Unfortunately, it’s surprising how many owner/operators—particularly when faced with tighter budgets, smaller staffs, and shrinking revenues—choose to ignore common sense when it comes to planning ahead. “Everyone needs a blueprint,” asserts Donald Delucca, a 27-year Miami Beach policeman and now senior vice president in the Miami office of Andrews International, a security and risk mitigation services provider based in Valencia, Calif. “But if you don’t train on it, it’s not worth it.” The actual cost of doing portfolio-wide risk assessment and creating a plan varies depending on the size of the buildings and the number of units. “A low-end plan may cost around $5,000,” Delucca notes. “But they can price as high as $20,000.”

In addition, it’s important to have a contingency budget. “I recommend setting aside enough funds to operate the building, at a skeleton crew level, and without electricity, for 10 to 14 days,” he adds. “In times of crisis, you must secure and protect your assets or fall victim to the unruly mobs that can pose threats during disasters, as we saw during Hurricane Katrina.”

The downside of not planning and training? “You can’t measure downside,” Delucca continues. “You’re managing chaos. There are not enough fingers to put in all the holes.”

He is right. A multifamily property owner’s universe is full of chaos. Unknowns—ranging from economic fluctuations to regulatory and legislative issues to Mother Nature—are a part of the real estate business that is often overlooked as more pressing day-to-day matters arise. “Like they say in the Army, it’s all about the seven Ps,” says attorney Seth Merewitz of the Best & Krieger law firm in Sacramento, Calif. “Prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance.”

Indeed, savvy owners and property managers can mitigate the impact of these unforeseen circumstances through thoughtful planning, rigorous training, and proper insurance coverage. Here’s a look at how to deal with the three most common types of unknowns.