Why Most Incident Management Systems Don’t Work

Commercial property owners and managers: What would you do when several days of heavy rain threaten to flood your property, a windstorm tears shingles from a roof, or a pipe bursts over the weekend and begins flooding one of your units?

Do you have an incident response system ready to set into motion? Have you drilled on the plan often, so that every staff member knows exactly what is expected of them and when? Or would total chaos be the order of the day?

The FIRM Incident Response team often gets called in to help once the property’s own efforts fail. That usually means the owner loses precious time, suffers unnecessary losses, and the property management team is backpedaling to find out who is at fault for the failure of their own incident management system.

Here’s the truth: Most incident management systems don’t work. They’re either poorly designed documents meant only to please lawyers and regulators, or nobody on staff has referred to the emergency plan since it was created. That’s like a football team deciding to never practice — yet expecting to win the game.


The Truth About Incident Management Systems

You may have a car parked in the garage. If you never learn to drive it, though, you won’t get the benefits it offers. The same is true for your incident management system. You and your team must “drive it” often or the effort and expense you invested in developing a plan for managing threats to your property will largely be lost.

But, why should you create an incident management system at all? If it’s only to satisfy any regulatory requirements, you’re missing out on the real purpose for developing an incident management plan. It is there to protect you, not to burden you.

Here are three primary ways your emergency plan can help.

Incident management systems boost your public image

Businesses that take the safety of their properties and tenants seriously gain the appreciation and admiration of both the public and their clients alike. They are more likely to speak well of you to others, to renew their agreements, and to join you in your efforts to maintain the property.

Consider this: Would you rather lease from a company that is ill-prepared for emergencies, or would you rather your landlord show obvious concern for the safety of you and the building? Which would give you more confidence in the space? Which would tell you the owner really does care about protecting you and your furnishings? Which company would you recommend to others?

Incident management systems help prevent unnecessary costs associated with emergency situations

Your strategy for incident management decreases the time it takes you and your team to respond to an adverse event, it relieves much of the pressure and confusion inherent in emergency responses, and it creates a pre-planned map you can follow to do exactly what needs to be done when action is necessary. These benefits are available to you, but it’s up to you to optimize your incident management system and drill your team on it regularly.

Properties in the FIRM program enjoy 24/7 access to an emergency hotline. The owner or property management staff make one call to initiate the appropriate response. FIRM experts get pre-vetted vendors to the scene quickly, then track the work, audit the invoice, and provide consistent access to progress reports for you and your staff.

You don’t have to be a FIRM client, however, to enjoy the peace of mind a professional-caliber incident response system provides. It is possible to hone your own system to a similar level.

Here are the primary steps FIRM recommends:

  • Take your incident response planning seriously. Make sure it fits your own situation and fully addresses the emergency events most likely to affect your property. If you need help creating your plan, call FIRM at (888) 910-0994.
  • Train your maintenance team and other employees on how to recognize an event that is beyond their capabilities and what their particular duties are in any given circumstance. Hold practice drills quarterly. Stay at the ready position, especially when it seems all is running smoothly and there’s no danger on the horizon. It doesn’t take a hurricane to inflict considerable damage on your property. One burst pipe can create havoc in a hurry.
  • Pre-select vendors for the types of work you’ll need help with: plumbing, electrical work, restoration, carpentry, remodeling, and the other trades you will need to rely on in an emergency. Contract with them to prioritize your property and be ready to respond when you need their services. Remember that your maintenance staff is already committed to the day-to-day needs of your property. It is often wiser to let a qualified vendor handle a job than to utilize your in-house team.
  • Make sure the initial evaluation is professionally executed. A windstorm, for example, may have damaged roof tiles in addition to the broken windows you’re now addressing. Make sure the entire property is inspected for repair needs, or you may be woefully surprised later when water enters units by way of an undetected leak.
  • Audit the work being accomplished, hours invested by vendors, the equipment they are using, and the bills they are submitting. Don’t just automatically pay whatever is charged. Know what is reasonable and track the work to make sure you aren’t being overcharged. FIRM teams find discrepancies in vendor invoices often. When that happens, they contact the vendor directly to adjust the price. You should do the same for your property.

FIRM takes the Scout motto, “Be prepared,” seriously. You should too. Surprises are fine for special occasions — but incident response isn’t one of them.


Incident management systems help prevent small problems from turning into large problems

The sooner you initiate an effective response to an event threatening your property, and the better job you do of inspecting to make sure nothing is missed, the less likely you are to experience the unwelcome surprise of a secondary issue.

A water leak that damages one occupant’s space can quickly spread to threaten additional units. A mold outbreak underneath a sink may have infiltrated the wall behind the cabinet.

If you are camping and your fire creeps out of your fire ring and into the adjacent pine needles, you don’t extinguish part of the fire … you make sure it is out completely. If you allow it to reach a nearby tree, the threat is now considerably greater than before. And if that tree ignites and then starts a forest fire, you’ve allowed a true catastrophe to develop. You could have stopped the threat at the fire ring.

Do the same with your property. Make sure your maintenance team and vendors have addressed every part of the incident and not just part of it. The extra focus you give the event now can pay off tremendously in the future.

Incident management systems magnify your preventative maintenance efforts

Once you have established your incident management system and are regularly drilling your team on its execution, you are quite likely to discover something amazing: During your dry runs, your team will uncover maintenance needs that didn’t get spotted during regular operations. Find one missing roof tile, one leak from an HVAC unit, or one tree limb that’s splitting and needs to be trimmed … and the drill just paid for itself.

Physicians who specialize in dermatology ask patients if they would like a full-body scan to detect any yet unseen threats to the skin. That’s exactly what a properly designed incident management system can do for your investment. Regular scanning for issues before they become more bothersome is both prudent and smart. Taking care of your property to keep it defended against potential threats boosts your public image, helps prevent unnecessary costs, helps keep small problems from developing into large problems, and dovetails perfectly with your preventative maintenance program.


Need Help With Your Incident Management System?

Don’t wait for an emergency situation to occur. Get ready now. Make sure your preventive maintenance system is appropriate for your property, is practiced often, and gives you the best chance to weather an incident and get back into full service as quickly as you can.

Emergency preparedness is not an option for the wisest property owners and property management teams. It is a necessity.

For help with developing your incident management system or to find out whether FIRM might be just the safety net you need, call (888) 910-0994 to speak with a FIRM incident management expert today.