Safety first: 5 things to know if the worst-case scenario happens to your building

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No one ever likes to think about the worst-case scenario happening to them (or to their building), but at the same time, a little prevention and preparation can go a long way towards heading off a crisis before it spins out of control. 

So while we were intially a little startled by the theme of Argo Management's event—"Emergency Response for NYC Residential Buildings: Preparing for Terrorist Attacks, Shooters, and Other Threats"—we decided to scope it out to see if any tips for management companies could also be useful to regular residents. Below, a few things we learned to help keep you and your building safe:

  • For starters, it's important to keep things in perspective. In spite of the title of the event (and the horrific news last week from Orlando), when it comes to emergencies that are likely to affect your home or apartment building, your biggest concern should be more mundane things like the weather. "Weather is actually our number one hazard when planning for emergencies, whether it's significant heat in the summer, coastal storms, or winter storms," said Ira Tannenbaum from the New York City Office of Emergency Management.
  • As always, information is power. Find out your evacuation zone ahead of time (here's a map) so you don't find yourself scrambling to figure out if a just-announced evacuation order applies to you. It's also a good idea to sign up for Notify NYC, which sends enrolled members updates on city services, traffic disruptions, and emergencies in progress. NYPD Shield also has several online guides on how to prepare for various emergencies, including tips on making an evacuation plan and a home emergency kit.
  • While no one wants to snitch on the super, make sure your building's staff are doing their jobs. "The cliche of the sleeping doorman might have been ok 30 years ago, but it's not now," said Howard Rothchild, president of the Realty Advisory Board on Labor Relations. "Doormen provide the first line of security and should know what to do in any emergency, whether it's weather, fire, or terror." They're also the people most likely to spot suspicious characters and keep potentially violent intruders out of the building. So if you're doorman is MIA, asleep, or otherwise slacking on the job, don't hesitate to alert the management.
  • If the unthinkable happens and a violent attacker or shooter enters your building, remember your ABCs, says NYPD detective Chris Mazzey. This stands for Avoid, Barricade, Confront, meaning that you should first try to avoid a violent situation if at all possible; hide and barricade yourself in a secure location, if not; and, as a last resort, confront the attacker. (This is similar to the now-standard advice of "Run, Hide, Fight," that officials generally advise for active shooter situations.)
  • Communication with your neighbors is key. Rothchild recommends starting a phone tree or email list in the building so it's easy for residents to contact one another, and to let your neighbors know if you'd be in need of assistance in case of an evacuation. Conversely, he says, "think about who in your building would have difficulty getting out. Look out for those who really need your help."


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