Fire, crime, natural catastrophes?they aren't the most positive aspects of business to focus on, but they are part of the human condition. Unforeseen events such as these can, and will, impact operations at multifamily properties, but with a little advance preparation, property managers and company executives can come out on top in the face of even the most devastating adversities.

That was the consensus among multifamily executives Christina Steeg, senior vice president of marketing and training for Denver-based Simpson Property Group; Heidi Much, assistant vice president of risk management for Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Village Green Cos.; and Paolo Pedrazolli, vice president of Woodland Hills, Calif.-based Riverstone Residential, who spoke on a panel about crisis management.

Focusing on how to prepare residents and employees for critical moments during and immediately following a disaster or other calamity, the panelists emphasized codifying emergency response plans and making them an integral part of new employee orientation and ongoing staff training.

Panelists also stressed working proactively with the media to maintain a clear and positive brand message during crises. "Never say, 'No comment,'" advised Steeg. "To the press, 'no comment' implies guilt. Instead, have a single spokesperson who can maintain a clear and consistent message that accurately reflects events and how your company is responding to them."

Panelists also directed attendees to the Department of Homeland Security and the Humane Society for easy downloads on preparing emergency response plans for residents and their pets, respectively.