A thorough Property Manual can keep your home running smoothly in your absence, particularly if there is an emergency.
Have you ever received a distress call during an overdue vacation? The hot water heater has exploded, the power is out and the generator hasn't come on, an alarm has gone off, someone didn’t show up for work...the list goes on.
These headaches and more can be more readily handled without interrupting your much needed time away if a thorough Property Manual has been created to guide your staff through unexpected emergencies.
No two manuals will be quite the same, based on the needs of the family and scale and complexity of the household operation, but at a minimum, they should include the essential information you would want your staff to know about routine and emergency situations.
Emergency Procedures. First and foremost, you should have a section detailing how to handle common emergency situations, including medical emergencies, fires, electrical outages, gas leaks, severe weather, and security concerns.
Vendor Management. Second, staff should know who to call when an expert is needed in the home, be it a plumber, electrician, or HVAC tech, as well as who to call as a backup if the primary person can’t be reached. It is also a good idea to explain how you select vendors and guidelines for when multiple quotes are required (you may appreciate that your staff member doesn’t want to bother you, but you also don’t want to find that she took the first bid on project costing thousands of dollars without checking credentials such as licensure, insurance, and references).
Guest Service. Guests may drop in unexpectedly or your return from vacation may be delayed a day or two leaving a planned guest without a host. Does your staff know how you would like guests treated and what access to the home and property are acceptable? A guide to guest service that expresses your wishes can ensure your guests experience your brand of hospitality whether or not you happen to be there.
Building and Grounds. Both as a reference and a guide, a thorough building and grounds section ensures that you and your staff communicate clearly, know what is where, and keep up with vital preventative maintenance. Blue prints with a clear labeling system for every room in the house, property layouts with call-outs regarding utility lines, mechanical inventories with make, model, and serial numbers, and maintenance procedures of what needs attention by whom when all come in handy when something goes wrong.
Cleaning and Laundry. Clear task lists and instructions ensure that your home stays clean and linens are fresh, but perhaps more importantly, they make sure that your valuable finishes do not get inadvertently waxed, washed, or scratched and your laundry isn’t dyed, shrunk, or tattered. Even if your housekeeping and laundry staff know exactly what they are doing, have it documented so others can pitch in when there is an unexpected absence or emergency.
Kitchen Operations. The kitchen can be a source of nourishment and entertainment, but it can equally produce trips to the emergency room if it isn’t clear who foods or ingredients could produce an allergic reaction, what equipment could produce a fire, explosion, or flood, and what basic precautions are necessary to keep harmful bacteria under control. If the chef is out or a group of unexpected guests arrive for an overlooked event, can your staff keep everyone fed without your involvement?
Technology. Whether it be home automation systems, security equipment, or computer and telephony hardware and software, your home technology in many cases tries to warn you of impending failures. Be sure your Property Manual provides some basic insight to help a lay person diagnose common problems and seek help.
Travel. The last place you want to be when you discover some aspect of your travel planning has been overlooked is when you are actually traveling. A Travel section can detail what should be done before, during, and after your trips away from home, as well as what to pack, how and when contact should be made, and what to expect if you are going to be gone for an extended period of time.
Depending on your home and lifestyle, additional sections detailing information or procedures surrounding your automobiles, recreation equipment, wine cellar, security protocol, garments, and pets, among others, may be helpful.
Other tips: As with most things, function is critical. Have the manual accessible and make sure your staff are familiar with it. Keep pages in page protectors so an errant spill won’t do damage. Keep a copy on your computer and another off-site.