Skip to Content

Disaster in the Winds

A Good Plan Should Be Thorough and Recovery Oriented

Article written by Jack Carr, P.E., R.S., LEED AP, Criterium Engineers
Published in Condo Media, June 2014

Your board is up to speed. You have building maintenance plans, landscaping plans, and reserve fund plans. But do you have perhaps the most critical of all plans - the disaster plan? Probably not. It is like asking, "Do you have a living will?" Of course you know you should have one but never seem to find the time to prepare one.
Disasters are here to stay. Like the bumper sticker say, it happens. It happens to the best condos and HOAs. In New England, it can be hurricanes, tornados, micro-bursts, floods, ice storms, and even landslides. Different types of condos have different risks and planning needs. For example, multi-story buildings have higher risks of fire and internal flooding. Resort condos have higher rates of absentees, while senior living condos have special evacuation needs. Amenities such as marinas, tennis courts, pools, retention ponds, and dams can have a significant impact on the plan.
Disaster planning is all about saving lives, reducing suffering, and minimizing damage. The key elements of a good plan are thoroughness, well-considered preparation, and recovery oriented. This post-disaster management aspect is often overlooked.

How Do You Start?

The board should create and appoint a disaster team made up at a minimum with a member of the property management staff and a board member. Residents with skills in insurance, legal matters, electrical systems, HVAC, plumbing, and emergency response should be sought to join the team. There are many sources of a general outline for disaster plans. Your insurance company may have pre-prepared templates of these types of plans for easy customization for your community.
The written plan needs to be approved by the board. The plan should be located in multiple easy-to-access locations and be periodically reviewed and rehearsed. A good plan will have a checklist of steps to be taken, procedures to follow, and basic supplies to have on hand.
Here again your insurance carrier may also be able to provide disaster training guidance and other resources. Just ask. You may also want to consider seeking training grants or funding through CERT (Community Emergency Response Training).
The basic disaster plan outline should consider the following:
  1. Assessment of disaster risks - both past experience and potential
  2. Planning - budget and financing
  3. Property management coordination
  4. Safeguarding important condo documents 
  5. Ledger of assets - written and digital
  6. Communication plan - elderly and special needs, absentees, etc.
  7. Emergency equipment available condo and resident owned
  8. Lines ofauthority
  9. Evacuation plan
  10. Insurance audit
  11. Vendor and contractor call list
  12. Recovery plan

By recovery, it is not simply the cleanup after the disaster but a proactive real estate marketing plan. Whether it be a simple sprinkler pipe leak causing flooding and mold in an empty unit or a fire destroying a building or a wing of a complex, the planning for what should be done after the final repair contractor has left is also important.

The common denominator need of all condo unit owners is protection of their net worth. After any disaster, the impact on market value and sale potential must be considered. It should never be assumed just because everything has been brought back to "as good as it was" before the disaster, the real estate market perceives this to be the case. The association may need to make positive steps to approach the local real estate professionals to clearly demonstrate the physical state of the current condo complex. This could include certified inspection reports, lab test results, or whatever it takes to make market perception be the reality.