In the States

How Local Jurisdictions Can Keep Building Occupants Safe


Keeping building occupants safe is arguably the most important part of a property manager’s job, especially in the event of a natural disaster. A host of resources provides building owners and managers with the necessary tools and information to prepare for such disasters, including BOMA International’s own Preparedness Committee. But, what about resources to help after a natural disaster has occurred?

With so many different procedures entirely dependent upon which local jurisdiction the disaster occurs in, an emergency can quickly become confusing. Property managers need to get back into their buildings to assess the situation and secure the property so that tenants can get back inside and get back to business quickly. Unfortunately, re-entry procedures often are overlooked and re-entry issues most frequently surface in the immediate aftermath of a disaster when it matters the most. Recent natural disasters across the United States have underscored the operational problems that stem from confusion and limited re-entry access. But, a new program has been created to help.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the Crisis Event Response and Recovery Access (CERRA) Framework. Following its launch, DHS asked BOMA International to become a part of the outreach process, since BOMA members have valuable perspectives on emergency preparedness as it relates to the commercial real estate industry.

The CERRA program provides local jurisdictions with a standard process for re-entry to create a uniform, nationwide approach to manage re-entry before, during and after emergencies. It is designed to help local law enforcement, emergency responders and businesses coordinate access to secure areas affected by disaster and start recovery efforts and jumpstart the local economy as quickly as possible. It provides local jurisdictions with a general framework to adopt their own program, and using shared processes nationwide facilitates work across jurisdictions. This is important when an emergency is so large that the local area needs assistance from neighboring cities—or even from cities that are states away. It ensures that re-entry procedures are seamless and standardized, so first responders and others have access anywhere and everywhere they will need it.

Currently, dozens of local jurisdictions and four states have CERRA programs, and many more are reviewing the CERRA Framework for adoption consideration. The tremendous growth of the program speaks to how timely and needed this and similar programs are.

BOMA International has partnered with DHS to encourage BOMA local associations and member buildings to work with DHS and the CERRA outreach team in advocating for the adoption of this program in their states and local jurisdictions. The more unified the re-entry process can be after a disaster, the easier it will be for building owners and managers to get their properties—and the businesses within them—up and running again, fast-tracking community recovery.

The Crisis Event Response and Recovery Access (CERRA) Framework provides local jurisdictions with a standard process to create a uniform, nationwide approach to manage re-entry before, during and after emergencies.


This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 issue of BOMA Magazine.