Emergency responses should begin with taking out a readily available, prepared plan. Whether it’s a hurricane or personal safety situation, properties can be prepared for anything with a reliable plan and an informed staff and resident population.

Make a Plan

A well-prepared plan can turn around any emergency situation. You can begin by locating a sample plan online (link to a good one or two) or working off of the chart below.


  • Objective – What does this plan aim to do? Aim to keep residents and staff as safe as possible
  • Communication – Who is your Emergency Coordinator? Who will attend to the media?
    • Emergency Coordinator: An emergency coordinator can be on-call for emergencies and is preferably in a management position. They will speak to the media, ensure that all appropriate authorities have been called and direct staff.
    • Staff contact information
    • Emergency Contact Information (Police, fire, gas company, insurance, etc)
  • Vulnerability
    • What parts of the building may be vulnerable in different circumstances?
    • Ex: How high must flood waters be to reach your property?
  • Protocol (for each potential emergency)
    • What action do you take? And who carries out each task?
    • What will you tell residents?
      • Do not use elevators
      • Check in on elderly or disabled neighbors, alert proper channels if in need of assistance
      • Calmly exit building or property
    • Staff
      • Assist in evacuating building or property
      • If strong winds or hurricane, assist in boarding up windows
      • Escort disabled residents
      • Access conditions and ready notifications for residents
    • Emergency Coordinator
      • Alert proper channels (911, etc)
      • Assist emergency responders
      • Give instructions on when to send out notifications to residents
  • Charts or Lists
    • Evacuation plan of building
    • Map of area, including flood map
    • Are there emergency shelters nearby to inform residents of? The Red Cross Shelter Finder
    • Who in the building may need assistance? If going to a resident’s home is needed, will you need to send a bilingual staff member?
    • Do you have resident volunteers to contact?
  • Supplies and Resources
    • Will you need supplies, such as gas for a generator or plywood for windows? Who will get them and where?
    • Local volunteer organizations
    • A list of residents who are nurses, doctors or CERT trained
  • Emergency Checklist
    • Within each potential emergency situation you will have a list of things that need to be done prior to the emergency
    • Power outage – Ex: cell phone numbers of staff, battery-operated lighting, contact information of power company posted
    • Hurricane – Ex: insurance information posted, notices available for residents, extra plywood on-site or funds for it set aside in hurricane season, keep up with potential hurricanes

This emergency template was based on several sample plans. Please see the Utah Division of Housing and Community Development for a complete sample plan to tailor to your needs. Also see the San Diego Apartment Association’s emergency plan model. For more sample plans see resources below.


Inform Your Team

Now that the property has a plan, ensure that the plan stays up to date properties by holding annual drills for the staff. This could be held at any time of the year, but in Houston properties may find it beneficial to hold them before hurricane season. Go through the plan with all staff present and hold a mock-emergency. This is an excellent way to ensure that your staff knows their role in each procedure.


During this time, the property should also go over their resident lists and volunteer list. The emergency coordinator should familiarize themselves with their list of volunteers and their major role and duties. The media coordinator also has a chance to go over rehearsed statements or look over the type of statements they would give for each situation. If you are a HAA member and need help in creating a media plan, contact Aimee by email or phone (713) 595-0302, for free assistance.


Get Involved

Your staff is ready to go and has rehearsed every possibility. But what about your residents? During the week when staff members are going over emergency protocol, send out a notice of current evacuation maps, hurricane season reminders, local emergency contact information, fire safety tips or other information relevant to the time of year or area.

Reach out to residents to find new nurses, doctors, or emergency personnel that would like to volunteer in times of emergency. For those who are already on your list, give a personal call or visit to ensure they have the information they need and would like to continue their role as emergency volunteer.

Give a sense of confidence to residents that all staff is prepared for action and the community has guidelines for potential dangers or natural disasters.


reprint from haaonline.org