What’s more, cloud-based data storage brings a new level of power to recovery. "For a small company, we’re fully redundant, and the cloud really enables that," adds Russo. "If, God forbid, our headquarters building was destroyed, our data wouldn’t be lost." Moving information to the cloud allows employees to access projects or documents remotely, and data also is backed up to a server that’s not impacted by weather conditions or other hazards.
Akridge has used the system for many disasters, such as power outages and weather-related emergencies. "Let’s say there’s a flood, and you don’t want people to drive an hour to D.C. to find the building closed," Russo says. "To me, that constitutes an emergency as well. The ability to get and share that data is big. And, it’s not just getting a text message. It’s about confirming who got it and who acknowledged it."
To better manage emergency communications, building owners and property managers can target groups of tenants, categorizing them by building, and send alerts only to the affected individuals.
To better manage emergency communications, building owners and property managers can target groups of tenants, categorizing them by building, and send alerts only to the affected individuals. "It used to be that, in an emergency, some sort of blast would come through the PA system," O’Neil explains. "Now, not only can you communicate directly to tenants, you can communicate specifically to groups of tenants by suite, floor, building or across the portfolio."
For example, O’Neil says a fire chief on the scene may direct tenants on floors one-10 to evacuate, those on floors 11-15 to stay put and those on floor 16 and above to relocate to other floors. There are even response mechanisms, so if a blast goes out to tenants on a particular floor, you can ask them to press "1" if they’re okay and "2" if they need help.
That phone also can host such services as ETS’ own Electronic Tenant® Portal, O’Neil says. In an emergency, a link is created to provide access to information, including building maps.
SOLVING THE ELEVATOR RIDDLE
One critical area in any high-rise is elevator communication. There are 900,000 elevators in the United States, each serving an average of 20,000 people annually. In other words, the odds of an elevator emergency are enough to warrant the help of a high-tech emergency communications platform.
One such company, Kings III Emergency Communications, reports taking 1.3 million emergency elevator calls across all property types in 2018. Despite the inconsistency of cell coverage, especially in elevators, that phone may be the only link between an elevator cab and the outside world.
Dispatchers should be able to locate the address of a building, down to the elevator cab, without any help from the caller, as required by elevator communications standards from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the I-Codes from the International Code Council (ICC). Properly functioning emergency phones have automatic location identification, relieving responders from having "to rely on someone who’s in a panicked state for location information," says Katie Thomas, Kings III’s vice president of marketing. They also record, date/time stamp and store calls indefinitely.
"We have power redundancy, resilient networking and multiple telecommunications carriers to get the calls to our dispatch center," says Dave Mann, technology vice president for Kings III.
Thanks to mobile technology and other high-tech capabilities, today’s office buildings are safer than ever. However, old school rules still apply, and it’s vital that property managers communicate with tenants to keep them well versed on their building’s security resources.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Liz Wolf is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer with 30 years of business and commercial real estate reporting experience. She previously served as editor of the Minnesota Real Estate Journal.