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Thousands Practice for Real-Life Power Blackouts in National Capital Region's Prepareathon

September 2015

Businesses and Tenants in the Nation’s Capital Prepare for Mass Power Outage During America’s PrepareAthon!

A large-scale blackout that leaves Washington, D.C. in the dark and shuts down public transportation at rush hour may seem like a scene from a movie. But, in reality, power outages can strike at any time. And the results can be disastrous, especially in heavily populated metropolitan areas. To help businesses in the Nation’s Capital get prepared, Brookfield Property Partners partnered with the Apartment and Office Building Association (AOBA) to stage an emergency drill to practice a response to a mass power outage.

Brookfield and AOBA worked with other commercial real estate companies and conducted a large-scale virtual tabletop exercise that simulated a widespread power outage affecting public transportation during the city’s evening rush hour. Nearly 15,500 property managers, tenants, and staff in the National Capital Region participated in the virtual exercise, which coincided with National PrepareAthon! Day on April 30, 2015. This event was one of the more than 23 million registered preparedness actions that took place this year.

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Brookfield’s Security & Life Safety Manager, LaNile Dalcour, led the planning for the event and engaged AOBA as a partner. More than 2,650 members of AOBA joined in and registered for the National Capital Region’s PrepareAthon!, including representatives of Admiral Security, the Institute of International Education, and IMN Solutions.

At the same time, Jackie Duke, a vice president of operations at Brookfield, reached out to partner with counterparts at other commercial property management companies, including DTZ, Vornado, and Boston Properties.

“We have really been trying to build the public-private partnership in this region. We thought America’s PrepareAthon! was the perfect vehicle for doing so,” said Duke. “We wanted to build on the exercise started in the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District and expand it in the region.”

Public-sector partners—The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA)—and Pepco, the local electric utility, teamed up to help Brookfield and AOBA develop the two-hour scenario for the drill. Participants logged into a webinar designed specifically to guide commercial property managers through the steps they should take and the decisions they would need to make during a mass power outage. FEMA National Exercise Division Director, Carla Boyce, facilitated the exercise.

“We were excited to partner with Brookfield and AOBA to ensure communities are better prepared and can take action when faced with a potential mass power outage and partial shutdown of public transportation during rush hour," said Boyce. "Our goal was to help all stakeholders potentially affected by such an incident know how to respond and work together to build community resilience and the resiliency of our Nation."

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LaNile Dalcour discusses the virtual exercise simulating a mass power outage with Brookfield Property Partners staff.LaNile Dalcour discusses the virtual exercise simulating a mass power outage with Brookfield Property Partners staff.

“This region has a lot of smaller companies that don’t have the resources that Brookfield has,” said Dalcour. “It was also good to give those smaller companies an opportunity to participate in something they normally wouldn’t have the resources to do.”

For example, Brookfield and AOBA customized a suite of America’s PrepareAthon! promotional materials and distributed them to area property managers, tenants, and member organizations. Brookfield promoted the exercise with advertisements in elevators and on lobby televisions throughout their properties.

Enthusiasm for preparedness is spreading throughout the Brookfield organization. On April 30, 2015, more than 14,000 people from Brookfield’s Houston, TX properties also participated in their own PrepareAthon! exercises, including fire and evacuation drills. “We are going to work with our Houston portfolio to take what we did here and determine how to implement it in that region in the near future,” said Dalcour. Brookfield is also looking to expand America’s PrepareAthon! to their other properties throughout the country.

Practice Makes Perfect

Brookfield plans to build upon what it learned from this exercise in other upcoming events. “You don’t learn to fully prepare for a major incident,” explained Duke, “but you gain a tool or practice through each lesson that will help you make progress toward full preparation.”

Brookfield is currently planning another exercise, which will expand the scale of the scenario to include all types of businesses and organizations. “It should be a community-wide effort to prepare,” said Dalcour. “The more prepared that we all are, the safer it is for each and every one of us.”

prepare,” said Dalcour. “The more prepared that we all are, the safer it is for each and every one of us.”