Scientists at NOAA and Colorado State University agree that this hurricane season will be an average one, and won’t come close to the destruction the Gulf Coast saw in 2017. But with one named storm already making landfall in the Florida panhandle, property managers in the Gulf Coast and all along the Atlantic should start dusting off their hurricane emergency plan. When a storm approaches, no doubt you know how to keep your properties and staff safe; but you’ll want to make sure each generation of resident knows what to do as well.
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Below, we cover different approaches that you can take to effectively communicate important information before a storm to residents of all ages, from Gen Z to the Silent Generation.
What Should You Communicate to All Renters in an Emergency?
Before we talk about specific populations, let’s discuss what all residents should be aware of in case of a storm.
- When, where, and how you’ll be contacting them with relevant storm information
- In what circumstances you’ll be evacuating residents, and what the plan is for getting people out
- Which members of your team will be helping with storm prep (this is especially important for deterring scam artists or burglars posing as workers to gain entry)
- When you might be shutting off utilities, such as gas
- What they should do to prepare, such as moving outdoor furniture inside and shuttering windows
- How to contact you or your staff in case of an emergency
So, how do you get your residents the right information—not only about building policies, but about personal safety—at the right time and in the best way? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To make the best hurricane emergency plan, it’s all about knowing how to communicate best with your audience.
Know Your Residents’ Characteristics
Who makes up your resident population? Do you have mainly elderly residents? Millennials? Residents who speak Spanish? Is yours a pet-friendly building? Thinking about the demographics of your residents will help you better understand their needs in an emergency or evacuation situation; so we’ve broken down our advice by generation.
Baby Boomers & the Silent Generation
If you don’t already have older residents, there’s a good chance you will soon. According to our 2018 Renters’ Report: Data-Driven Tactics to Attract & Retain Renters of All Generations, the number of renters 55 and older grew 28 percent between 2009 and 2015—the largest growth among all age groups. Their number is expected to increase to 12.2 million by 2030. Older residents of the Baby Boomer and Silent generations may need a little more attention when it comes to hurricane emergency plans, so think through all the steps carefully.
The Needs of Older Residents
When thinking about emergency and evacuation plans for elderly residents, keep in mind that they may have movement restrictions that will make stairs and other emergency routes more difficult.
Don’t wait until a storm is an imminent threat to start communicating. Talk to residents well ahead of time. Make sure they have their homes secured and their emergency preparedness kits ready to go. They should also ensure that any pets are accounted for.
According to the 2018 Renters’ Report, a primary reason that residents choose to rent as they age is the difficulty of keeping up with home maintenance. As a result, many older residents could use your help prepping their home for the storm. That includes securing or moving any outdoor furniture or plants and boarding up windows. Create and distribute a schedule to residents, letting them know when you’ll be coming around to help.
In case of an evacuation situation, collect emergency contact information from each resident and keep those contacts apprised of the situation. For those who live alone, keep them informed of emergency shelters in the area, and check on them frequently.
What Older Residents’ Emergency Preparedness Kit Should Look Like
There are specific items that elderly residents will need to consider for their emergency preparedness kit, including:
- At least one week’s supply of any medications
- Mobility aids (walkers, canes) labeled with a name and address
- All relevant health information and documentation
Getting the Word Out to Older Residents
Baby Boomers (those between the ages of 55 and 73) frequently use smartphones and social media. Residents ages 74 and older (members of the Silent Generation), however, may have a cell phone; but it likely won’t be a smartphone, and they may not have access to the internet.
It’s best to cover all your bases to get the word out. You can certainly send text messages or emails, but make sure you’ve also posted notices in high-traffic areas like the mail boxes or laundry room. If you feel it’s necessary, call a meeting to keep residents in the loop, or even go door-to-door. In the case of an evacuation, you’ll want to make sure everybody is aware.
Generation X Residents
Generation X residents represent one in three households who rent. Instead of an apartment, they’re most likely renting a single-family home, which presents different challenges in an emergency. In addition, while Gen Xers themselves may not need as much attention, their dependents might.
The Needs of Your Gen X Residents
Gen Xers (residents ages 39 to 54) are likely to have children, pets, or both. Your residents will need a plan and an emergency kit that accounts for all members of the family, including pets.
What Gen X Residents’ Emergency Preparedness Kit Should Look Like
An emergency kit for a family with small children and pets should include:
- Powdered formula, bottles, and baby food for infants
- Diapers or training pants and wipes
- A portable crib
- Infant or children’s medication
- Toys or other forms of entertainment
- Food, water, bedding, and a leash for pets
Getting the Word Out to Gen X Residents
Renters living in single-family homes won’t be as easy to communicate with as those living in an apartment complex. Gen X residents will expect an email or text letting them know about the situation as well. You may even want to invest in an emergency notification app that sends out a mass message to all residents in addition to the in-app texting functionality that Buildium offers to communicate with residents. Posting to social media is a nice-to-have, but it may not be the first place that residents check for updates. To cover all of your bases, you can still post in public areas.
In 2016, 65 percent of households headed by someone under age 35 rented, according to the Renters’ Report. Nearly 1 in 2 Millennials identifies as non-white, making this a very diverse generation. They may speak other languages. Whether your residents speak Spanish, French Creole, or Vietnamese, posting or texting emergency instructions in both English and the native language of your residents will ensure that everyone is clear on your hurricane emergency plan. Your younger residents will be quick to communicate via smartphone, but don’t take their digital savvy for granted.
The Needs of Your Millennial Residents
Millennial residents may have small children, but it’s more likely that they’ll have pets. Make sure that residents have plans for their pets, as well as for themselves. If they plan on evacuating to a shelter, they should know which ones will accommodate their pets. Point your residents to resources that list area shelters and their restrictions.
What Millennials’ Emergency Preparedness Kit Should Look Like
Their kit should include pet food and other supplies, as well as supplies for themselves. That includes extra water and a phone charger.
Getting the Word Out to Millennial Residents
Like Gen X residents, younger renters will be watching their phones for updates on storms and other emergency situations. They might use an emergency planning tool like those offered by the Red Cross, FEMA, or Nextdoor. While you don’t want to rely on social media to disseminate important emergency information, you may want to consider starting a Facebook or WhatsApp group to keep residents communicating and helping each other.
Generation Z Residents
Generation Z, containing residents ages 22 and under, is only just beginning to enter the rental market. They won’t have much experience living on their own or dealing with emergencies like hurricanes. Like Millennials, Gen Z renters are more likely to live in dense urban areas.
The Needs of Your Gen Z Residents
Make sure your emergency instructions are clear and sent out to residents well ahead of time. Make yourself available via email or phone for questions. If residents must evacuate, they should know that well in advance so that they can get out ahead of the rush.
What Gen Z Residents’ Emergency Preparedness Kit Should Look Like
A Gen Z resident’s kit won’t look much different from that of a Millennial. They may have a pet to consider as well, but as long as their kit follows Red Cross recommendations, they should be all set.
Getting the Word Out to Gen Z Residents
Count on them to depend even more on apps to communicate. While they’re great for getting the word out ahead of time, it’s still worth going door-to-door in an evacuation situation to make sure everyone is out.
Red Cross Recommendations
We’ve talked a bit about emergency kits for residents. While you’re not responsible for ensuring each household has one, it’s a good idea to post lists for residents to make sure they’ve covered their bases. The Red Cross has a number of resources, including this list, that you can send to residents.
When a storm approaches, you have a lot of tasks to juggle. Make sure all your residents are informed and well-prepared ahead of time to make your hurricane emergency plan run smoothly and safely. Getting to know them is only the first step.Read more on Resident Management