Extreme Weather in CRE: Preparing for Tomorrow

July 13, 2023 | By: CRE Insight Journal

Property managers and operators must be ready for almost anything, both for tenants and staff. Putting strategic plans to safeguard properties and operations during extreme weather events can ensure your property and staff are ready for the worst. Having a plan in place for hurricanes, tropical storms, extreme cold and heat, floods, tornadoes, and how to bounce back will give your team the tools to succeed when weather events occur.

Preparing for Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

For properties located in coastal areas, hurricanes and tropical storms pose a significant risk. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) maintains guidelines on several weather events through www.Ready.gov. They suggest several key measures:

  • Secure any loose outdoor items that could become wind-borne hazards.
  • Ensure evacuation routes are clearly marked and accessible.
  • Keep an emergency supply kit on hand.
  • Regularly inspect the building for potential vulnerabilities and address them before a storm hits.
  • Develop a clear emergency communication plan for your staff and tenants.

Hurricane season is in full swing in the eastern, western, and pacific United States. Creating evacuation plans and a chain of command to follow in the event of an emergency can help reduce risk. More details can be found in the hurricane information page.


Heatwaves necessitate a different approach. Ensuring your property’s air conditioning systems are functioning optimally is essential to provide relief from the extreme heat. Consider setting up heat alerts to monitor local weather warnings and adjust AC systems accordingly. Remember to:

  • Stay hydrated and ensure there’s an ample supply of drinking water on the property.
  • Encourage staff and tenants to stay in cool areas of the building, especially during peak heat hours.
  • Have a contingency plan for power outages, which are more likely during a heatwave due to increased demand on the power grid.

The DHS extreme heat page provide a more comprehensive guide on preparing for and working through heatwaves and extreme heat.

Winter Storms and Snow

Preparations for winter storms revolve around securing the property against the cold and ensuring swift snow and ice removal. Clearing ice from a property, especially if the property is a large facility, will protect tenants and staff from falls, and help reduce the risk of litigations from injuries. When preparing for winter storms, it helps to:

  • Insulate exposed pipes to prevent freezing and bursting.
  • Salt pathways, entrances, and driveways in anticipation of snowfall.
  • Have snow removal equipment on-site or a contracted service on standby.

Exposure to low temperatures can have drastic consequences. Frostbite and hypothermia are both dangers that can impact tenants and staff in extreme weather events, and having knowledge of the symptoms and treatment of these can help your property stay safe. You can find more in-depth information on winter storm preparedness on FEMA’s winter weather page.

Preparing for Flooding

Flooding can be a consequence of various extreme weather events, from hurricanes and tropical storms to heavy winter snowfall and spring thaws. It’s crucial for CRE properties in flood-prone areas to have a comprehensive flood preparedness plan. The DHS page on floods suggests several preventive measures:

  • Understand your property’s flood risk by checking flood maps and historical flood data for your area.
  • Install flood barriers or flood shields for doors and windows if necessary.
  • Regularly inspect and clean the building’s drainage systems.
  • Consider installing sump pumps with backup power in basements or lower levels.
  • Elevate critical utilities, such as electrical panels, switches, and heating systems.

Floods can cause numerous issues at CRE properties, and it is critical to follow the news and understand when a flood may arrive.

Preparing for Tornadoes

Tornadoes, while relatively infrequent, can cause severe damage to buildings and risk to human life. Properties in tornado-prone regions should follow the guidelines listed in the Ready.gov page on tornadoes:

  • Identify safe spaces in your building where people can gather during a tornado. Basements or small, windowless interior rooms on the lowest level are typically the safest.
  • Regularly trim tree branches and remove dead or loose branches that could become projectiles.
  • Establish a communication plan to alert occupants of a tornado warning and instruct them on what to do.

Install a safe room that meets FEMA criteria for protection against high winds if your location is particularly prone to tornadoes.

In all these cases, the secret to effective weather management lies in proactive preparation and cohesive teamwork. Adherence to these strategies helps CRE stakeholders protect their properties, their investments, and ensure the safety and smooth operation of their businesses.

Post-Event Recovery

The efforts made during an extreme weather event must be followed by swift and organized recovery operations. This phase should be designed to restore normalcy as quickly and smoothly as possible. When it comes to snowstorms, this involves the prompt removal of snow and ice from driveways, sidewalks, entrances, and emergency exits, ensuring they are safe for use.

In the aftermath of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or tropical storms, it is crucial to quickly assess and repair any damage, particularly to the building structure, to prevent further issues. Check for water damage, roof damage, and structural instability. Additionally, remove any debris from the property to ensure safety.

For heatwaves, once the event has passed, ensure that all air conditioning units are working properly and that the building has returned to a safe temperature for occupation. Regularly monitor and respond to heat alerts even after the heatwave has subsided as a sudden increase in temperature may cause heat-related illnesses among occupants.

Continuous Learning and Improvement

After an extreme weather event, it’s important to hold a debriefing to understand what went well, what didn’t, and how the team can improve the response for future events. This includes analyzing the effectiveness of the preventative measures, the adequacy of the emergency response, and the efficiency of the recovery process. Insights gleaned from these debriefings should be integrated into your disaster response and recovery plan to continually improve its effectiveness.

FEMA offers a free guide for Developing and Maintaining Emergency Operation Plans, which was last updated in September of 2021. BOMA International offers a more specific emergency preparedness guide for CRE, which can be purchased here: Emergency Preparedness Guidebook (techstreet.com)

Remember, preparing for extreme weather events in CRE is not just about safeguarding the property but also ensuring the safety of the occupants and the continuity of operations. The more prepared you are, the better you will be able to withstand, respond, and recover from these events.

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