Florida hurricane season is underway and residents of the Sunshine State may be in for more storms than usual. State officials are warning Floridians to be prepared, noting that Tropical Storm Arlene’s April appearance may be a harbinger.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”), the Atlantic hurricane season could produce up to 17 major storms before ending November 30th. Those powerful enough to be classified as hurricanes may run as high as nine. Contributing to higher than usual hurricane data are above average surface temperatures, coupled with modest El Nino indicators. This information points to a potentially active storm season.

As Floridians are well aware, the peninsula comprises a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. That puts communities in a precarious situation each year. In 2016, 15 storms were named. That included seven tropical storms, four hurricanes and this year could be see a greater number.

The good news is that the NOAA analysis cannot predict how many storms will make actual landfall. In fact, Hurricane Hermine was the first major storm to make landfall in more than 10 years. But, its Category 1 force left thousands of people in the greater Tallahassee area without power last September. Given the potential for property damage and human suffering, lawmakers and other officials are urging hurricane preparedness.

Florida lawmakers created a 3-day tax holiday to help people save money on storm preparation purchases. Gov. Rick Scott stopped at the Miami’s National Hurricane Center to promote storm awareness on June 1. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly also urged vigilance.

“It only takes one hurricane to change your life,” he reportedly said. “If you, or a close family member, live in an area prone to hurricanes or inland flooding, now is the time to prepare.”

The Florida Division of Emergency Management has also stressed the importance of advanced hurricane and tropical storm preparation. Here are several safety precautions to help your community association weather the storms.

Early Storm Preparedness

  • Post and distribute materials in hallways, elevators and other common others that details where to go in the event of an emergency.
  • Distribute information to association members about evacuation routes, local police, fire and emergency services contact information. Include information about shelters, as well as food and medical resources.
  • Check emergency kits and replenish them with new batteries, working flashlights, battery-operated radios, money and first aid items.
  • Stock up on plenty of clean drinking water.
  • Check generators and properly store fresh fuel. Gasoline and diesel have a limited shelf-life.
  • Secure loose items such as pool chairs, umbrellas, coolers and trash bins that could be thrown around by strong winds.
  • Draw shutters and cover windows when possible.
  • Power down pumps and motors that could be impacted by power surges.
  • Purchase a cell phone backup battery.
  • Make a backup copy of important computer files and print out pertinent documents.
  • Check that your insurance policies are all up to date.
  • Printout a list of association property owners and vendors with emergency contact information.
  • Maintain hard-copy records of bank accounts with current balances and keep sufficient petty cash and checks on hand.
  • Take photographs and/or videos of structures and the grounds for insurance purposes.

As Severe Weather Approaches

There will likely be a great deal of information disseminated as the storm is about to make landfall. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  • Listen to news radio broadcast and live broadcasts on for updates.
  • Check your local municipality’s website and emergency platforms.
  • Stay home or in a shelter unless ordered to evacuate.
  • Help seniors and disabled persons with unique needs.
  • Open gates and secure them so people can move about freely when necessary.
  • Unplug all electronic devices as the storm nears.

The Aftermath

Once the local authorities announce the storm has passed, it’s time to take inventory and check on your residents.

  • Check for fallen power lines, debris and potential gas or fuel leaks.
  • Convey the state of the property and safety concerns to residents.
  • Start calling vendors and contractors to facilitate a cleanup.
  • Secure the property from potential intruders and looters.
  • Call your attorney to assist with the insurance claims process.

It’s important that every community association have a detailed emergency plan and policy in place. When people understand next steps, they can plan more effectively and benefit from improved safety.