This is going to happen all over the country now as the Councils start to inspect buildings. They are in panic mode after years of neglect, poor building standards and land lord inaction. So all you building and Business owners in old (and new buildings) give this some thought, because it might just make the difference.
What is going to happen is that every land lord that owns a Brick building is going to be inspected, what the land owners have not realised yet is that unless their buildings are earthquake strengthened these buildings will soon be unable to be rented out as tenants vote with their feet. Also insurance of these buildings is going to become impossible. As will insurance for the occupiers of these buildings.
So here is the basic things to look out for.
1. If your building is brick, commonly referred to as a URM ( Unreinforced masonry)- look at the parapets, ( the frilly bits at the top of the building) do they show any cracks? Or is it leaning in any way? Sorry I don’t know anything about concrete structures, expect to say get them checked for the ties between the floors, ceilings and walls!
2. On a URM, Can you scrape out the mortar from between the bricks, use a screw driver? If yes get it inspected. ( Rip of the gib lining if you have too, get digging!)
3. Does your building have any horizontal/vertical cracking showing in the brick work, or are there orange looking bricks in the walls that look odd and out of place or badly cracked bricks?
4. Is there a large URM next door to you that has dangerous parapets? If yes, ring the council and ask for an inspection. (It might just fall on you and your staff or customers)
If you answer yes to any of these demand a Level 2 Assessment (a basic inspection) from a Structural Engineer (CpENG) or better still a more detailed DEE (Detailed Engineering Evaluation) or demand that your landlord provide proof that the building is safe, ask to see a COPY of the Assessments. If they refuse to provide one move out!
If the powers that be come and close your building down, you rarely get much warning, so you need a PLAN! Unfortunately we did not have one, although we did get our computers out which was a life saver, and we did a few raids and got 2 ute loads of stock, while the city was in chaos, you might not get the same opportunities that we did. ( Might I point out that we were not foolhardy, we knew that the section of the building we were entering was earthquake strengthened, DO NOT ENTER if it is dangerous, you must make that call based on sound knowledge.)
1. Work out what you must have to keep your business going! (Stock, computers, files, tools ??? etc)
2. Allocate each of your staff members a task as they leave the building. ie Joe takes the accounting computer, Lisa the wage book and disks and Michael all the tools of trade that he can carry. etc
3. Allocate one staff member to the Fill the wheelie bins, tip out the rubbish, who cares, you are going to need those files, stock or tools, whatever is the most important for you…
Take: All the accounts payable/receivable, wage books, work in progress, Invoices to be charged out, Insurance files, back up disks, master software. Hard drives, (don’t worry about the screens or keyboards) just grab the drives and as much of your stock as you can get your staff to carry out of the building. Take as much of your personal stuff as you can find, ie passports, keys, safe. etc Any antiques that may be in the building. Anything valuable, because when you come back it will have been looted. Make sure the staff take their bags!
Make 15 trips if you have too and dump the stuff in the street if you have too, there is a strong possibility that you will not be allowed back into the building legally. Throw it over the fence, out the window, do whatever you have to do to give yourself a chance of surviving.
What is now happening in CHCH is that they are alarming the vacant buildings so that if you re-enter a silent alarm goes off and you will be escorted out by the Nanny Police.
4. Leave a door/window unlocked or leave your self a way back in (not too obvious) because there is nothing surer than you will have forgotten something and if you can you may have to make a raid. If you have to raid your building put on a hard hat, boots and a fluro vest, do it in daylight! Mid day is good! The more people around the merrier. Take someone who looks official, ie a grey haired Official type looking person! Get them to stare knowledgeably at the building, preferably with a clip board in hand. Have one person standing watch in a vehicle with a mobile phone, so you get a few seconds warning, if you have to duck to the floor! And look at it this way, what is the Judge going to say when you stand in front of him and say ” but I was taking my own stock your honour, I was robbing my own building!”
When we raided ours, we were crawling along the floor, laughing so much we were crying, throwing files into boxes and passing them over the back fence! This should not have been necessary.
I look forward to the day that they arrest me! In fact I wish they had. Who is going to lock up a “grey haired little old lady” lol! Very bad Press!
One other thing, think very seriously about whether you really need to be in the CBD, as that is the area that will be locked down, be it Auckland, Wellington or Dunedin! the powers that are in charge are totally inflexible and risk adverse, so think about your location.
If I have any other thoughts I will add them!
I hope you never have to do this! But be warned, if you are in a URM it just might happen!