Collaborating on Crisis Management

Panelists at NMHC’s 2018 OpTech Conference & Exposition in Orlando discussed the best ways to build a strategy for dealing with different levels of crisis at a community.
Peter Jakel, Nyla Westlake, Brian Doppelt and Keli Lynch-Wright

The multifamily industry is no stranger to crisis, with the recent devastation brought upon by the several hurricanes and wildfires that have taken place. In addition to disaster relief, there are other forms of crisis including criminal activity such as death and violent altercations, in which property managers need to have procedures set in place to deal with these issues. At National Multifamily Housing Council’s 2018 OpTech Conference & Exposition in Orlando, Linnell Taylor Marketing’s Vice President of Strategy Peter Jakel, moderated a panel on the essentials of collaborative crisis management, which included Trammel Crow Residential’s Managing Director of Asset Management-National Nyla Westlake, The Bainbridge Cos.’ Senior Vice President & General Counsel Brian Doppelt and Hatching Hope’s Executive Director & Co-Founder Keli Lynch-Wright. 

Gathering a proper team is the first step in developing a crisis management strategy. This group of individuals should include members of the public relations firm, the property manager, insurance brokers and senior marketing staff. This will act as a formal crisis management department for the community, which will handle onsite disruptions. “It’s important to solicit internal feedback to develop a crisis plan—from the site level all the way up to the CEO,” explained Doppelt. 

Although hiring a third party management service to handle crisis management is an option, being hands-on at a community has shown better results when it comes to resident satisfaction and communication. However, it is helpful to have an offsite team handling resident communication efforts, that way the community can be reached during the time of crisis, instead of emails and phone calls going unanswered. “Dedicate someone on your team that is not located where you are, to handle communication,” said Lynch-Wright. 

Another component of this is the training itself. When employees are hired, they should be given on-board training, which is then revisited twice a year to keep staff up to date on the current changes of the plan and the steps to take when an incident occurs. Jakel also mentioned the use of mock trials, that can assist in preparing employees in how to handle different crisis scenarios. “Training for each crisis needs to constantly be updated because no two are the same, and staff needs to be aware of that,” explained Jakel. 

Communication is key when it comes to crisis management. The most important thing to keep in mind is if you were the resident, how much information would you want to know? “When it comes to dealing with crisis, the priority should be residents first, then staff, then the property, regardless of what happens,” notes Westlake. By utilizing social media services, text and email, residents can be alerted to the current situation and what action is being taken by community staff. This is also vital to the resident when it comes to disaster relief, such as evacuation and weather notices. Transparency makes a crucial difference between keeping your residents in the dark to avoid panic and giving them enough information so that they trust the situation is being handled in a responsible and timely manner.