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IREM China Shanghai shares COVID-19 best practices

Real estate managers are used to managing a lot, from being woken up in the middle of the night due to a maintenance issue, to being called to their properties to address fires, water damage, and power outages. But the novel coronavirus is the untamed beast we’ve never confronted, and yet, protecting ourselves and each other from transmitting and contracting this disease has changed our lives.

Property managers in China were the first from our ranks to face this threat, and their experiences and learning have shaped the real estate management response to the virus globally. What have we learned from our colleagues in China?

As local and national government in China have been working to stem the spread of the virus since late last year, progress was made on guidance for property managers to protect the safety of building occupants, employees, and visitors. Merlion Property Services Co., Ltd. (MPS), by way of IREM China Shanghai, has shared their learnings and guidelines, for the benefit of property managers everywhere. Here are the highlights:

Creating an Emergency Response Team

Step one to prevent and control a pandemic is to create a pandemic team. In this case, MPS recommends three teams:

  • Epidemic Prevention and Control, with overall responsibility for responding to a pandemic
  • Material Support, to acquire and manage anti-epidemic supplies such as masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer
  • Prevention and Control Inspection, to conduct comprehensive supervision and inspection of epidemic prevention and control measures, and to maintain relevant sanitation and disinfection records

How to commute to work

Not everyone has the option to work from home. Consider your security team, maintenance professionals, and vendors. Giving advice to these essential workers adds value to the property management team. Some of these tips include how to safely take public transportation, when to wear a mask during your commute, and how to avoid touching anything on the journey.

Entering a property

To maximize protection, consider taking the temperature of visitors and staff upon entering the building. Among other concerns, those with temperatures outside the normal range should be advised to self-quarantine. Those entering the building should immediately wash their hands before proceeding to elevators, offices, or public spaces.

Working in the office

Even though many of us are working remotely, this is not an option for everyone, and, it’s expected that we’ll return to the office at some point. If you must go to the office, and in anticipation of returning, guidelines have been prepared that address physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing, ventilation, and managing meetings.

Building maintenance

Maintenance professionals are on the front line of battling a pandemic. Today, in addition to their primary role of keeping building systems functioning at optimal levels, making needed repairs, and scheduling inspections, they must help protect building occupants, staff, and visitors. Guidelines and processes have been developed that address concerns related to HVAC systems, what to do if an outbreak occurs in the building, and waste management.

Elevator Operation Management

Elevators become risky spaces during a pandemic. Keeping them clean and sanitized goes a long way in helping prevent disease transmission. Some of the considerations detailed in IREM China Shanghai’s guidelines are ventilation, how to properly clean and disinfect elevators, and a contingency plan if the elevators are no longer in service due to an outbreak.

Contingency Plans

Residents, tenants, vendors and employees are all at risk during a pandemic. If someone in your building presents symptoms or falls ill, there are measures property managers can take to guide medical personnel, and help prevent further virus spread. Also, it’s important to develop a back-up plan if the contagion has affected critical vendors or staff.

Case studies

A pandemic plan may look good on paper, but how effective will it be when implemented? Our colleagues in China have documented the impact of their pandemic control guidelines on actual properties, and have been sharing their findings with colleagues around the world, including the U.S., China, Japan and Canada. Their experiences have helped shape and refine their strategies, especially in high density areas, such as shopping malls and office buildings.

Equally important

Keep in mind that it’s equally important for building managers to comply with the guidelines and measures established by local, state, and national authorities. Physical distancing, stay-at-home orders, and business closings are difficult to endure, but the sooner we stop disease transmission, the sooner we can start again.

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