Safety & Security: A proactive approach to disaster preparedness

What do a damaging severe thunderstorm and a deranged individual have in common?  Both are completely unpredictable and capable of causing harm to individuals and damage to property.  These days the news headlines are full of seemingly unusual or unexpected disasters, either natural or man-made.

How prepared is your community to withstand and prevent damage from:

  • Heavy Rains – It seems that every year we have a “100 year” or worse rain event.  Where does your rain water runoff?  Is your municipality keeping up with neighborhood development and increased demands on storm water infrastructure?
  • Tornado Warnings – Where is the safest place to provide shelter for residents and staff?  When a warning is declared, how is the message passed throughout the community?
  • Power Outages – The power grid is strained by storms and ever increasing demand.  Do you have an emergency power system?  What is your on-site fuel capacity to provide electricity in extended outages?
  • Building Security Breaches – Are all points of entry protected to keep unauthorized individuals out?  The feeling of an open campus can be met while still providing door alarming, access control and monitoring.

Events such as these are supposed to happen infrequently or not at all, in many cases funding for preventative measures is too commonly deferred. Since not every day is sunny, perhaps a little more risk management should be enacted before the dark clouds are on the horizon.   Issues such as these can be addressed during new construction through design contingencies or for existing buildings through capital improvements.


One of the easiest ways to stay safe and dry is with comprehensive maintenance. 

  1. Clean the leaves and garbage out of storm water inlets and catch basins on the property to allow the rain to flow.
  2. Keep areas of the building designated for emergency shelter clean.  These are areas typically not occupied by residents, so these spaces often get cluttered, dirty and dark.
  3. Simply keeping all light bulbs operational so that exit paths and shelter areas are bright will ease panic in a time of crisis.
  4. Install newer door hardware and alarm systems that electronically record when it is used and whom is entering or exiting.
  5. Consider networked cameras in security planning.  Technology advances now provide smaller, easier to install cameras that capture clearer images.
  6. Provide emergency electrical power beyond the code required minimums.
  7. Add more emergency power generation capacity to increase lighting, HVAC and food preparation capacity to make those extended power outages more comfortable.
  8. Address the size of the refuge areas. Is it large enough to accommodate all the residents with varying health concerns in close quarters?


Many newer resident centered, home-like community designs have moved away from the old institutional intercom systems.  However, communication is critical when seconds matter.  A voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP-based phone system can provide internal building alerts.  Police and government agencies in some cities also provide warnings and emergency broadcasts to these systems.   Utilize in-house television channels and digital signage to broadcast real-time warning messages to get the word out quickly.

If that dreaded day comes and emergency plans need to be put into action, provide a “go bag” that residents can keep near their door with a copy of emergency plans, evacuation routes and a list of their medications and contacts in the event they become displaced.  Most importantly, ensure that staff members know and understand the plan so that they may assist residents, maintain order, and prevent panic.

Unfortunately, bad things do happen to good people, but a proactive attitude and thoughtful planning can be that silver lining when the storm rolls in.