FORT LAUDERDALE, FL-With the hurricane season set to begin June 1, office tenants should establish detailed contingency plans that outline how operations will continue in the event that employees are displaced in an emergency, says Studley managing director Tom Capocefalo.

The past two hurricane seasons have wreaked havoc with many tenants, with buildings forced to shut down for days–if not weeks–due to the lack of electricity and other factors. When a building is forced to close, property management typically determines when it will open, leaving tenants at the mercy of their decisions to reopen. As a result, many tenants in the market for new space are asking how well office buildings may be prepared for an emergency. Among factors tenants question are the inclusion of hurricane-rated glass and an emergency back-up generators.

Capocefalo warns, however, that they may not be the right questions to be asking. Most buildings have back-up generators, but they are installed as a life safety feature to light hallways and power elevators in the event of an emergency. Likewise, hurricane-rated glass does not always prevent damage. “We know of buildings with hurricane-rated glass that suffered damage and 20-year-old buildings that did not,” Capocefalo tells

Rather, clients should establish a detailed plan that pertains to operations after a storm. Among tips that Capocefalo often shares with clients are to ensure that all employees contact information is up-to-date and that more than one person in the company has been identified as an emergency contact person. At times, the named emergency contact must evacuate the area leaving employees with no way to communicate with their employer.

Insurance policies and other important documents should be stored off-site because tenants often cannot access buildings that have been shut down after a storm. Tenants should identify personnel that is critical to operations and where short-term space may be leased to accommodate them. “The real estate component just looks at where a company places its assets. The biggest part of preparing for a storm is the operational component,” Capocefalo says.

Other tips include videotaping premises prior to a storm so that damage can be accurately documented after a storm when making insurance claims. “Most of this is common sense, but it’s common sense with a detailed plan,” Capocefalo says.

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