As a board member of a condo or homeowners association near the coast, hurricanes are of special concern. Along with preparing your own residence for a possible disaster, you have to take steps to get your community in order. The task may seem daunting, but with the help of your property manager, you don’t have to do it alone. A valued property management partner can help you, your board, and your community prepare to ride out the storm.
The full range of hurricane preparedness goes beyond all the things you’d do to your physical structures prior to the landfall of a major storm. A truly thorough approach will take into account much more than that, and your property management company can help you accomplish this major task in a way that doesn’t feel like so much heavy lifting.
- review all contracts in advance
- create a communication plan of action
- train the staff
- shore up your finances
- get the “before” shot
- forget about digital backups
- delay on facilities preparations
- wait to mitigate damage
- jump at the first insurance settlement
- rely just rely on assessments
Before the first storm hits, meet with your property manager to take a good look at all of your contracts and policies. That way you’ll know what level of commitment to expect from your landscaping, security, and construction vendors should your community sustain any damage. Do the same with the community’s insurance policies to make sure they’re up-to-date and with sufficient coverage. Your property manager can help you read through the fine print to get a firm grasp on things like limits, exclusions, and deductibles.
Work closely with the property manager to prepare a communication plan to share critical information with your community. This includes pre-storm plans, storm procedures, disaster relief information, shelter locations and hours, evacuation routes, emergency response numbers and, for those owners with special needs, the Municipal Vulnerable Persons registry. This information should also include tips on how to storm-ready their units, as well as information that will help them navigate the insurance process afterwards, such as saving all receipts for expenses paid in the aftermath of the storm.
For condo dwellers, you’ll also want to let residents know that management will be entering their premises if units need to be drained or dried. Finally, make sure to designate a board member and the means to disseminate information to residents post-storm, as well as a liaison who will coordinate with emergency services providers on-site.
Your community manager should make sure everyone on staff knows what to do and what their responsibilities are before, during and after a storm. It is incumbent on the property manager to train staff on every aspect of your board’s hurricane preparedness plan. A crisis is no time to learn.
You’ll want to have a list of all bank accounts and association signatories on hand, as well as a list of all branch locations. Your property manager can help you make a back-up plan to have additional signatories should your primary ones become unavailable. And one board member should be designated to hold two signed checks in case contractors require payment immediately after a storm. Doing this will help make sure you have the resources you need immediately following the storm for emergency repairs as you work through the insurance claims process.
Coordinate with your property manager to videotape your community and its common areas while everything is in working order. Make sure the footage is time- and date-stamped and then stored in a safe place to ride out the storm. You can also hire a professional engineer to conduct a formal analysis and supply you with a report. This information will be invaluable during the insurance claims process.
Most of us tend to focus on physical structures as part of hurricane preparation. But don’t forget your digital files – all of your association’s records and files should be backed up on a remote server or on a hard drive that’s kept in another location or a fireproof, waterproof safe. That’s also a good way to store hard copies of your documents, too. Be sure to include building and facilities plans in case first responders, utilities, or insurance representatives need to reference them.
As soon as forecasts indicate a storm is heading in your direction, coordinate with your property manager to make sure landscaping is trimmed, all building materials are removed or secured, dumpsters are emptied, and that all elevators and generators are in working order. Store or secure outdoor furniture and prepare your pool and spa.
You don’t have to take on full-fledged repairs, but as soon as is it is safe to re-enter your community, mitigate damages by placing tarps over open roofs, broken windows and open doors. Remove debris as soon as possible. And take steps to secure the community from vandals and looters.
Determine your construction needs and the associated costs. Do not accept any insurance company’s offer for money in exchange for releases or settlements. Suspend those services you won’t need for awhile, like lawn or pool maintenance (if your contract allows). Take a look at your governing documents’ “repair after casualty” section for guidance, then complete your proof of loss forms with your insurance company and meet with licensed professionals for rebuilding.
While it’s pretty standard to use special assessments as a means to pay for extra costs incurred due to storm damages, you may want to consider securing an additional line of credit to use in these instances. A special earmark works, too. Securing alternative funding sources beforehand to supplement or supplant assessments is smart thinking on the board’s part. Moreover, it will help alleviate some of the extra financial burden from community residents who will also be dealing with their own post-storm anxieties.
When it comes to hurricane preparedness, your property manager should be anything but a fair weather friend. Look to your property management company as a partner to help your association think ahead and act quickly to control the impact a hurricane may have on you, your association, and your community.