What are your association's responsibilities when preparing for hurricane season?
A condo association, while similar to a business, is also responsible for running the operations of its community. That includes ensuring regulations are followed, residents are informed, the grounds are secure, and the condo owners are safe. In Florida, it also means being prepared for hurricanes — a huge consideration for condo associations and homeowner's associations (HOAs) in the state.
Here's what you need to know to prepare your condo association for a hurricane.
Your hurricane preparation plan
First and foremost, the association board needs to come up with a plan for the three stages of a hurricane: before, during, and after the storm. This includes creating a list of necessary actions for each stage that details the duties to be performed by the association and by individual condo owners. Make a separate list for each stage.
It's important to do this right away if such a policy isn't place — this plan will be the foundation of your severe weather response if and when a hurricane happens.
One important item to address is your notification system for residents. How will the association alert condo owners of an oncoming hurricane? How will they know what the association's policy is? How will they be made aware of evacuation procedures?
All of this information should be available to residents at any time, whether or not a hurricane is approaching. They should be made aware of the notification system, and the association should test the notification methods regularly to ensure they're working and that resident contact information is up to date.
Finally, make sure the duties for each aspect of your hurricane plan are assigned so your condo owners know when they have to step up. This could mean putting a volunteer system in place for people to sign up for what they need to do when severe weather is ahead. Or, some volunteers may be needed for cleanup after the storm. Whatever your association decides the necessary roles and responsibilities are, make sure it's clear who will handle them.
What to do when the storm is coming
It's one thing to prepare for a theoretical storm in the unforeseen future; it's another to prepare for a storm that's actually on the radar and hitting soon. So, what should your association do when a hurricane is in the forecast?
First, send out the hurricane plan you've prepared — even if it's been available to residents to view at their leisure. They may not know where to find the plan in a crisis, so make it easy. This notification should include who's responsible for what duties during each stage of the hurricane plan. It should also include evacuation routes and other safety procedures.
It's a good idea to document and take photos of community assets, such as interiors and exteriors of buildings. This is important for insurance purposes so you can provide proof of any damage the hurricane does.
On the topic of insurance, make sure the association board has insurance coverage, and those condo owners have all of the necessary information they need to make their own decisions about insurance coverage for hurricanes.
If there's any outdoor furniture on the premises (such as in gathering spaces or around a pool) make sure it's secured inside a building or attached to a permanent structure. Reinforce windows with plywood so they don't shatter during the hurricane. (These are also good examples of procedures that should be written out in detail in your hurricane plan documents.)
Get in touch with vendors and service providers — such as tree removal, pool maintenance, and roofing companies — to see what their procedures are following a hurricane. You might need help with a flooded pool or downed trees, and preparing to handle those before the storm will save time and headaches.
Water and electricity can also cause issues during a hurricane. Post the local emergency contact information for residents in case they lose these services during the storm.
Finally, before a hurricane hits, make sure to communicate any evacuation procedures or orders to residents via the notification system in the hurricane plan. Use the same system to inform residents when it's safe to return.
Hurricanes can be stressful at best and devastating at worst. Your hurricane plan should ensure that condo owners feel secure, safe, and prepared for a severe storm. It's important to think about the property and your association's specific needs, including vendor communication and insurance considerations.
At PeytonBolin, we handle hurricane insurance claims in addition to our condo association and HOA law services. Get in touch with us today to learn more about how to prepare your association for potential hurricane damage.