Always Be Prepared
This online program can train tenants for emergency situations.
When a fire broke out in a Southern California commercial
property last October, the tenants were able to evacuate so smoothly that the
fire department commended them for doing such a good job. In turn, the fire
department was able to do its job effectively. How did the property owner help
his tenants do this? By implementing a Web-based, interactive training program
called BSSonline from Building Safety Solutions, the property owner armed his
tenants with life-saving knowledge. Everyone was able to evacuate the building
Greg Prather, building manager of the LaSalle Bank Building
in Chicago, wasn’t as lucky. In early December 2004, a large fire encompassed the
building. Shortly after this fire, Prather heard about BSSonline and
implemented the program. He now feels confident that if another fire broke out,
his tenants will be well informed.
Making Buildings Safer
BSS specializes in building-safety and architectural-engineering
assessment services. Using a combination
of building structure knowledge and technology, the company created BSSonline
to help property owners prepare their tenants for disaster and emergency
situations. The interactive program can be accessed from any computer, is fully
digitized with integrated 3-D graphics, and uses simulation and voice narration
as teaching tools.
More than 50 clients currently use BSSonline, according to
Hector Gomez, BSS chief executive officer in Pasadena, Calif. “Through this
program [we] want to empower people with the knowledge to save themselves,” he
Effective disaster management training also benefits
property owners. “It creates value and minimizes liability,” Gomez says. BSSonline
reduces property owners’ liability allowing them to maximize safety compliance
and obtain more favorable insurance premiums. The online digital program also
enhances a property’s internal operations with its interactive training program
that effectively conveys information to employees.
Ray Rosales, coordinator of corporate security for the
Nestle building in Glendale, Calif., implemented BSSonline three years ago. While
the Nestle building has not had a reason to evacuate, Rosales hopes that the
training will be effective and tenants will follow directions. The interactive
features are important because they provide a proactive way for tenants to
learn the system, he finds.
For example, the program trains tenants to evacuate smoothly
so that everyone isn’t heading for the same exit or stairwell, avoiding stampedes
or accidents. It also saves employers money by eliminating the need for costly
off-site training sessions, reducing hours spent out of the office.
The program is, “pretty basic stuff,” Rosales says. “There is
a floor warden program and an emergency response team program to help remind
forgetful employees of what they need to be doing during an emergency,” he says.
Tenants also can take an online virtual tour to familiarize
themselves with the building, Prather explains. The program is divided into
three-five minute modules based on the specific emergency or disaster and each
video highlights items important to tenant safety.
After viewing these presentations, tenants must take a test
on what they learned about the building’s safety procedures. Prather takes the
process one step further by linking the test results to employees’
identification cards. “If you don’t pass the test, you don’t get an identification
card,” he says. Even visitors to the building have to take and pass the tests.
can be customized to specific floor plans and designs. For example, “We changed
the names of the stairwells from north, west, and northeast to A, B, and C and
also color-coded them,” Prather says. This helps people who may be confused as
to which staircase is which, one of the problems during the LaSalle Bank fire.
No commercial property owner or building manager wants to be
faced with a life-threatening emergency situation. However, property owners increasingly
are realizing that tenants should be prepared for all types of emergencies and
disasters, both natural and man-made. As Gomez notes, knowledge learned through
training is power, and this power is what leads people to make rational
decisions in emergency situations.