With hurricane season quickly approaching, homeowners’ associations (HOAs) across the country should understand the impact that these storms can bring. Of all recorded weather disasters in U.S. history, hurricanes have caused the most deaths and destruction. Committed to helping communities understand the risks of hurricanes, we’ve detailed the effects these natural disasters can have on your community and highlighted five steps to help prepare your association.
The Five Categories of a Hurricane
Hurricanes are rated based on their sustained wind speed defined by the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale estimates potential property damage. The higher the rating, with 5 being the highest, the higher the potential for significant loss of life and destruction. The scale of intensity includes:
- Category 1 hurricane: Very dangerous winds will produce some damage with wind speeds at 74-95 mph
- Category 2 hurricane: Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage with wind speeds at 96-110 mph
- Category 3 hurricane: Devastating damage will occur with wind speeds at 111-129 mph
- Category 4 hurricane: Catastrophic damage will occur with wind speeds at 130-156 mph
- Category 5 hurricane: Extensive catastrophic damage will occur with wind speeds at 157 mph or higher
Also known as tropical cyclones in scientific communities, hurricanes form near the equator over warm ocean waters and can impact inland areas over 100 miles away from the coast. They can also affect regions in Puerto Rico and Hawaii, including others.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Community for a Hurricane
1. FORM A COMMITTEE.
Establish a committee with its first order of business being putting together a Hurricane Preparedness Plan. Ensure the committee has a budget to work with and that everyone understands that budget. Review insurance coverage and ensure it reflects your preparedness plan. Consider answering these questions before you start:
- Where is your community located?
- What type of association is it?
- What kind of buildings, landscaping, amenities, and mechanical equipment does your plan need to take into consideration?
- What are the demographics of your community in terms of age, families, and economic status?
- How will the board communicate the plan to association members and other community partners?
2. BUILD A DETAILED HURRICANE PREPAREDNESS PLAN.
Be as detailed as possible and clearly outline community-specific information to help homeowners, board members, and first responders work quickly during a hurricane. When formulating a plan, remember to highlight these key factors:
- Emergency contact phone numbers
- List of responsibilities for staff and volunteers
- Specific evacuation information, such as evacuation route maps
- Area maps with the location of stairwells and elevators, if applicable
- Shut-off locations for water, gas, and electric
- Location of any emergency supplies
- Designated shelter locations in your facilities
3. ASSIGN DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES.
When a hurricane is looming–or hits—the first thought shouldn’t be, “What do I do?” It’s important to think of this ahead of time and assign roles. Review your action plan with the committee and assign specific responsibilities to the management team, board members, homeowners, and vendors. Make sure everyone clearly understands their role and can carry out their duties.
4. CONDUCT EVACUATION DRILLS.
Evacuation drills should get performed annually. Review your plan with residents and educate them on where escape and evacuation routes are located. Before the drill begins, make sure you have assigned floor wardens, block captains, and any other needed volunteers to help. If available, invite your emergency management service or fire department to participate. Finally, record the drill for evaluation and follow up on any items that may need improvement.
5. REVIEW & UPDATE THE PLAN.
Don’t set it and forget it. Your Hurricane Preparedness Plan should be a living document that you revisit every year before hurricane season begins. When a hurricane occurs, analyze your community’s response and look for ways to improve. Always ask for input from board members and homeowners. Don’t forget to review essential details, like response times, team effectiveness, and contractors’ performance.
What to Do Before, During, and After a Hurricane
When you make hurricane preparedness a priority, you’re communicating to your residents that their well-being is important to the community. And, you’re ensuring that, if disaster does strike, your community will know how to respond. Check out our ebook, “Associa Hurricane Guide,” for more information, like how to weather the storm and how to recover and rebuild.