With Florida’s hurricane season extending from June 1 to November 30 – this six-month period arrives with the uncertainty of whether it will be an active or quiet season. In the commercial real estate sector, ensuring that all property types, from office buildings to warehouses and shopping centers, are safe and protected in advance of a storm is a year-around process. We caught up with JLL’s property management leaders, Steven Froot in South Florida and Melissa Hazlewood in Central Florida, to learn more about the measures they implement before, during and after a storm.
Preparation begins early: An important aspect of Steven and Melissa’s job is preparing JLL-managed properties prior to any emergency. For hurricane season, the required planning begins at the beginning of the year – months before Florida residents stock up on water and batteries and local weather teams spring into action. At JLL, all property managers meet with the tenants of each building and provide them with a well-thought out emergency action plan for tenants to follow. These emergencies encompass not only a possible storm or hurricane, but also cover other emergency situations such as bomb threats and active shooters. In any emergency, prior planning is essential to reducing potential loss of life and property.
Securing the properties: As the hurricane season approaches, the landscaping team at each property is tasked with trimming the trees surrounding the property to prevent them from becoming possible projectiles. Property managers also stock up on all appropriate supplies, including sandbags to place near entry ways, and run through the entire stock list on a monthly basis to re-stock on any needed supplies. Particularly, during the raining season, some areas around the state could become more susceptible to flooding as a result of heavy rains. A list of vendors is also at their fingertips to make calls for any additional supplies or larger quantities to meet any needs that arise. The team also practices fire drills and assigns floor wardens who are responsible for working with the fire department to confirm that all individuals from the building have been evacuated if there’s an emergency. Additionally, JLL offers a 24/7 call center that tenants can call to check in on the status of the building and provides ongoing updates.
When storm approaches: With current meteorological technology offering very precise tracking of a storm’s path, it allows pre-storm preparations to begin very early on. Once the storm forms and approaches, the JLL management teams monitor it closely to see how it develops in size, the path it is taking and the timing of when it could hit, while also working closely with local governments to decide if shutting down the buildings is necessary. The team also ensures tenants’ spaces are properly secured by providing plastic bags and helping them to remove computer equipment from the windows. Additionally, all mechanical systems in the property are shut down, if that step is deemed necessary.
Safeguarding employees: Ensuring the safety of property management employees is another priority and an important aspect of the emergency preparedness. For a hurricane or storm, the team arranges a meeting place to gather afterwards and establishes a communication system to use during its path. For example, during the historic hurricane season of 2004 when four major hurricanes hit Florida, all employees communicated via Nextel radios and arrangements were made for a fuel truck to provide fuel supply. The JLL property management leadership also works to resolve any problems at an employee’s home. If an employee and his or her family are safe, then they will be able to return to work and help get the building up and running again.
JLL’s Steven and Melissa make it their main objective to ensure the buildings the company manages across the Sunshine State are fully prepared to minimize the impact of a storm and to work at a fast pace to get the property up and running, so that tenants can resume their business activities as quickly as possible.