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The Top 10 Items to Include in Your Community's Disaster Preparedness Plan

family meeting to review their HOA disaster preparedness plan

Disaster preparedness is key for a successful response and recovery process for any community association dealing with an unexpected emergency.  Having a plan helps to reduce anxiety and fear among unit owners and board members because it helps you know what to expect and provides a structure to follow. 

Below are ten items that every community should include in a disaster preparedness plan

1. Chain of command for communications. 

An example of a chain of command for communications would be the HOA board president as the first point of contact, the property manager as the second point of contact, and the vice president as the third point of contact. Alternative methods of communicating should be listed in order of preference.

2. A site plan. 

Some of the items that should be highlighted on the plan would be lift stations, debris staging areas (one for construction debris and one for landscaping debris), shut-off valves, and generators.  Lift stations should be serviced in May and June and/or just prior to the projected storm; they can have sewage overflow if not serviced in a timely manner.  Knowing the location of shut off valves can expedite the response of stopping leaks and minimizing further damage.

3. Copies of insurance policies as well as information on filing claims. 

These should be included, as you may not have timely access to them in a disaster situation. Having them included helps you initiate the claims process and provides you with coverage information on hand.

Read More: HOA 101: Understanding HOA Insurance

4. Debris management instructions.

Include a list of three vendors, in order of preference, to be contacted along with alternatives. Should the local dumps be closed to all vendors except for FEMA, a staging area for debris should be selected. 

5. Evacuation plans, shelters, pet-friendly shelters, generator-powered gas stations, and grocery stores.

All of these should be listed in the plan.  Having this information included provides for a structured evacuation if needed and helps expedite processes.

6. All contact information for board members, property manager, insurance agent, debris removal vendor, and your law firm. 

Contact information should list alternative means of communication in case cell phone towers are not available. For example, this information could list landline phone numbers first, cell phone numbers second, and hand-held radios. 

Read More: Community Association Emergency Preparedness 

7. An owner list.

It is beneficial to sort alphabetically and by address to facilitate determining owners’ contact information.

8. Designated area for residents to meet for more information after the disaster.

For example, residents could be notified to meet at the community pool or clubhouse daily at noon for community updates. Response to the property should commence after the “all clear” has been issued by the county’s emergency management agency and/or the state’s department of emergency management. Response efforts should be listed in order of priority with people assigned to monitor each stage.   

9. Photos of the community.

This includes common elements, common areas, and key components, preferably with a date-stamped camera.

10. Processes to follow if utilities are down or buildings are condemned for occupancy.

Be sure to also include contact information for professional engineers or contractors who can inspect the structures and assess the severity of damage.

Should you desire assistance with developing a disaster plan for your community, consult an emergency management professional through the county or state agency for emergency management. After obtaining information from emergency management professionals, this plan is best developed in conjunction with your property manager and preferred vendors. It's good to have a hard copy of the plan and its contents as well as an electronic copy. 

About the Author

Wendy Murray is an experienced community association industry professional, having served on the executive team for three Associa branches as well as community association councils. She has also served on an HOA Board of Directors for more than 12 years as well as other industry related boards. Wendy is an experienced mediator, holds a Florida CAM license as well as the CMCA and AMS accreditations. She is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) graduate via FEMA in 2004 and has completed the Professional Development Series under FEMA in 2006.

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