Is this considered an emergency?
Almost all apartment communities provide this service and in fact, consider it to be a part of their customer service/amenity package. We tour prospective residents and proudly boast this service. We are here for you 24/7. We compile a list of what is considered and emergency and then put in place our process to take these calls and manage them from start to finish. With my organization, we take it a step further and offer extra features to both resident and management office. Things like documenting the maintenance tech response time, sending a photograph of the responding technician to the resident via text message AND recording the call between the maintenance technician the resident. These tools are helping our clients provide an even higher level of service to their residents. One of the most useful features, in my opinion, is the call recording. As part of my preparation for sales presentations, I listen to these calls. I seek to find calls that will demonstrate the incredible value of being able to hear the conversations. Almost every time I listen to these calls, I hear resident requests for one thing in particular that is not typically considered an emergency. The common “non emergency” call I hear goes something like this.
Tech: Hello, this is Joe with after hours maintenance, how can I help you”
Resident: “Yes, I’m not sure this is considered an emergency, but my smoke detector is making a chirping sound and I don’t know how to get it to stop.”
Tech: “Yeah, it probably just needs a battery, we can come out and put a new battery in tomorrow morning.”
Resident: well, how am I going to be able to sleep with this chirping going on constantly, I have a big day at work tomorrow and I need my sleep.”
Tech: “you can just take it down and remove the battery, that will make it stop chirping for now and we’ll come out tomorrow and put in a new battery.”
Sound familiar? Just this past weekend, I heard a news story about two small children who perished in a house fire because there were no working smoked detectors in the house. When I heard the story, it really struck a chord. Having worked onsite for most of my career, I remember these calls, I remember going into apartments for inspections etc. and seeing smoke alarms taken down and just collecting dust on a counter or a table. I often wondered how long has it been like that. And now, still hearing the calls where the resident is instructed to take it down and wait for the repair during business hours. What if that is the night a fire starts?
It compelled me to write this brief blog to shed light on this since I hear so many tech’s tell residents that this is not considered an emergency. It also makes sense to add this (if it’s not already) to our semi annual unit inspection. Most communities enter the apartments twice a year to replace the furnace filters, are the smoke detector batteries also being replaced (not just checked) at the same time? It also offers us the opportunity to catch the ones where the resident took it upon themselves to take the detector down and neglected to call us for repair or new batteries.
We all know how devastating a fire is any where it happens and it’s the one thing we, as property managers, pray we’ll never have to experience. But if it happens at your property, this one thing could make the difference between a resident losing their belongings or losing their life.