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Managing disaster in N.J.: it pays to be prepared.

Things have never looked rosier for New Jersey building owners, managers, and developers. More and more companies are setting up a New Jersey office or, lured in part by state incentives, relocating their corporate headquarters from Manhattan to the Garden State.

But while the outlook is favorable, the stakes are higher than ever for owners and managers, who must be prepared to deal with unexpected -- and often unpleasant -- incidents that happen from time to time. The reality is: Floods happen, pipes burst, fires break out and equipment fails, causing serious damage to buildings, and often leaving them uninhabitable.

Witness the devastating floods caused by Hurricane Floyd last year, from which many businesses still have not recovered, many months later. Inventories were damaged, files were lost, and computers and electronic equipment were destroyed by last fall's flood waters. Long after the waters have receded, businesses are still feeling the effects.

But most companies with an emergency plan managed to keep afloat. For example, a regional sales office for Prudential in Bloomfield was hit hard by Hurricane Floyd last year, and its offices were submerged by flood waters. But they immediately called in a restoration specialist, my firm, which dispatched emergency crews the same day. Water and debris were removed, and the entire facility was cleaned, treated for mildew and deodorized throughout. In a short while, the business resumed normal operations.

If a similar disaster strikes in an office building, tenants will naturally turn to the building owner or property manager for answers.

Time is money, and the longer the building is closed, the greater the risk of lingering air quality problems, lawsuits, rent abatements and loss of use claims filed by unhappy tenants.

What can building owners and managers do to protect themselves and their tenants, while putting in place a system to re-open their doors as quickly as possible? First, develop a contingency plan. Know whom you're going to call to help you deal with the damage, and stand ready to enact your plan immediately. When disaster strikes, many building owners and managers turn to a restoration specialist, such as ourselves. If your building may be out of commission for some time, make alternative space and services available to tenants.

And, above all, make sure the cleanup is done right, because damage could worsen over time. For example, smoke damage requires a thorough cleaning of the HVAC system. Otherwise, the odor will continue to linger long after the building has been re-opened. Similarly, if floors and furniture damaged by water are not properly dried, permanent warping could result.

All in all, when it comes to fires, floods, smoke and soot, or dirt and dust left behind from construction and renovation projects, it's best to call in a restoration specialist as soon as possible. Many have emergency response crews ready to spring into action 24 hours a day. For example, my company, after the initial clean-up and evaluation, will assemble a team of experts to carry out the restoration work. Furniture, electronic equipment, books and paper products, art work, carpets and window coverings all require specialized treatment.

No one thinks a disaster will happen until it does.

It pays to be prepared.
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Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U2NJ
Date:Aug 16, 2000
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