With recent news about extreme weather conditions, terrorist activities, the always present earthquake threat and other disasters, it was only natural that the Building Owners and Managers Association of British Columbia (BOMA BC) would take a leadership role in providing a mass notification communication system for the commercial buildings industry.
In keeping with BOMA BC’s mission to “help foster a favourable business environment for the commercial real estate industry and facilitate the delivery of valued services for our members” the association officially launched, in October 2015, its newly created BOMA Alert program – a mass notification system which will allow BOMA BC to relay critical information from authorities to its membership in the event of an emergency and help facilitate communication between building managers and their tenants.
The idea originated from the work of the BOMA Emergency Response Committee (which I acted as chair). The first action was to create a task force of industry experts: Kevin Soltani of Bentall Property Management, Doug McKelvie of Oxford Properties, Jenna Griesbach of Ivanhoe Cambridge and Victor Smart of WPS. The task force surveyed and spoke to prominent building owners and managers to identify their priority needs for dealing with emergency type situations. There was one main theme clearly consistent across the board; each person spoken to indicated that an emergency notification system to communicate with their tenants and employees in times of crisis was their number one wish.
Having received a mandate from the membership and having secured some pilot phase funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC, BOMA BC began sourcing out a system that would allow the association to provide relevant information on a timely basis to its membership in a time of crisis. After reviewing several systems, the BOMA BC committee identified and recommended the Ontario based company ERMS Advantage as having the right system for BOMA BC needs. The decision to go with ERMS was based on a variety of factors including their corporate reputation, their user friendly but robust web based mass communication system and references from current property management clients.
BOMA subsequently negotiated and completed a license agreement with ERMS Advantage Services for long term BOMA use of their highly sophisticated system. BOMA BC also negotiated favourable licensing terms exclusively for BOMA member companies that desired their own internal portfolio-wide tenant communication system.
At a special sold-out luncheon event, BOMA BC launched its newly branded BOMA Alert initiative to the membership. ERMS Advantage president and CEO Sylvain Rollin attended and provided a comprehensive overview of how the system works. Key components of the system include an ability to send messages to multiple tenants, agents or any stakeholders across multiple media types, track responses, confirmation of message receipt, provide polling opportunity, and the ability to use pre-scripted and configured message templates depending on the situation. These features are spread through different modules including mapper, messenger, hotline, roll call, library and crisis manager and ERMS provided personal training specific to the needs of the organization along with best practices and implementation guideline documents for staff.
Developing a communications infrastructure to enable BOMA BC to reach all its building member companies through a mass notification system was the first step. In 2016, BOMA is hoping to convince the various government emergency first responders to create a one-stop fully staffed facility that would be in a position to provide BOMA and others with real time 24/7 critical emergency notifications directly to building owners through the BOMA Alert program.
It is important to remember that when facing a natural disaster, terrorist act, police incident or any emergency situation, communication during a time of crisis is pivotal to minimize panic and solicit cooperation from the target audience. While none of us wish to see a major fire, earthquake or terrorist incident, we need to be mindful of how to prevent unnecessary risk to life and safety and damage to property.
Branko Bejo is vice president, business solutions, Securiguard Security Services and BOMA BC Emergency Response Committee chair. For more information about the BOMA Alert program, call BOMA BC’s government affairs & communications director Muneesh Sharma at 604.684.3916.