There are 3 Key Disaster Management Phases. These phases will help you Prepare your community with the knowledge and resources to protect your Association and to manage the Response and Recovery.
Prevention & Preparedness –As an Association you should identify potential risks and the actions that can be taken before a disaster occurs. While an Association cannot predict when a disaster will occur there are several steps that you can take to make sure that your building components are in good working condition and residents are aware of safety hazards. Below is a check list of items you should consider for your property. While this is not an all-inclusive list it does include common safety items for most associations.
Response – This is the process of combating a disaster and providing assistance to the residents who have been effected. Your objective is to save lives, protect property, make the affected area safe and to assist residents. Make sure that your local first responders are contacted if they are not already on-site. The number one priority should be the safety of your residents!
You may have numerous residents inquiring as to who is liable if it is not a natural disaster. As Board Members and or Managers please keep in mind that we are not investigators and we need to leave that to the professionals. My response is always “it is under investigation”. You do not want to be liable for providing inaccurate information.
Who You Need To Contact:
Residents – Make sure everyone is safe and they are aware of the situation. Ask your management company to start contacting residents who are not at home so they know what is going on. Advise residents that they should contact their home owners insurance as soon as possible to put them on notice.
Your Insurance Carrier– Call them immediately and make sure they give you a claim number. The insurance company will be assigning an adjuster to your claim. The adjuster will respond quickly and should come out to your property within the next few days to assess the damage.
Restoration Company – Depending on the disaster this is something that needs to be done ASAP. They will board up holes in roofs, change locks to secure the building and begin mitigation and cleanup. The restoration company will work directly with your insurance company on moving forward with your claim. Have a few restoration company phone numbers stored in your phone and/or make sure you are prepared if a disaster does occur. You do not need to wait for your insurance company to take care of issues that need to be immediately addressed such as securing the building, ensuring safety of residents etc.
Seek Assistance: There are many organizations that can help you when a disaster occurs. If there are first responders on site during the disaster ask them to contact the American Red Cross so they can assist residents with temporary shelter, clothing, food etc. Many County organizations also offer assistance. The individual homeowners insurance should cover the cost of housing and any incidentals residents may need if they are displaced.
Recovery – While the effects of a disaster can be sudden, the recovery period can place a significant long-term strain on an Association. It includes initial recovery, long term recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
During this time you will be working with various insurance adjusters, contractors, attorneys, the local code enforcement officers and homeowners. I find it very helpful to get everyone’s email address and to send out group emails when applicable.
Communication is Key:
Once the worst is over, let your residents know what’s happening. Residents need to know what is being done, the process and how it will affect them and their living arrangements. Be honest with what is happening and how long you expect restoration to take. Continue to update them through the entire process. Post updates on your website, email blasts, individual email and whatever forms of communication your association has to offer.
If it is a large disaster and residents are out of their homes for an extensive period of time have a special meeting for those that have been effected and invite your insurance adjuster and general contractor so that they can explain what steps will be taken to ensure that all of the homeowner’s questions are answered.
Throughout the process evaluate areas where improvements are needed and take the time to evaluate your policies and insurance coverages and make any changes you may need for the future.
Please keep in mind the emotional toll that a disaster brings can be even more devastating than the financial strains of damage or loss to individual homes and personal property. Everyone who sees or experiences a disaster is effected in some way. Residents may feel anxious, sadness, grief and anger. Often times those feelings and their responses will be directed toward Association Board Members, Managers etc. It is important to acknowledge their feelings and work with them even though it may be difficult. Keep in mind that they are upset with the situation not with you. These are normal reactions to an abnormal event. Stay calm and assist residents to the best of your ability. Often times when a disaster does occur you will find a strong sense of community and an outpouring of support and concern that brings residents together. Appreciate that and involve other residents when you can. Having a strong sense of community is a benefit for everyone within an Association.
Written and Presented by: Janice Subasic CMCA, AMS
Licensed Community Manager with ACM Community Management
Presented at ACTHA South Expo, Saturday, September 24th, 2016
CONDOMINIUM SAFETY INSPECTION CHECKLIST
- Make sure building numbers are clearly legible from the street
- Entrances to the complex allow for emergency vehicles to enter
- Fire lanes are properly marked and maintained
- Knox boxes are installed at buildings so the police and fire department can gain entry. Keys for boiler rooms, fire panels and the sprinkler system rooms should be kept in the box as well
- Trash dumpsters are placed at a safe distance from the buildings
- Smoke detectors are installed as required and are operational
- Sprinkler System (if required) is in proper working condition and tested annually or as required
- Fire Extinguishers are properly installed and maintained. They should be centrally located and tested annually
- Alarm System (if required) is in working condition and inspected by a licensed alarm inspector on an annual basis or as required
- Fire Hydrants are in good working condition and if they are private should be maintained annually. Also make sure there is a 3’ clearance around the hydrant, especially after snow falls.
- Storage Areas are safe. Do not allow for combustible materials to be stored under stairways. No motorcycles or other fueled equipment under stairs or inside units. Combustible materials are not to be stored in mechanical rooms or near gas water heaters. Storage may not block any emergency exits.
- BBQs (depending on your association) check to see if charcoal grills, fire pits or tiki torches are allowed to be used and/or stored on balcony or within a certain distance from the buildings. Some associations do not allow any type of grills. Please refer to your governing documents and/or your municipal code.
- Flammable liquids are being stored safely in approved containers
- Laundry Rooms are safe. Lint must be removed from dryers on a regular basis and dryer vent cleaning is also recommended at least twice a year depending on usage.
- Swimming Pools are properly protected with adequate fencing and signage. All State requirements are being followed for drainage grates, life preservers, depth markings, etc. Pool chemicals are clearly marked and kept in proper containers.