Property Manager Safety in Extreme Situations

Property Manager Safety in Extreme Situations

No doubt most people in the property management industry are aware of the awful shooting tragedy that occurred in Brisbane in January 2007 when a property manager was shot and killed by a tenant. This situation is nothing short of tragic for the deceased person, their family and all staff involved. The Brisbane incident could have happened anywhere - in any office to anyone.

Property management safety in extreme circumstances is something which is not often discussed in property management circles. I have interviewed three key people who have given some great insight on how to possibly avoid and escape dangerous situations and reduce our chances of harm. Safety is an issue that all property managers and real estate personnel must be aware of and must know how to possibly get out of extreme situations where their well-being might be threatened.

I am grateful to Malcom Riley, Derrick McManus and Len Pretti who have graciously contributed useful information, hints and tips in writing this article.

Malcom Riley - Principal of TNQ Rentals, Cairns, Queensland – ph (07) 4051-6069

Straight off the bat, Malcom is well known for his seminars on property manager safety and dealing with difficult people. Malcom has exceptional people skills and is a property management expert. He has also dealt with an armed hold-up in his office and has avoided a near tragic situation being confronted at a periodic inspection with a crazed knife wielding person on hard drugs. In addition, he has dealt with other amazing near misses that he discusses during his seminars.

Malcom was very forthright and passionate on this issue of property management safety. Here are some points that he shared for if you are caught in a confronting situation with a person who is threatening your well-being.

· Calm Voice - If a person is on drugs or influenced by alcohol, sharp spikes in your tone of voice or yelling could stress and alarm them, setting them off. Keep your voice in a calm tone and keep your emotions in check.

· Stay Calm - Stay calm and in control. This will allow you to think better and assist you to keep the confronting situation under control.

· Focus Only on the Outcome - Just have your mind set on what you need to do to get out of the situation safely. Don’t do anything that may jeopardise this.

Malcom also gave some great pro-active points of how to protect the safety of staff outside of the office.

· Mobiles - Ensure that all mobiles used by staff have office and police numbers programmed in under a speed dial function. Property managers must also phone into the office every hour to report in.

· Secret Code - Agree on a secret code that you can say to anyone at the office whilst on the phone if you are in trouble at the property. Sometimes we can make a call for whatever reason; however, we cannot say what the issue is for the possibility of alarming the person we are standing next to or nearby. We might use ‘Hi- Darren here, did Doris leave any messages for me?’ This tells everyone that you are in trouble and require urgent assistance.

· Office Diary Record - Ensure an office diary records the whereabouts of all staff when on the road at appointments and inspections. You need to know where anyone is at any given time.

· Inspections in Twos - no doubt in future it will become common practice that routine inspections will be conducted by two office staff members all of the time. However, you may choose to just go in pairs to properties that pose a risk or you are suspicious and have good reason for caution.

Derrick McManus- SA Police, Speaker

Derrick is a former member of the SA Police STAR Force. The brief of STAR Force was the resolution of high risk incidents – mainly involving offenders with firearms or other weapons. In 1994, Derrick's team was assigned the task of attending a property serve a warrant of arrest. The team was fired upon by a man inside the premises and Derrick was hit, sustaining 14 bullet wounds. He lay outside with massive injuries for three hours before his colleagues could safely get close enough to come to his aid, such was the danger and hostility of the situation. Derrick was told by medical staff that he was 30 seconds away from death when he was rescued, due to his severe blood loss.

Derrick is still a fully active Sergeant of Police and is also a conference speaker imparting the lessons he learned in STAR Force and from the shooting. The lessons that saved his life and could save yours too. I telephoned Derrick and he was more than happy to share some safety tips for property managers in difficult situations.

· Be Aware of the Signs - Be watchful for any early warning signs. Do you feel uncomfortable or threatened? Listen to your gut instinct. It is best to offend the person and leave the situation prematurely if you feel unsafe than to progress further into a situation that could result in your harm.

· Always Know Your Escape Route - when entering a property, always be aware of what route you can take to get out safely, quickly and easily. As soon as you see the signs, leave!

· Offenders Blocking Escape - never allow a person to get in between you and your escape route. Always be the person nearest to the escape route.

· When Threatened - Never humiliate or embarrass the offender and don’t get into arguments. Stay calm and leave as quickly as you safely can. If you must talk with them, reason with them to change their actions in such a way that they have a perceived win. Let them feel like they are in control. Let them feel like they have achieved their win. This gives you a greater chance to back away safely. Don’t let your own ego get in the way of your safety. Allow them to think that their pride and self-importance is still intact!

· In an Armed Hold-Up Situation - Give them whatever they want (usually cash). They generally just want to get out of the situation as soon as possible so ensure that you allow this. They are probably just as scared about the situation as you are, so do not challenge them.

Len Pretti- Pretti Real Estate, Sydney

Len runs Len Pretti Real Estate in Sydney with 1800 properties under management. Len is a man of little compromise who has been dubbed the ‘Agent From Hell’ by the media. Len has featured on 60 Minutes, Today Tonight and Andrew Denton’s ‘Enough Rope’. Len is a hugely successful property management department principal and expert.

Len also hit crisis point in 1997 when one of his property managers was stabbed and killed in his office by a crazed tenant. Since this time, Len has overhauled his office with safety measures. Some people say Len’s office now looks more like a bank than a real estate office. Such are his security measures to protect his staff!

Here are some points Len shared with me regarding property management safety:

· No Confrontation - Do not get yourself into confrontational situations. If the temperature of the situation seems to be increasing and not cooling down, just walk away! Avoid confrontation!

· Panic Button - Have a panic button installed on the front desk (and anywhere else required in the office) should police have to be notified quickly.

· Car Park Security - When leaving the office, if you fear confrontation with a tenant (or anyone else), ensure that someone else escorts you to your car.

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