Despite 2016 not being projected as a big year for hurricanes in Florida, we all know that the season is not over yet. This leads to a very important question for community associations: if a hurricane or tropical storm were to occur in your area, would your association be prepared to handle it? If you are having a difficult time answering this question, you may want to consider establishing or revisiting your disaster plan.
Any homeowners, condominium or community association should have a written disaster management plan, especially if your association includes buildings or other privately-owned infrastructures.
Generally speaking, a disaster plan for a community association consists of six steps:
- Developing the emergency plan and management team.
- Identifying potential emergencies.
- Preparing for an emergency; rehearsing and testing the plan.
- Adopting preventative measures.
- Responding to the emergency.
- Debriefing the emergency management team and others involved, which could include the membership, service professionals, legal counsel, and insurance agent.
If you’re not sure where to start with the creation of a disaster plan, look to your local county websites and insurance companies for some assistance. For example, Brown and Brown Brevard Insurance not only offers Community Safety Events and CERT Courses, but also provides emergency response advice, a sample emergency procedures document and checklists for floods, windstorms, and a variety of crises for your benefit.
This plan should be set in place before a disaster occurs; waiting until the disaster strikes is not optimal. There are other elements to being the most prepared for an emergency situation, and those include:
You should always be prepared in case you have to file an insurance claim. It is important to know the location of the association’s insurance policy and agent information. Understanding the function of your insurance deductible, including how it is being funded, is just as important. Similarly, if you have a condominium or other community with a master insurance policy, you should be engaging a professional for an insurance replacement-cost proposal, which ensures that the property insurance values protect the association from any special assessments, in the event that there is inadequate insurance on your building and structures. Make sure that your property owners know what your master policy covers, in order to determine the insurance required for their individual properties. A prudent owner puts an endorsement in place to provide adequate funds to cover a special assessment.
Selecting the best general contractor in your area is one of the greatest ways to achieve a smooth and timely clean-up and repair experience. You should vet and select someone who is licensed, qualified, and financially sound before the disaster occurs. If you’re contemplating a contractor or restoration company that is out of state, be sure to complete adequate background checks, insurance certification, license verification, and reference checks.
As with any program that involves multiple parties, communication between all involved is key to success. When it comes to disaster-planning, you should keep all modes of communication open with an established emergency management team, members of the association, management, and all professional service providers. By establishing multiple methods of contact (email, text, cell phones, landlines, etc.) in conjunction with interactive websites, e-blasts, and auto phone-dialing programs, you will be optimizing your communication. All members should understand the association’s policies on boarding-up buildings, clearing unit decks pre- and post-event, handling interior unit damages, unit inspections, and the individual owners’ responsibilities.
Safeguarding Your Residents
This includes providing support for any disabled or special needs residents, ensuring insurance policies are up-to-date, and trimming landscapes to minimize hazards from any flying debris. Additionally, you should post evacuation routes for your residents in varied locations throughout the property, such as stairwells and hallways.
One of the best ways to keep these components of pre- and post-disaster under control is to employ a professional community association manager; they usually have the experience and professional guidance necessary to handle all stages of a disaster. A manager will help alleviate stress on the association’s board and membership.
Although it might not be easy to wrap your mind around a disaster that has not happened yet, and may never happen, if you are prepared, it will make the recovery process easier for all parties.