Hurricane preparedness checklist for homeowners associations

Ken Kmet
Ken Kmet | 6 min. read

Published on August 6, 2012

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. Is your association prepared? This checklist will help your condo or homeowners association to determine your level of hurricane season readiness.

The first thing an association has to do is adopt a policy on how the association will function during the three phases of a severe weather event: before, during, and after a severe weather event. You must also make a checklist of actions and duties assigned to the association and to each homeowner in all three phases of the severe weather event. If you have all this, examine it carefully, and update it regularly.

Of course, all of this should be done well before a hurricane is headed your way. The last thing you need in a crisis is confusion over who’s responsible for what. Make sure your preparedness policy alerts individuals of which common area services, equipment, and facilities will be available, or not available (such as the elevator). Community association management software can help you to organize this process, but every policy should contain the following details.

Determine Emergency Board Powers

Include details on the “special powers” conferred by the state legislature on condominium boards to enable them to maneuver their association through the difficult post-disaster period.

Create a Process for Notifying Residents

Ensure that a notice will be posted to your bulletin boards and website that severe weather is ahead, and that clearly states any hurricane-related policies that your association has. This should include assigning duties to the association and each homeowner before, during, and after the crisis, including evacuation procedures.

If you have a website for your community association, make sure that you post links to medical and emergency services, including evacuation routes and procedures, so that members can access this while there is still power. A community website can be a powerful asset during a time of crisis. It can be a place to turn, created and designed for just that moment, when all else fails. Make sure that your website is also mobile-friendly, so that if the power does go out, your members can still use their mobile phone to access the website. During every stage of the storm, you can leverage your website to post alerts, notices, and other information so that not only current residents, but out-of-town owners can access it for updates on the status of the property. A website can also serve as an off-site records storage resource for occasions like this.

Assign Responsibilities for Securing the Property

Make sure that everyone knows their role in ensuring that the association’s common areas and facilities will be prepped in advance of a storm. Determine who will stay on-site to serve as volunteers for the association during the crisis—for example, who will help fill sand bags, move furniture, etc.

If you employ a maintenance person or staff, determine if they are available, and if so, when and for how many hours before they have to head home and care for their own property and family. They may serve several properties and have to share their time with those as well. Contact each of your service providers and have a plan for what they will do for your property before, during, and after the storm. Discuss charges, rates, and the amount of time they can dedicate to your property so that expectations are clearly set. Some service contractors have hurricane retainer contracts, which can reserve a certain amount of man-hours for emergency service.

If you have hurricane shutters, decide whether the association has the ability and the responsibility to close them when needed. Homeowners should never assume that it is the association’s responsibility to close the shutters. During a crisis, there is never enough manpower available to handle everything the community needs, or for each homeowner that has not planned well. Impact-resistant glass windows and doors can help condominium units and HOA homes to be more hurricane-ready.

Most condominiums and HOAs have maintenance rooms, which are most often located on ground level. Tools, equipment, and supplies should be set up to be moved quickly in the event of rising water. This place should be higher and easy to access after the storm so these things can be used to clean up and do immediate repairs if necessary. Purchase any supplies that you might need for repairs and clean-up after the storm at your local hardware store, including water and batteries.

If the association owns a generator, someone will need to test it and make sure it is supplied with fuel. Remind residents that the generator’s power will be reserved for the most necessary equipment, so things like elevators will not work in the event of a power outage.

Portable equipment like pool pumps, air compressors, and small generators should be moved to a higher place. All furniture and items that can become projectiles in high winds should be removed from the exposed common areas.

If you have association records stored on-site, make arrangements for moving them to a pre-designated secure location, either higher up or off-site.

Reconstruction & Restoration

In the immediate aftermath of a storm, you’ll want to focus on locating residents and employees, securing the community, and documenting storm damage.

You may need to deal with association attorneys, insurance companies, and contractors in putting your community back together again. If you are a self-managed community, have the list of people handy who you will turn to for help. If you are professionally managed, go over your hurricane policy with your property manager, and how management will help you during the three phases. Don’t make any assumptions: Make sure you are clear exactly how management will help you before, during, and after a crisis. Determine and agree on the additional charges, if any, so that there will be no hesitation on either party’s behalf when you ask for help.

During a time of high anxiety, the last thing you need to do is to have your worries increased by the thought that you haven’t prepared well enough. Having a proper checklist, being fully stocked with hurricane supplies, and having a clearly-defined hurricane policy for your community can give you the peace of mind to know you have done all you can to prepare.

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Ken Kmet

Ken Kmet is the owner of Condo Voice in Clearwater, Florida, a web portal for the community association industry.

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