Hurricane season haunts our coasts between June 1st and November 30th each year, leaving devasted communities behind. What makes a bad situation worse is often lack of planning. With Storm Andrea already brewing in the Caribbean, homeowners associations will be wise to prepare for this hurricane season now if they haven’t already. In addition, associations can minimize loss and help themselves recover, rebuild, and reunite by following these six steps to HOA Hurricane Preparedness.
Working with the Association Board, HOA property managers can offer support and guidance in creating a plan in advance to address hurricane preparedness essentials. Take into account on-site resources, insurance coverage and safeguard of important documents, HOA vendors, and common area preparation. Other considerations like protecting active construction sites and advanced purchasing generators for elevators and plywood for windows in advance is also strongly recommended. Additional resources for making a plan, including a free downloadable Model Homeowner Association Disaster Plan, can be tailored to meet the needs of different HOAs.
You should communicate the HOA’s Board-approved hurricane preparedness plan to residents in the Spring, giving them a chance to clarify any questions or confusion well in advance of an approaching hurricane. Along with the Association’s plan for hurricane preparedness, a tip sheet or guide for individual homeowners can go a long way to preserving and reassuring the community as a whole. While lines differentiating responsibilities of the HOA and individual homeowners must be clear, HOA managers can encourage residents to use free downloadable plans for making their own hurricane preparedness plans, as well as provide local emergency contact information for parents, kids, and transit commuters. The HOA should also make sure they have the emergency contacts of all the residents. The board of directors and property managers should also keep in mind any residents with a disability or who may need extra assistance if the community is forced to evacuate.
Once an HOA has established a hurricane preparedness plan, the Association can work with vendors to align their emergency protocols with that of the HOA. These protocols could include procedures for securing items such as pool furniture, common area windows, and buildings. Consider purchasing ahead of time plywood in case high demand limits the supply as a hurricane approaches the community. It’s also a good idea to fix any problems before the hurricane hits. Make sure all the roofs are in good shape, and the windows and pipes are in the best state possible. If you wait until after the hurricane the problem may be 10 times worse, not to mention very difficult and expensive to fix.
Vendors or trained volunteers can provide the expertise that managers often cannot provide as a storm is bearing down on a community or more often in the post-hurricane stage. Problems like pool flooding, irrigation systems issues, removal of trees and other debris, and lake drainage and outfall systems will be addressed more efficiently and expeditiously with stand-by expertise no more than a call away. You should check with the vendors in advance that they do provide this service, as not all do.
Important documents related to all of the Association’s assets and insurance schedules for related assets should be updated and easily accessible for post-hurricane assessment. They should be placed in water-tight storage that is easily accessible in case of flooding, or a power outage. We also recommend keeping a copy in the Cloud. Neigbrs includes cloud storage for all community documents. This ensures that you know exactly where the community’s most important documents are.
To minimize site damage to common areas, in particular, Associations can remove large hanging light fixtures, tennis court windscreens, pool furniture, and anything else that isn’t necessary to have out and leave on electricity to self-priming pool pumps. Keeping trees and large shrubs well-groomed is another way to reduce the amount of debris a hurricane may produce. The association should have emergency lighting, ensure it’s working and install any new bulbs or batteries where needed. You should also check the fire safety equipment and replace as needed.
Editor: Shalon Clevenger, HOA Management Consultant
This article was originally posted on 06/20/2017, updated on 05/24/2019.