Earlier this summer in July, a substantial fire destroyed nearly 75% of a condo association in Prospect Heights, IL. Associations for townhomes, condominiums, and single family homes need not overlook community planning for disaster management. Whether it’s a tornado, flood, or fire, community preparedness is crucial, lest you find yourself scrambling in an emergency.

In the case of an emergency, do you know how to respond to homeowners in case they have a question? Do you understand your liability? Will the property manager be available during a disaster? What resources do you have available for homeowners? This article guides HOAs in community planning for disaster management.

Community Planning for Disaster Management

To avoid disasters in the first place, make sure you have all safety inspections that are preventative, not just those required. Then, do these nine things to line up community preparedness:

  1. A plan to contact residents – You want to keep your residents informed and safe. In the event of a disaster, you will need to have all homeowners’ contact information readily available for all board members and managers. You may need to act quickly to evacuate. Be sure to store this information in an easily-accessible place both online and offline. Having a software like Vantaca helps because you can use it to automatically send emergency notices to residents.
  2. Emergency contacts –  Every resident should submit, or enter into your property management software, their emergency contact.
  3. Contact information for local first responders – Collect every local emergency contact you may need. Disseminate this information to residents, and post it in common areas.
  4. Evacuation routes – Plan properly for evacuation routes, and be sure they are up to date and posted. Engage local first responders for assistance in this process. Educate residents with guidelines for how what to do in possible disaster scenarios.
  5. Insurance – Have handy the contact information for your property’s insurance company, and a copy of the policy. Query your provider to understand the insurance process in the event of disaster.
  6. Board Responsibilities – Plan for each task that will be necessary to handle an emergency situation. Work with your property management company to assign board member specific tasks, so when the time comes, everyone knows their role. This should include notifying residents, and preparing for the recovery process:
    • When can residents gather personal belongings?
    • When will inspections for damage be performed?
    • Understand liability issues around letting residents back into units.
  7. Budget for disasters – If your HOA is responsible for providing financial assistance to residents, this will need to be part of your budget. Your association budget needs to cover communal areas of your property, such as a pool, a game room, or a playground. If any of these areas are covered by dues that your residents pay and they are damaged, you will need to include that area in your recovery plan.
  8. Who in your community can provide assistance? – Utilizing help from residents in your community will assist in the recovery process. You may have residents who are doctors or emergency personnel who can be of great assistance post-disaster. Much like asking passengers in emergency rows on a plane if they can help during a disaster, ask your residents if they are willing and able to help in the same situation. Some may be able to provide assistance to the elderly or disabled, while others may be more helpful in administering first aid to injured residents. Any residents who have useful skills can be your best help throughout the recovery process.
  9. Find a restoration company you trust – You won’t have time to research a good restoration company when the need arises. Choose one ahead of time so you can call them right away to be onsite. Place the information with your contact information for local responders.

Need help thinking through the details of community planning for disaster management? ECHO provides a great article. Utilize your property management company to get it all in place; a full-service property management company is there to help with these things.