Earthquakes can happen suddenly and unexpectedly, but that doesn’t mean you can't be prepared for when they hit. Preparing as a community for an earthquake is beneficial to the association and its residents. If you live in an area that’s at risk for an earthquake event, then the time to begin preparing is now. As community experts with over 40 years of management experience, we have some helpful advice to help your homeowners' association prepare for an earthquake. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of emergency preparation and four steps to prepare today.
Communities Most Likely to Experience an Earthquake
An earthquake could happen anywhere and at any time. However, there are areas around the globe that are more prone to earthquakes due to their location near plate boundaries where the earth is more likely to shift. According to one report, 42 of the 50 states are likely to experience a damaging earthquake within the next 50 years, and 16 states are at an elevated risk, including:
- South Carolina
Why It's Essential to Prepare
Whether you live in an at-risk area or not, your community needs to be ready for an earthquake. You’ll gain confidence as you prepare and will have the practice you need for similar emergencies. Some of the benefits you may see include:
- Reduced fear and anxiety
- Less impact when a disaster does hit
- Increased self-sufficiency
4 Steps to Help Your Community Prepare for an Earthquake
If you’re a member of your HOA board, then there are many ways you can help your community better prepare for an earthquake and other natural disasters common to your area. Below are four steps your association can take to prepare your HOA and residents.
Step 1: Form a Committee
When it comes to community associations, most preparation starts with a committee. These committees help manage on-going projects, and in larger communities can help free up the board to focus on their primary duties. Look for community members that may have had real-world experience in disaster prep, but any resident willing to serve should do great. Duties for the committee should include making emergency plans, assessing current needs, performing community outreach, and in some cases helping with possible safety drills. Try scheduling a recurring meeting for your committee to meet, and as a board, be sure to follow up to support them in their efforts.
Step 2: Make a Plan
Most of your committee's preparations should revolve around a thorough emergency preparedness plan. These plans should outline what will happen inside a community if an earthquake hits, and how your board and community members should respond if emergency services are unavailable to help immediately. Other key parts of your emergency plan should include:
- Emergency contact phone numbers
- Area maps
- Evacuation routes
- Shut off locations for water, gas, and electric
- Location of any emergency supplies
Step 3: Review Your Insurance
Another crucial role your board plays in preparing for an earthquake is ensuring your community's assets are protected. Take time each year to review your insurance policy for things like clubhouses, pools, and other shared spaces and property. For most places around the U.S., earthquake insurance will not be included in your standard policies. As a board member, it’s your responsibility to review your governing documents to see if earthquake insurance is mandatory or not. In instances where earthquake insurance isn’t required, it might be up to the board's discretion to weigh out the pros and cons of purchasing additional coverage. Your community manager can be a helpful resource when shopping for community insurance coverage.
Step 4: Support Your Residents
Your preparations don't have to end at a community level. If you live in an at-risk area, consider doing some community outreach to support residents in their individual efforts. You can hold informational meetings, plan an event to prepare 72-hour kits, or invite an expert to come and speak at your next gathering. There are also countless free homeowner resources online, including tips from a national public service campaign designed to educate and empower the American people to prepare for emergencies at Ready.gov.
Find More Ways to Help Your Community Prepare for an Earthquake
Every community is unique, and your earthquake prep plans should be too. Take the advice above and be sure to personalize it to the needs of your HOA. For more resources, be sure to check out some of our other disaster prep articles, including how to respond to the media, and how to make your emergency prep plans.