Last modified on January 5th, 2016
By Bryan Ives
According to the National Emergency Number Association, there are roughly 240 million 9-1-1 calls in the United States every year. The NENA reports that in some communities as many as half of all calls come from cell phones. Sadly, non-emergency calls for things like losing a passport or locking yourself out of your apartment clog the system and slow down response time for legitimate emergencies.
Resident needs don’t stop when the work day ends. Here are some tips for evaluating your after hours emergency plan to help tenants get the help they need without calling 9-1-1.
In 2012, there were almost 9 million property crimes — auto theft, vandalism, arson — in the US, according to FBI crime reports. Offering discounted rent to local law enforcement is one way to give tenants peace of mind. Studies show that even an unoccupied cruiser causes people to slow down, observe traffic signs and behave “more appropriately”.
Likewise, hiring an off-site security firm to monitor you property with 24-hour surveillance cameras, alarm systems and routine drive-by inspections deters crime. Security officers also watch for abandoned vehicles and can spot suspicious nighttime activity that your employees might miss during the day.
For non-life threatening emergencies like lockouts and ruptured water heaters, a process that responds to residents quickly protects your property assets and improves resident loyalty.
An answering machine and call forwarding system works very well for some small apartment communities. Providing tenants with cell phone numbers for plumbing and heating problems when the office is closed ensures minor inconveniences don’t escalate into expensive restoration projects.
One system that works very well for properties of all sizes and emergencies on every level is hiring a 24-hour live operator call center. Call centers train their operators to follow your protocol. With a script prepared by you, tailored to your property, the call center staff determines which calls need immediate attention and which calls can wait until you return to the office.
Sometimes a combination of services is the best answer. Hiring an off-site security firm and a 24-hour call center for areas with higher crime rates could add extra layers of protection and peace of mind for your residents and for you.
When evaluating your after-hours emergency plan ask yourself these questions.
- Do residents know how to report emergency maintenance issues?
- Is there a written lockout policy?
- Are your emergency numbers posted online and/or near the office for easy access?
- Can law enforcement reach me quickly in an emergency to report incidents?
- Is my staff trained to respond to after-hours calls?
A thorough plan includes responding to both life-threatening and non life-threatening incidents. Disaster preparedness, medical emergencies, lost keys and aggressive loose dogs.
If you need help writing an after hours plan, talk to your property management team, contact call centers and discuss your concerns with your insurance agent. Local law enforcement agencies can also assist you with strategies to deter crime and protect your assets.