Disasters strike suddenly, and often, without warning. They are usually unexpected and seem to come at the worst possible time. How prepared is your community for either a natural or man-made disaster? What steps have you taken as a homeowners association to ensure the safety and security of your residents and their property?
Have you been proactive by putting an emergency preparedness plan in place, or is your community going to be forced to be reactive in the most desperate of times? These are important questions that every HOA needs to consider. In this blog post, we will cover the essential elements of an emergency preparedness plan for your HOA community. Even if your association has a plan already in place, it should be reviewed and updated periodically based on changes that have taken place in the community.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, almost half of the households in the country do not have an emergency preparedness plan in place. Only 20% of households have ever conducted home evacuation drills. We often run drills at school and in the workplace, but most people spend more than half of their time at home so it stands to reason that it would be important to conduct them there as well.
One of the most important things that a homeowners association can do is encourage the households within their jurisdiction to formulate individual emergency preparedness plans. Community newsletters are a great place to send out a sample plan and subsequently encourage residents to make their own.
As a community, an important first step can be to form a community emergency preparedness team. Ask for volunteers from the neighborhood to be a part of this endeavor. The size of the team can vary based on the population in your specific community, but it’s important to have a board member oversee the program. They can appoint an emergency preparedness manager for the community, and then ensure that tasks are delegated to the team, and that deadlines are met.
Important components of a community emergency preparedness plan include:
Identifying the most likely potential threats in your area, and coming up with specific contingency plans for each
Generating a site plan for the community. Be sure to include emergency meeting locations, utility shutoffs, generators, and debris staging areas
Formulating an evacuation plan and educating the residents in meetings
Coordinating with local public safety officials and getting their input on your strategies
Planning a location for an off-site command center so that the response team can gather as quickly as possible following a disaster
Cellular networks are often knocked out when disaster strikes, so be sure to have battery powered walkie talkies for communication
Have an inspection checklist for the team and for all residents to complete annually and also one to complete after a disaster occurs to ensure it is safe to resume normal community habitation
Make sure residents have access to all important documents and can take them at a moments notice (insurance policies are very important during emergencies)
Contact information for all community members, HOA board members, vendors, and other relevant contacts should be distributed to all members of the community
Designating procedures for debris removal, including instructions on where it should be moved and what vendors might be able to assist
Steps and procedures to be enacted in the case of an emergency
Emergency preparedness plans will vary depending on what types of emergency situations are most likely to arise in your neighborhood. Plans can be updated and improved upon periodically. If your community doesn’t have one in place, be sure to do so as soon as possible.