Disaster Planning Saves Lives, Reduces Suffering, and Minimizes Damage
Whatever your feelings are about ‘climate change’, we Mainer’s know the weather seems to be getting more severe. The winters are harsher and the summers are dryer. The number of reported roof collapses from snow loads over the last two years has significantly increased while this past summer has seen wells dry up all over the state.
Disasters are here to stay. Like the bumper sticker say, it happens. It happens to the best condos and HOA’s. 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 such as multi-story buildings having 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; clubhouse; 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.
So how do you start? The board should create and appoint a disaster team made up at a minimum a member of the property management staff and a board member. Residents with skills in insurance; legal matters; electrical systems; HVAC; plumbing; 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’s needs.
The written plan needs to be approved by the board. The plan should be located in easy to access multiple locations. It should 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:
Assessment of disaster risks – both past experience and potential
- Planning – budget and financing
- Property management coordination
- Safeguarding important condo documents
- Ledger of assets – written and digital
- Communication plan – elderly and special needs; absentees; etc
- Emergency equipment available – condo and resident owned
- Lines of authority
- Evacuation plan
- Insurance audit
- Vendor and contractor call list
- Recovery plan
By recovery, it is not simply the clean-up after the disaster but a pro-active 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 every thing 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 very 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 or lab test results or whatever it takes to make market perception be the reality.
Published in Condo Media, February, 2017