IREM Blogs

Managers Face off Against Nature’s Worst

November 16, 2018 | John Salustri

In his recent article for NREI, IREM President Don Wilkerson, CPM, weighed the forces of human nature against those of Nature itself: “I guess it’s a part of human nature (notice the lower-case ‘n’) that people tend to be self-congratulatory,” he wrote. “We look at all the advancements we’ve made (consider technology and industry alone), and our mastery of the world is clear—and clearly the reason for boasting.

“That is, until Nature (with a capital ‘N’) decides to show us how tenuous that control over our environment is,” he continued. “In the blinking of the eye, the comforts to which we’ve grown accustomed can be literally washed or blown away, plunging us all into a primitive darkness.”

As proof, he cited three recent, horrifying events:

  • The May 3 eruption of the Kilauea Volcano;
  • The summer wildfires of California;
  • And, as JPM recounted earlier this year, the devastation of Hurricane Harvey.

“In a very real sense, for the nation’s stock of multifamily and commercial assets, property managers are the first line of defense against such devastating turns of nature,” Wilkerson wrote. “This is true both at the individual property level and nationally.”

At the asset level, he said, emergency preparedness is key to ensuring life and property safety, and no matter the event, there are certain basic guidelines that hold true. “To that extent, preparedness is also good business. In fact, it can be a cost-saving strategy, at the very least in terms of occupant retention when the emergency is handled with professionalism and thought.”

But it is also a cost. As pointed out in the IREM handbook, Before and After Disaster Strikes, “There will be upfront costs for emergency equipment and printing of emergency procedure manuals, in addition to costs incurred for the amount of time your staff spends creating the plan.” Thorough prep, the book points out, may also call for upgrades in building systems, everything from sprinklers and alarms to windows.

“Further costs may be incurred if professional consulting services are solicited,” the book warns. Key among them would be an attorney—if the prep is done properly—because she or he, “can advise whether there are laws regarding public access or other issues that might affect your actions and/or liabilities in an emergency.”

Sound burdensome? Consider then that, “Liabilities may also arise if you do not have an emergency plan in place or do not implement a plan to protect people and property.”

But property managers cannot carry that burden alone. Therein lies the national awareness. As Wilkerson pointed out, a major imperative is the ongoing, in-place support of those efforts and assets that can come only from the federal government. Nowhere is that imperative clearer than in the move to create a permanent National Flood Insurance Program.

“The good news here is that Congress has extended the program through November 30 of this year,” he said. “But that frankly is not enough, and IREM is making that statement to our legislators in both national forums in Washington, D.C., and on the local level, where members around the country are meeting with their representatives away from the hustle and bustle of the nation’s capital.

“And the message we’re relaying is constant,” he continued. “More is needed, and a long-term reform bill should include reauthorization for at least five years; an increase in affordability through annual rate caps and lower surcharges; directing FEMA to develop more granular rate tables that better align rates with actual risk; funding of loans and grants to help mitigate flood risk; and increased access to private-market flood insurance.”

He cited the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, and the July downpours in southwestern Japan that caused massive landslides and loss of lives and property as indicative of the dire impact a flood can have.

And while Japan would not be impacted by NFIP, “the devastation of the area proves that no location is immune,” he said. “That event only underscores the need for ongoing protection here in the states.”

And there is another lesson to be gleaned from the effects of nature, no matter where in the world they occur. “In a very real sense, what happens anywhere happens to all property managers,” he wrote. “The lessons taught by such tragedies, whether they occur in California, Texas, Hawaii or Japan, inform us all. As a community of professionals, we learn and we grow from one another.

“From our individual hardships, the community finds its collective strength,” he concluded.

Read the full article.

About the author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

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