Disaster Preparedness—How prepared is your Condominium or HOA for a hurricane?
Now that hurricane season is officially underway, it is essential to make sure that your condominium or HOA is prepared. The Florida “Panhandle” has remained largely untargeted by the most powerful of hurricanes over the past decade. Given this period of hurricane inactivity in the area, there is an inherent tendency to relax efforts surrounding how to prepare for hurricanes and how to deal with the immediate and long-term impacts of a direct landfall. In this three-part blog series, we will discuss best practices that owners, directors, and property managers should consider in ensuring that your development is ready in the event that hurricane makes landfall in your area.
The damage of a hurricane can level from minor wind damage to complete destruction. The first step in surviving and recovering from the effects of a hurricane is to create an action plan that can be implemented in the event of a hurricane. There are many considerations that must be reviewed in creating this action plan. These considerations or concerns can be grouped into three general groupings: (i) review of existing vendor contracts and insurance policies, (ii) resident accountability and safety, (iii) business and management of facilities and finances, and (iv) post-hurricane damage and repair.
Review of existing vendor contract and insurance policies
A periodic review of all vendor contracts is a recommended best practice. Directors should review the following contracts to ensure disaster preparedness and relief services are provided by each vendor:
- Fire/water cleanup and restoration contract—vendors often provide contractual relationships that ensure first responders’ status that your condominium or HOA is first in line for cleanup,
- Property management contracts—it is important to have a full understanding of what services the property will provide by contract and at what cost and services the directors should be ready to perform,
- Landscaping contracts—special considerations include what pre-storm preventative services will be performed and what is the guaranteed time frame for clean-up following the hurricane,
- Security contracts (if any)—this can become important in extended mandatory evacuation periods,
- Insurance policies—ensure that all premiums are current and review casualty policy limits, deductibles and exclusions in detail. The Association’s attorney should be consulted if there are any questions regarding coverage details.
Resident accountability and safety
Resident safety is an ultimate concern when facing a potential hurricane landing. The best way to ensure the safety of the residents is to have a means of sharing the following information in the lead-up to a hurricane event: evacuation details, recommended procedures for securing private property including rules regarding hurricane shutters, emergency response information, hospital and emergency care contact information, contact information for the Municipal Vulnerable Persons Registry for those residents in need, and shelter location and hours. While it seems obvious, directors and property managers will need the email addresses and cell phone numbers (and emergency contact numbers if available) for each resident. This contact information should be used to communicate with residents to ensure safety initially and then to communicate the next actions following the hurricane event. Maintaining the resident contact list is a critical task and should not be taken lightly.
Business and management of facilities and finances
Associations, like every corporation, depend on physical and electronic documents in order to operate. Protecting and securing those documents is a critical consideration. The following documents should be stored in a water-tight and fire secure location (i.e. “zip-lock” bags and a fireproof safe):
- Insurance policies
- Financial records
- Resident contact lists
- Employee records
- Contract originals
- Association governing documents.
It is a recommended best practice that all of the documents referenced above be scanned and electronically backed-up to ensure continuity of business operations following the hurricane event.
Post hurricane damage and repair
After the hurricane makes landfall and the post-disaster period begins, it is critical that a plan be in place so that your Association stands ready to respond efficiently and immediately. Primary considerations in developing your Association’s post-disaster are:
- Confirming the safety of each resident,
- Securing the property to prevent unwanted intrusion from outsiders,
- Contacting restoration vendors in order to begin the clean-up process,
- Documenting all visible damage by photographic and video recordings,
- Contact insurance agent to begin claims process,
- Develop standards and practices in preparation for the repair and reconstruction period.
Being prepared for the eventuality of a hurricane will ensure that your Association is ready to withstand many of the harmful impacts of a hurricane and repair and rebuild in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Stay tuned for a more in-depth conversation regarding the concerns related to the immediate impact of a hurricane landfall.
This is not intended to be legal advice for any specific situation and the reader should consult their attorney regarding their situation.