How to Prepare Your Community for Winter Weather Emergencies
As a member of your homeowners’ association (HOA) board of directors, fostering a safe and secure environment should always be a top priority. That includes protecting community members from hazards presented by winter weather conditions. Having a plan in place for winter weather will help you save lives, earn trust, and avoid costly property damage. Read on to learn what a winter weather emergency can mean for your association and five steps to creating an emergency plan that properly protects your community.
The Cost of Common Winter Weather Emergencies
Winter weather emergencies include ice and snowstorms that can shut down services and transportation with costly and life-altering consequences. It’s snow and ice buildup, the inability to get immediate emergency services, hazardous roads, inoperable vehicles, and critical business interruptions that cause the biggest threat to life and safety. As part of your fiduciary duty, your board should make an emergency action plan to address the potential for property damage and altered living conditions because of dangerous weather.
5 Steps to Prepare Your Community for a Winter Weather Emergency
1. Assess Your Community's Potential for Risk & Damage
Winter weather risk is highly specific to each community. Your board should take the time to assess the potential for a winter weather event and damage within your area. Some factors that’ll impact this include:
- The location and layout of your community
- The type of association
- The demographics of your community’s residents
- The types of buildings and mechanical equipment in your common areas
2. Identify Potential Winter Weather Issues
Next, take some time to identify the specific risks winter weather poses for your community. Some common winter weather concerns include:
- Lack of sufficient heating
- Burst pipes due to exposure to below freezing temperatures
- Power outages
- Dangerous roads or walkways from ice and snow buildup
- Risk of carbon monoxide poisoning
- Frostbite and hyperthermia
- Improper heating through unsafe space heaters and fireplaces
3. Create a Winter Weather Emergency Committee
After assessing your community and its winter weather risks, your board should establish a winter weather emergency committee to facilitate outreach and create a plan to implement when problems strike. As part of this plan and role, they’ll need to consider:
- Budget and contracts for snow and ice removal
- Processes for ensuring common areas are free of hazards
- Procedures for handling power outages
- Strategies for communicating important information to homeowners
- Any applicable regulatory provisions and insurance coverage
- Any vulnerable homeowners that may need special assistance in an emergency
4. Make a Winter Weather Plan
A go-to manual for homeowners and first responders, your winter weather plan should include all the necessary steps the community must take during an emergency. Remember, this will be a guide to use in times of crisis, so it’s critical to be clear, concise, and detailed. Consider drawing out maps, using arrows to guide evacuation routes, and writing short, bulleted instructions that will help everyone act quickly and efficiently. Some information that should be included in your plan:
- Locations of shut-off valves for water in the case of a burst pipe.
- Location and usage information for alternative heating methods, such as space heaters or fireplaces.
- Snow removal contract and vendor contact information.
- List of responsibilities for the board, committee, and homeowners.
- Local community social media, radio, and television channels to monitor weather risks and traffic conditions.
5. Help Community Members Prepare for Winter Weather
Finally, make sure your community’s homeowners are educated on what to do in specific situations to stay safe. Distribute winter-specific tips, like how to create an emergency preparedness kit, generator safety information, and a list of snow and ice removal equipment to have on hand. Also, put your winter weather plan in writing and share it with your board of directors and community members, so everyone understands what to do. Then, let homeowners know how emergency communication will be delivered once a storm hits.
Be Prepared for All Potential Weather Events
While winter weather may be top of mind right now, it’s crucial to get ready for anything Mother Nature may bring. To make sure you are fully prepared for any situation, download our ebook, “Disaster Preparedness: Creating a Plan for Your Community.” In it, we share details to help you make informed plans to keep your community and its residents safe any time of year.