On Guard! Being a Super in Dangerous Times

On Guard!

First and foremost, a superintendent's role is definitely one of leadership. Keep in mind that the building staff are not security guards. However, steps can be taken to better guard each building. Please note that these steps should be already in place due to common sense. As always complacency does take over and precautions sometimes fall through the cracks. Building security has always been a matter of cooperation between building staff and residents.

1. All building staff should be on watch for people that do not belong in the building. This means proper screening of visitors and guests. A written letter from residents should be left on file at the desk of all those persons who have permission to enter an apartment.

This watch list should also include contractors. A list of subcontractor names should also be given to the front desk or left at the service entrance. A sign-in and sign-out sheet is also a good idea to keep track of the workers that are not building staff. On this watch list should also be local officials. Make sure that the badge-carrying official is who he or she claims to be.

2. Packages left unattended should be reported to the super, who will in turn follow the policy established by the building.

3. Garages with no attendants should be given special attention. Drivers who enter or exit the garage should NOT drive off BEFORE the garage door closes.

4. The building should have the following equipment in the event of an emergency:

"¢ A bullhorn in the lobby for staff use to alert residents of an emergency.

"¢ Several whistles so the staff can get residents' attention.

"¢ A supply of glow sticks that can be used as an alternate form of lighting in hallways and stairs. Note: these glow sticks are inexpensive and stay lit for about two or more hours. This should be just enough time for an evacuation if it is needed during a power outage.

"¢ Lanterns or camping lamps to provide extra fuel for lighting in the lobby.

"¢ A supply of flashlights in the lobby with extra batteries.

"¢ Hand radios or walkie talkies. These are very useful in any emergency so that the staff can communicate with one another.

"¢ A list of elderly and special needs' residents with their apartment phone number as well as phone numbers of family for emergency use.

The staff should make one or two practice runs to assess preparedness for different types of emergencies. After all, practice makes perfect.

Residents should also know what to do and what is expected of them. It would be wise to make them part of the drill. Also don't forget to send out informational notices to every resident and be sure that new residents get the information as well. Example: If the power goes out, tenants should store some water but not run the tank dry. In fact, it might be a good idea for residents to keep a supply of bottled water on hand for emergency use only. Residents should also have flashlights and batteries in their own apartments.

Remember to stay away from candles as they are a fire hazard. Smoke detectors in all apartments should be checked regularly to make sure they are fully functional. Emergency stairs and/or fire escapes should also be inspected regularly to ensure there are no items blocking egress.

Use common sense. Sometimes it is the small things that matter most. Communication must be ongoing. Staff, residents and management must be kept in the loop of any changes in policies and must be reminded frequently of policies and procedures.

Cooperation between all parties is vital. Being prepared by having the necessary tools and supplies for any emergency is no longer just a Boy Scout motto; it should be yours as well. Make sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it. And make sure that complacency does not set in.

All of the above together makes for a safer building.

Peter Grech is a resident manager, building consultant, teacher and the president of the Superintendents Technical Association (STA). He has written frequently for The Cooperator and other publications.

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