Wintertime and the holiday season can be fun for everyone—gathering, traveling, and shopping are activities many look forward to this time of year. As a leader in your homeowners’ association (HOA), it’s crucial to spread good tidings and joy, but it’s equally important to ensure the events and actions that happen around the holidays don’t risk the safety and security of your board, community, or homeowners. Here are some tips to consider for a safe and secure holiday season in your community.
Minimize Identity Theft
Learning about data security and protecting your homeowners from a breach falls squarely within a board member’s fiduciary duty. And with the holiday season bringing more transactions and distractions, now is the time to be extra vigilant with homeowners’ accounts, payments, and assessment processing. Help minimize identity theft by:
- Processing paper checks immediately.
- Transitioning to a digital document storage platform.
- Using the latest encryption software for digital files.
- Securely storing your community's paper documents in a locked room and locked filing cabinets.
- Hiring a shredding company to provide locked shred boxes for files that have reached the end of their retention period.
Service Fire and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
With homeowners taking advantage of community spaces to host their holiday gatherings, it’s necessary to confirm your warning systems are in good working order. Remember to check and repair the following:
- Emergency lighting fixtures
- Fire alarm components
- Exit signs
- Fire extinguishers
- Fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
- Any other specialized warning devices in your community
Prepare for Weather Issues
During the winter months, ice and snow buildup can quickly create hazardous conditions. Get ahead on your to-do list and schedule a maintenance contractor to treat your roadways and sidewalks before winter weather approaches. Other tips include:
- Applying salt or other ice-melting compounds to roads and walkways.
- Repairing cracked sidewalks and other pavement damaged by ice and snow.
- Removing water that pools on sidewalks and roads within the community.
Preserve the community grounds and ensure that common areas don’t have overgrown grass and unkempt landscaping. When a property looks like it's not taken care of, it leaves the community open to trespassing and crime.
- Make certain shrubs are no higher than 3 feet, and tree branches are at least 6 feet and higher above the ground. Taller shrubs and lower branches can conceal intruders.
- Keep grass in common areas mowed.
- Keep walkways clear of ice, snow, sand, and dirt.
Implement a Neighborhood Watch Program
The holiday season is especially vulnerable to package theft and, at times, personal safety. A neighborhood watch program or committee helps combat that by staying in touch with local law enforcement, patrolling the neighborhood, and sharing safety tips with homeowners. If you don’t already have a neighborhood watch program or committee in place, consider starting one. Creating a committee or organizing a small group is easy with resources like:
Encourage Individual Security Actions
Creating a safe and secure community is a group effort. While board members play a role in keeping the association safe, homeowners must also do their part by preventing their homes or households from appearing vulnerable. Remind residents of ways to stay safe by communicating tips in your community’s app, website, or newsletter. Some examples include:
- Leaving the interior light on when departing for an overnight trip, so the home appears occupied. Or setting light timers to turn on and off in different rooms at different times.
- Picking up mail or package deliveries promptly.
- Regularly maintaining walkways, driveways, and landscaping.
- Quickly replacing non-functioning exterior lights and keeping outdoor spaces well-lit at night.
- Adding a video doorbell or home security camera.
- Getting to know your neighbors—it’s not only hospitable, but also a great way to look out for one another.
Spread Cheer During the Holidays
As a board member, you’re responsible for keeping the community secure during the busiest season for getting out and entertaining. However, you also have a unique opportunity to make spirits bright. Read our ebook, "Community Holiday Guide," for tips on decking the halls, spreading joy, and much more.