There has been a lot of talk about emergency preparedness over the past year, given the range of extreme weather events occurring across Canada. But in addition to the weather, property managers must be prepared for another type of disaster: medical emergencies.
“Property managers should have an emergency procedure in place,” says Glen Kitteringham, principal consultant and president of Kitteringham Security Group Inc. “They should make sure they have staff on hand to deal with emergencies.”
Emergency procedures outline steps for how to deal with everything from a minor injury like cuts, to more severe incidents like heart attacks. Specifics of a plan would account for where a building is located, and how long it would take emergency responders to arrive at the scene if needed.
The Ontario Government’s Guide to Strengthen Emergency Management of High-Rise and High-Risk Buildings says that building managers should educate tenants on medical and first aid procedures. This should include having a list of emergency contact numbers for building occupants, as well as contact information for occupants who have accredited training in lifesaving techniques.
In downtown or otherwise centrally located locations, Kitteringham says that building procedures should have security guards play an assistance role for emergency responders. He suggests that guards should be trained with first aid and CPR, as well as to use an automated external defibrillator (AED) if there is one on site.
In large office buildings, managers should consider providing CPR training to select staff, and have AEDs and medical oxygen on site. The 2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and Emergency Cardiovascular Care outline the importance of having AEDs in large public areas where there is a “relatively high likelihood of witnessed cardiac arrest.” The guidelines say that AEDs can be used without training, but that training improves performance.
According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, quick use of an AED — within three minutes — in addition to CPR makes the likelihood of someone surviving sudden cardiac arrest close to 75 per cent.
In multi-tenant office buildings, tenants should be reminded to make emergency calls from a landline, as it is easier for 911 operators to track a location. Kitteringham recommends making a call to the security department, who should take note of the floor and office number, as well as any details about the injury.
Building managers should also have procedures in place on what do to while waiting for an emergency responder. In high-rise buildings, Kitteringham advises one security guard wait at the entrance for the EMTs, while another goes to hold an elevator that is large enough for a gurney. In his experience, this often means the freight elevator. Having this written into the emergency response plan will also eliminate confusion when EMTs arrive on the scene.
Security should stay and continue to block off and hold the elevator until the EMTs have left the building. In many medical emergency incidences, a part of security’s job will be to deal with scene control, though Kitteringham says this depends on the extent of an injury.
When advising property managers on emergency protocols, Kitteringham says that it is also important to make notes about what first aid is located on site, and where it is. If AEDs or first aid kits are being used, he says it is important that security knows where they are located so they can bring it with them when responding to an incident.
All of these steps are part of a properly written emergency control. Having a plan in place can reduce confusion, making it easier for tenants to receive necessary care quickly. And it can also help mangers keep track of whether incidences are isolated or part of a bigger picture issue, such as a building problem that is compromising tenant health.
Leah Wong is the online editor of Canadian Property Management magazine.