Ways property management leadership can prepare for a storm
- Property managers can’t stop hurricanes but they can prepare for them.
- Successful preparations require proper planning.
- A good disaster preparedness plan should include the community’s residents and the HOA board.
Storms can strike at any time during hurricane season, so it’s always important to have a disaster preparedness plan ready to go. These natural disasters can have destructive consequences on human life and property. Thus, property managers should involve the residents in a community and the HOA board in all hurricane preparedness plans.
Hurricane season – which happens from June to November comprises half of the year. The National Apartment Association says that early preparation through education is essential. This preparation can:
- Prevent unnecessary chaos
- Eliminate confusion
- Reduce or avoid scrambling residents
- Salvage more properties
- Facilitate effective, safe, and timely evacuation
How can property managers prepare the members of a community for an intense weather event? We give 10 disaster preparedness tips to implement before a hurricane strikes your area.
1. Formulate an emergency plan
The old adage “you plan to fail when you fail to plan” definitely applies to disaster preparedness. Property managers and HOA leaders should make detailed plans to address their community’s needs. This way, it becomes easier for all parties, such as first responders, board members, and homeowners to collaborate efficiently during storms. Your emergency plan should include the following essential components:
- Emergency contact numbers
- Volunteers and staff duty list
- Comprehensive evacuation details, such as escape routes and maps
- Area maps with stairwell and elevator locations
- Water, gas, and electricity shut-off instructions
- Emergency supply locations
2. Communicate your emergency plan
Drafting a comprehensive plan alone isn’t enough. You also need to communicate it to the HOA’s board and local police. Afterward, your employees should implement the plan’s timelines and duty charts to enable timely response.
Keep your communication lines open with residents. Choose specific board members or homeowners to be on call during the hurricane. Lastly, identity radio operators in the neighborhood just in case the storm destroys cell phone towers.
3. Understand hurricane categories
Different categories of hurricanes have varying emergency levels. It’s critical to understand these categories as a part of your preparations because they require different attention magnitude. There are five categories of hurricanes with varying types of damage.
- Category 1
With sustained winds of 74-95 mph, these storms can cause damage to roofs, shingles, vinyl siding, and gutters.
- Category 2
At 96-110 mph, a category 2 storm can cause major roof and siding damage as well as near-total power loss.
- Category 3
Cat 3 storms, with winds from 119-129 mph, can cause major damage to decks and trees as well as electricity and water loss.
- Category 4
With winds from 130-156 mph, these storms can cause intense, severe damage to roofs, structures, and walls as well as trees. Power outages can last weeks to months.
- Category 5
Category 5 hurricanes, with winds over 157 mph, cause catastrophic damage by destroying homes, trees, and power poles. Power outages can last for weeks to months and the area will be uninhabitable for weeks to months.
4. Assign duties
It’s essential to assign duties for all parties involved in hurricane prep so they know their roles. A good example is when a storm necessitates reconstruction or landscaping. The HOA and property managers should outline what contractors should be called to restore property after the storm.
5. Form a disaster preparedness committee
Invite HOA members and homeowners to form a storm prep committee. The committee needs a sufficient budget to operate with. It should address issues regarding the following:
- Your community’s location.
- Your association type.
- The type of buildings, landscaping, services, and equipment your plan needs to consider.
- Your community’s demographics: ages, number of families, and social-economic status.
- How the board communicates the plan to members and other community relevant stakeholders.
6. Conduct yearly drills
Conduct annual storm drills. It’s essential to perform these simulations to educate your members about escape and evacuation routes. The drills can even include local firefighters or EMTs if they want to participate.
7. Familiarize yourself
Don’t forget to familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods of the properties you manage and their potential dangers. For instance, it’s important to know the property’s ground level and its vulnerability to flooding.
8. Maintain an essential resources/supplies list
Maintaining a list of essential resources and supplies residents should stock will help them prepare. Some of the things they should keep on hand include:
- Social Security card
- Insurance policies
- Proof of residence
- Credit cards
- Non-perishable food
- Clean drinking water to last at least a week
- Dry matches
- Prescription medications
- First-aid supplies
- A basic toolbox
9. Update your insurance policies
It’s essential to update the property’s insurance policy because the current cost of replacing or repairing it could have increased. Any increase in the above costs means a corresponding increment in the policy’s limits.
Updating your HOA insurance policy also ensures that you have the correct replacement coverage in place. This way, you get compensation for the property’s full cost and not its depreciated value. It’s also crucial to give all of your board members copies of the existing insurance policies.
It’s also worth noting that having homeowners’ insurance covers the cost of temporary repairs the hurricane caused. The policy covers reasonable additional living expenses above your regular living expenses if you shift to another temporary living location. However, this doesn’t cover flood damage if the hurricane causes destructive floods. All flood or wind-caused damages require separate insurance policies.
10. Realize not all community members have the same experiences with hurricanes
Some residents of the community may be from an out-of-town area that doesn’t experience hurricanes. Don’t assume that these residents are experts in hurricane safety and disaster preparedness matters. Therefore, expect different responses and reactions from them when the big wind strikes.
Final thoughts on disaster preparedness
Property managers know an emergency can happen at any time whether it’s a fire or weather-related disaster. Hurricane season means inclement weather could affect your building or HOA, so it’s important to be prepared. Follow the 10 tips outlined above to put your plan into place.
No matter how prepared you are, hurricanes can still cause damage, depending on their strength. If your community suffers damage, connect with VendorSmart, the online vendor platform that makes finding qualified vendors for a variety of services a breeze. We blend technology with a collective 70+ years of property management experience to bring you tailored solutions. Contact us today.