Damage Inspection Process for Multifamily Properties

Managing a multifamily property isn’t an easy job. From issues with tenants to day-to-day maintenance and property upkeep, there’s seldom a lack of tasks that need attention.

Throw a windstorm or flood into the mix, and the work can quickly become overwhelming. And that’s why developing and relying on a strategic emergency response plan for those types of contingencies is crucial. One of the first (and most important) considerations will be the inspection. Your discoveries there will dictate the orderly flow of work necessary to get your property back into service.

FIRM (FACS Incident Response Management) teams are on-call 24/7 for their clients. When an emergency incident threatens the property, one call to FIRM sets the response gears in motion. But what if you aren’t a FIRM client? What must you do to protect your investment and the people who count on you?

Your best bet is to call FACS at (866) 643-0237 to find out whether that level of service is right for you. If your business isn’t a fit for FIRM, though, but you need to prepare a DIY emergency response inspection plan, here is a sample of the action list FIRM teams rely on to get repairs done quickly and keep losses to a minimum.



FIRM Property Damage Inspection Process: Sample List

Each strategic response inspection plan FIRM creates is aimed at the property’s specific needs. We can’t tell you exactly how to respond to each incident, but we can provide the following recommendations for the damage inspection process.

 Put safety first: To avoid compounding the problem and putting even more lives in jeopardy, wait until conditions have calmed enough for the work to begin. Fire departments, police departments, rescue teams — all emergency response services follow this rule. You should too.

Utilize your emergency response plan: Done correctly, your strategic emergency response plan will include everything on this list. Unfortunately, many property management teams never refer to that plan until it is needed (and some don’t use it even then). Train your staff on the execution of your emergency response plan. Drill them on it. Get prepared in advance of the storm.

Use team wisely
: Who is responsible for what? Don’t allow your team to focus on one area while other problems go unattended. Segment the work. Your first need is to conduct a thorough inspection of your property to determine the extent of the damage. Then prioritize the work and assign your people accordingly.

Get occupied spaces cleared and guests/tenants relocated: Make sure the workers inspecting the damage know what to tell any guests or tenants remaining on the property. Advise them to remember that catastrophic events can make people act in strange ways. Some may not want to vacate. Some may want to help with repairs. Some may be unsure about what to do or where to go. Don’t expect them to be logical. Have a plan for them in place, and clearly communicate that plan to them in a reassuring manner.

Stabilize the environment: You put safety first before beginning the damage inspection efforts. Keep it first once that work has begun. Once any remaining guests/tenants are out of danger, your next concern is to make sure the workers are safe. Part of your inspection efforts should be directed towards detecting any structural, plumbing, or electrical issues that could threaten workers. And remember to monitor weather reports for additional disturbances that could be on the way.

Prevent secondary damage: Small problems can develop into large problems quickly. You probably won’t have the people or ability to address every issue at once, but you can certainly identify areas where stop-gap measures can hold the damage at bay until it can be addressed. This action can save you time and money. Use it.

Coordinate with vendors: This is a concern FIRM clients don’t have to worry about. FIRM pre-contracts qualified vendors to ensure that tradespeople are on call for your property. If you’re not a FIRM client, be sure to do this for yourself. Don’t wait for a catastrophe to force you to wait in line for service. Prepare in advance. FIRM pre-negotiates both response time and pricing. You may be able to do the same.

Begin an aggressive dry-out: Water obeys gravity. A flood in one office, room, or apartment will immediately begin spreading out and down. The uncontrolled flow of water can create big problems that affect a much larger area than the source. Stop the leaks, remove standing water, then begin an aggressive dry-out operation to prevent the formation of mold in difficult-to-reach places and to preserve the integrity of the building materials. Don’t set yourself up for surprises.

Communicate clearly with your staff: Property management is always a team effort. During an emergency response, though, teamwork becomes more critical than ever. If you’ve developed an effective emergency response plan and have practiced that plan sufficiently prior to the incident, this part of your job will be considerably easier. You’ll already be on the same page. Make sure everyone knows what is happening and why. Make sure they know what to expect and how their jobs contribute to the effort.

Use the information collected from your property inspection to create an ordered list of tasks required: Factors like the degree of damage and amount of potential loss will determine priorities for the work. Don’t make the mistake of instantly jumping on what appears to be the most necessary repair. It sometimes isn’t.

Where available and appropriate, don’t neglect advanced technology: Moisture mapping, for instance, can help mitigate the threat from water damage. Advanced technology like IR cameras, moisture meter attachments, hammer probes, and hygrometers are important to check humidity and assess mold growth. Mold is your number one enemy when flooding occurs. It is critical that you get ahead of the problem within 72 hours. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a basketful of headaches down the road.

The Emergency Response Damage Inspection Is Critical to Property Management

Don’t wait to get your emergency response inspection plan ready to use. No part of the country is immune to disasters and no multi-unit property is exempt from the threat. Whether a region-wide storm is responsible for the damage or an incident occurs on your own property that needs immediate attention, the time you take to prepare now will be well rewarded.

Document everything. Keep a record of what happened, how your team responded, how vendors responded, the types and amounts of equipment needed for the repairs, how many people were involved, how long each was working and on which tasks — document everything.

FIRM teams provide a platform that keeps management updated daily on exactly what happened to date and when the work is expected to be completed. We also audit each invoice from vendors to make sure you’re not being overcharged. You should do the same.

If you need help creating or managing your emergency response plan call FIRM at (866) 643-0237. Make sure you’re ready for the next emergency. It’s coming.