are professionals responsible for overseeing, maintaining, and efficiently operating a building or complex. They keep things running like a well-oiled machine, from high-rise office blocks and retail spaces to residential complexes and sports facilities. They ensure that all physical aspects of the building, such as the electrical, plumbing and air conditioning systems, are in perfect working order. But their role extends far beyond just maintenance.

And over the years, the role of building managers has changed from being just infrastructure custodians. They are now pivotal in ensuring that the tenants are safe, the facilities are clean, and the building is secure. They have also become a vital point of contact for all building-related issues and liaison between management, tenants, and service providers.

In today's dynamic environment, where natural disasters, technological crises, and socio-political unrest can cause significant disruptions, building managers are expected to step up to the plate and help navigate the situation. They have become an essential part of crisis management in commercial or residential infrastructure.

Understanding Crisis Management

Infrastructure crisis management deals with a sudden and significant adverse event that threatens to harm the tenants. This might include earthquakes, hurricanes, cyberattacks, technological failures, and public health emergencies that can hinder a resident's access to valuable resources, such as water and electricity. 

Crisis management for commercial or residential buildings comprises risk assessment, emergency response, and proper communication channels.

Effective crisis management goes beyond just reacting to an event. It involves:

  • Being ready to respond before disaster strikes through emergency planning. This includes identifying likely crises, response procedures, communication protocols and task checklists.
  • Taking urgent action when a crisis hits to contain damage and protect stakeholders since rapid mobilisation of people, resources and skills is vital.
  • Managing continuity and recovery after an incident to safely restore normal operations as quickly as possible. Healing both physical property and stakeholder confidence is crucial.

The Importance of a Crisis Management Team in Residential Buildings

Having a team in place to handle the various aspects of a crisis can be a game-changer. A crisis management team (CMT) is a cross-functional team formed to manage disasters and emergencies in the infrastructure. The team usually includes members from different departments or areas of expertise, such as security and facilities asset management.

The role of a crisis management team cannot be overstated, especially on high-rise residential infrastructure. They develop and execute the crisis management plan, coordinate with different stakeholders, and ensure that communication is clear, timely, and accurate. The team also evaluates the effectiveness of the response and recovery efforts and identifies areas for improvement.

Having a building manager in the CMT is crucial. They bring exceptional expertise in facilities asset management, knowledge of the building and its systems, and an understanding of the needs and concerns of the building's tenants. Their input can significantly enhance the team's ability to manage the crisis effectively.

Why are Building Managers Crucial in Crisis Management

  1. Familiarity with the Building: One of the prime advantages of having a building manager in the CMT is their deep knowledge about the ins and outs of the building they're managing. Their intimate understanding of the building's structure and layout enables them to make quick decisions regarding evacuation routes, access points for emergency responders, and the location of critical utilities such as gas shut-off valves and fire alarms.
  2. Immediate Availability: Building managers are often on-site or in close proximity to the building, making them readily available to respond to emergencies as they unfold. Their immediate presence can expedite the implementation of emergency protocols and communication with first responders.
  3. Building Safety Responsibility: Building managers are typically responsible for the safety and well-being of occupants within the building. As such, they are vested in ensuring that crisis management plans are effective and well-executed. Their involvement can help prioritise occupants' needs during a crisis.
  4. Maintenance and Preparedness: Building managers are involved in maintenance and upkeep activities, which means they can play a role in identifying potential hazards and ensuring that safety systems are functioning correctly. They can also contribute to ongoing preparedness efforts by conducting drills and training exercises.

Critical Responsibilities of Building Managers During a Crisis

Building managers can have plenty of responsibilities during a crisis in the infrastructure since they are usually the first line of defence, the one on the ground dealing with the crisis head-on. Their actions can significantly impact the extent and severity of the crisis. 

Their first responsibility is to ensure the safety and well-being of all building occupants. This includes evacuating the building if necessary, providing first aid, and coordinating with emergency services.

Apart from this, some other vital roles building manager play in mitigating crisis includes:

Crisis Preparedness

Preparation is the cornerstone of effective crisis management. This is why building managers usually take proactive steps to minimise risks and ensure their facilities are ready to face any potential crisis. They are typically involved in identifying possible defects and flaws in the several components of the building, including water and electrical systems and structural framework. They can also conduct training sessions and drills for the occupants so they can familiarise themselves with emergency procedures.

Rapid Response

When a crisis strikes, building managers swiftly and efficiently respond to protect occupants and property. They can initiate pre-established emergency response plans and promptly communicate what's happening to occupants and relevant authorities. They can also mobilise the necessary resources to deal with the issue.

Occupant Safety and Evacuation

The safety and well-being of building occupants are paramount during a crisis. Building managers can implement effective evacuation plans, including designated evacuation routes, assembly areas, and procedures for assisting individuals with disabilities or special needs. They can also provide guidance on sheltering in place when evacuation is unnecessary.

Coordination with Stakeholders

Building managers must collaborate with stakeholders to ensure a coordinated and effective crisis response. They usually develop relationships with local emergency services, law enforcement agencies, and community organisations to facilitate assistance during crises. They also maintain communication with property owners and landlords to coordinate crisis response efforts and resource allocation. Providing accurate and timely information helps reassure people and manage their expectations.

Post-Crisis Recovery

The responsibilities of building managers extend beyond the crisis itself as it also encompasses the recovery phase. They can assist in thoroughly assessing infrastructure damage to determine the extent of repairs or renovations required. Building managers also procure the needed resources for repair and recovery efforts, including contractors, raw materials, and permits. They can also arrange temporary housing and counselling services for the residents if necessary.

Skills That Help Building Managers for Effective Crisis Management

Effective crisis management requires a unique set of skills. Building managers need technical skills related to facilities and asset management and soft skills like communication, leadership, and decision-making.

One of the critical skills is problem-solving, especially since things can go wrong quickly in a crisis. They need to think on their feet and come up with solutions. Analytical skills are also crucial since they help building managers assess the situation, understand the potential impacts, and make informed decisions. Communication skills are also crucial in a crisis. This allows them to clearly and confidently communicate with different stakeholders, from the building occupants to the emergency services and the media.

Building managers should also be able to listen and understand the concerns and needs of others. Leadership is another critical skill as they need to lead the team, make tough decisions, and inspire confidence in others. They also need to be resilient and able to handle stress. A crisis can be a high-pressure situation, and building managers need to be able to stay calm, focused, and positive.

The Future of Building Management in Crisis Situations

In the face of increasing complexities and uncertainties, the role of building managers in crisis management is set to become even more critical. With advancements in technology and a greater emphasis on safety and security, building managers will need to adapt and evolve constantly.

Building managers are the unsung heroes in crises. Their actions can significantly affect the outcomes of a disaster in the infrastructure. Their role is critical, not just in managing the crisis, but also in preventing it through adequate facilities asset management and proactive planning. Having an in-house or third-party building manager gives building owners and occupants peace of mind, knowing that professionals with a comprehensive approach to crisis management manage the infrastructure. 

Looking for a building management service you can count on, especially during a crisis? 

Here at LUNA Management, we've assisted countless residential and commercial properties in Sydney, ensuring they operate smoothly. This not only saves property owners valuable time but also spares them from expensive maintenance and repairs.

In times of crisis, our team is at its best, guaranteeing tenant safety and the consistent reliability of various building components. Got questions or feedback about what we offer? Feel free to call us at 1800 005 862 or shoot us an email at [email protected]. We're here to help!