6 Tips for Preparing Your HOA for Hurricanes and Other Disasters

Hurricane season began June 1. Have you done all you can to minimize the damage at your HOA from a natural disaster, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, earthquake, tornado, fire, or some other unexpected event? Here we provide six tips for minimizing the damage from a disaster and speeding up your community’s return to normalcy.

Don’t Get Complacent

Don’t get complacent about disaster planning simply because you’ve never faced a disaster, or maybe the last one you encountered was years ago, contends Alan Chesler, a partner at Alan James Insurance in Sunrise, Fla.

To be proactive, take the following steps:

1. Document the conditions at your HOA. 

Take date–stamped photos of everything in your lobbies, common areas, and so on, advises Chesler. Stand in the corner of each room and take pictures so that all perspectives of the room are visible. Store the photos on a memory device in a safe place.

2. Make sure your buildings’ roofs are in tip–top shape.

Schedule a roof inspection to ensure tiles are secure, caulking is updated, and other roof elements are maintained, adds Chesler. Make sure you take pictures so you can verify lost tiles, air–conditioning unit damage, and so on.

3. If you have warning of a potential disaster, create a to–do list.

Have a “close down” plan for the building, says Chesler, which might involve:

  • Turning off pool pumps
  • Moving elevators to a higher floor so they don’t get flooded
  • Planning to inform residents the building will “close” several days before the storm
  • Distributing an evacuation plan

4. Make sure your insurance policies and coverages are up to date.

“Maybe you haven’t looked at your policy in a while, and the cost to repair or replace your property has gone up,” explains Jeff Vinzani, an attorney in Charleston, S.C., who represents associations. “You’ll need to increase your policy limits. You also want to make sure you have the right type of coverage, like replacement coverage, so that you’ll be compensated for the full cost of replacing your HOA’s property, not the depreciated value. Also, you need to ensure a board member or your manager has copies of the policies for when the time comes for you to rely on them.”

5. Give residents a list of disaster–prep essentials.

Provide residents with a list of things they should have in their possession, including their Social Security card, passport, credit cards, proof of residency (electric bill or driver’s license), insurance policies, prescriptions, photos of their unit, water, food, gasoline, propane, candles, and an operational and well–maintained generator.

6. Discuss disaster planning with your residents.

“Have a documented disaster plan, and put it in your policy manual and distribute it to owners,” says Duane McPherson, Carrollton, Texas–based division president at RealManage, an association management firm that oversees properties in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas. “Typically, boards will cover the plan once a year in an annual meetingdepending on where the HOA is located.”

McPherson says the detail in your plan will probably depend on the size of your community. “Bigger communities are typically the ones that will do that planning,” he says. “For smaller ones, it’s a case–by–case thing. We have one building that has several high–rise towers, and it has a pretty sophisticated plan. If there’s an earthquake, residents know where they need to go and what the exit pathways are. On the other hand, we have a larger, single–family development that’s down on the Pacific Ocean, and its plan addresses mainly how residents are going to exit the community in an orderly way and where emergency exits are.”

There’s really no excuse not to have a plan because it shouldn’t cost much to craft. “There’s so much out there from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other governmental agencies’ websites,” says McPherson. “They essentially give you the template of a plan. You’ll also probably want to get your local disaster agency like your local police or fire department involved in it; they’ll probably also have information to give you. There may also be things you need an engineer to look at, but the plan should be mostly things you can do yourself while using consultants as necessary. There’s so much information out there compared to 15 years ago, it’s incredible.”

Disclaimer: This article is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts or circumstances nor a solicitation of legal business. You are urged to consult an experienced lawyer concerning your particular actual situation and any specific legal questions you may have. No attorney-client relationship attaches as a result of any exchange of information.

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