Online Assessment Tool Enables Hurricane Preparedness: JLL

The professional services firm continues aiding its Houston-area employees in recovering from Hurricane Harvey, while also using its Building Emergency Management Assessment system to evaluate the effects of Hurricane Irma.

By Sanyu Kyeyune

Bob Best

Bob Best leads the Health, Safety, Security & Environment group for JLL, Americas, as its executive vice president. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Best has been implementing a disaster management plan to assist his firm’s employees as they recover, as well as mobilizing its resources to aid victims of Hurricane Irma. In the following conversation, Best explains how JLL is managing both situations and shares the company’s plans to use proprietary tools in addressing comparable events in the future.

What challenges is JLL confronting in aftermath of the hurricane?

Best: Fortunately, the properties we manage were well prepared and are not facing significant operating issues. Our biggest concern is now helping our employees whose homes were affected to recover. Of the nearly 700 JLL employees in the area, about 100 were displaced and about 40 were significantly impacted. We mobilized volunteers within our company to help these employees. 

We are also providing special financial support and helping to coordinate recovery services. Employees all over the JLL network are pitching in as well, either financially via our donation-matching program or through efforts like local office donation drives.  

Going forward, how does JLL plan to respond to climate-related issues?

Best: We have developed an online tool called the Building Emergency Management Assessment, which we can use with our clients to help assess their buildings as the first step in creating a customized disaster management plan. We also have a standing infrastructure of corporate resources, like engineering, human resources, communications and finance, who are called into action during crises such as floods and hurricanes. This team coordinates information and resources to support our local management teams. 

In the case of Harvey, this team started working the week before last and held conference calls every day. When Irma was approaching Florida, we launched a second corporate response team, who has since been meeting daily throughout the event.

Are there any key takeaways or lessons for the real estate industry at large, to be gleaned from this disaster?

Best: The most important lesson is preparation. We have learned through Harvey, as well as Hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina, that our properties must have procedures, resources, supplies and information in place before the event occurs. Once a flood or hurricane hits, it’s too late to try to figure out what to do. You need to know ahead of time. 

That is why we use systems, like Building Emergency Management Assessment, to make sure the properties that we manage are prepared. We even run tabletop exercises during the year to make sure our teams really are ready for whatever happens.

Image courtesy of JLL