Snap Session: Summer Is Coming—The Key to Safely Reopening Amenities
- May 22, 2020
Now that sheltering-in-place restrictions are being eased somewhat and the weather is getting warmer, residents are eager to get outside and enjoy their properties’ amenities—like pools and barbecues. But how can property managers allow access to common spaces while still adhering to the social distancing guidelines?
That challenge was the focus of a recent MHN Snap Session titled “Summer Is Coming—The Key to Safely Reopening Amenities.” During the 30-minute webinar, Steve Ruff, Chicago regional manager for Waterton, discussed how his company is tackling this issue for its multifamily portfolio. Cyrus Claffey, founder of the ButterflyMX video intercom system, emphasized how technology can assist in the amenity reopening process.
“Our only priority here when opening amenities is the health and well-being of our associates and residents,” said Ruff, noting that Waterton’s outdoor amenities will open first and that capacity will be reduced to 25 percent of pre-COVID levels.
After establishing 25 percent as the best way to achieve social distancing and be in compliance with governmental guidelines, Ruff said, the company’s next major concern is the ability to maintain adequate cleaning supplies. “We will reopen amenities when we are sure we can maintain them in sanitary conditions,” he said.
Initially, Waterton will only make amenities available to residents. Guests will be welcome later. “By limiting the number of guests, that is going to allow our residents to enjoy these amenities and allow us to open them back up and restrict access,” Ruff said.
The owner-operator will also ask residents to maintain the social distancing guidelines prescribed by the CDC or their local government, and they may ask residents to reserve grills, lounge areas and fitness equipment through the company’s app. They will also close spaces where access cannot be controlled.
“I think it’s safe to say, over the last few months, all of us have experienced very significant changes in our daily lives,” Ruff said. “No one can pinpoint when that new normal will begin.”
Of course, restricting resident access is easier said than done. But online scheduling tools, Claffey noted, can alleviate residents’ frustrations because they allow restrictions to be enforced systematically and before residents enter the space. They can also notify tenants of availabilities and notify the operator when capacity has been reached. The data retrieved, meanwhile, can inform cleaning strategies and assist with contact tracing in the event a resident tests positive.
“You don’t want to send a negative message it’s more about capping the number of people who get in using scheduling tools,” he said.
Technology will also enable “touchless” communication on amenities. Waterton is already using mass push emails and their online app to notify tenants. Screens in elevators, package rooms, and on entryway access systems also allow for consistent messaging that can be changed digitally. “If you have invested in a digital signage platform, this is an opportunity to really take advantage of it,” said Claffey.
Cloud-based and IP-based access control systems, which can be linked to online schedulers, are proving particularly effective during COVID-19, Claffey noted, because they allow amenity space entrances to be controlled from a centralized web dashboard at the property management level but also remotely.
“As we reopen, it is going to be an evolving situation, so that nimbleness of being able to update the occupancy levels as things progress over time—increasing them or decreasing them just depending on the local situation—is going to be extremely valuable for properties in order to ensure and maintain safety,” he said.
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