Is your association ready for a disaster or catastrophic event? A plan is critical year-round, but for the Cape Fear region, it is particularly important to be prepared for hurricanes and floods.
One of the responsibilities of serving on a board of directors or committee is dealing with disasters and catastrophic events such as hurricanes, hail storms, tornadoes and forest fires, but this can also include collapsing decks and failing elevators.
Most board members and managers have developed emergency operational procedures that assist the community in handling catastrophic events. But the fact is that most board members and managers have never actually experienced one of these events. Even the most experienced board members and managers will find that there are unknown factors exposed after the event which, if approached before the event, would make the aftermath more uneventful.
It is essential that your condominium or community association have a written disaster management plan, especially if your association’s common area includes buildings, other structures or privately owned infrastructure. A plan is worthless if not communicated to community leaders, members and management.
A disaster plan involves six steps:
- Developing the emergency planning and management teams.
- Identifying potential emergencies.
- Preparing for an emergency; rehearsing and testing the plan.
- Adopting preventative measures.
- Responding to the emergency.
- Debriefing the emergency management team and others involved (the membership, service professionals, legal counsel and insurance agent.)
When it comes to disaster recovery, don’t wait until disaster strikes to understand what your insurance coverage provides. In preparing for disaster, the first question to be considered is, “Will an insurance claim need to be filed?”
If the answer is “yes,” follow up with:
- Who has the authority to work with the insurance company’s claim adjuster once a claim has been filed? The arrangement with public adjusters is that they will negotiate and settle the claim on behalf of the association. A public adjuster has the authority to settle, rather than the board.
- What is the deductible or deductibles? How is an insurance deductible being funded? Along the East Coast, hurricane deductibles can range from a few thousand to a few hundred thousand dollars per occurrence.
- Engaging a professional insurance replacement-cost proposal ensures that the property insurance values protect the association from special assessments if there is inadequate insurance on the building and structures. This is extremely important in condominiums and other communities with master insurance policies.
- If there is a master insurance policy, it is important for individual property owners to know what the master policy covers to determine the insurance they need for their individual properties. Ensuring there is an endorsement to provide funds adequate to cover a special assessment is wise.
I highly recommend vetting and selecting a licensed, qualified and financially stable general contractor (and possibly a project manager) before a catastrophic event occurs. This provides a much smoother and timely clean-up and repair experience. Background checks, certification of insurance, and verification of licenses, as well as confirmation of experience through references, is especially important when considering out-of-state contractors or restoration companies.
Many restoration companies specializing in catastrophic events have pre-event contracts that provide services to the association. It is recommended if you enter into a pre-event contract that the terms are broken down between mitigation and actual restoration or repair.
Communication is vital. It is important to remember that we live in a world where information is available instantaneously. One of the most important components of a disaster plan is communication with the emergency management team, the members of the association, management and all professional service providers that will be needed. It is essential to make sure you have multiple methods of contact established, such as email, texts and cell phones as well as landlines in the event of a catastrophic event where electricity and communication lines are lost. Interactive websites, e-blasts and auto phone-dialing programs are excellent methods of communication.
Part of good communication is for the members to understand the association’s policies on boarding up pre- and post-event, clearing the units’ decks prior to a wind event, handling interior unit damage mitigation and dry-out, communicating authorization to inspect units, accessing buildings and units after a disaster, and on the ability of individual owners to make repairs to their units.
As you can see, there are many items to consider in preparing for a disaster or catastrophic event. A professional condominium or community manager can provide the experience and professional guidance needed during all phases. As unfortunate as these events are, a professional management company that has experience in preparing emergency management plans and in managing pre-and post-disaster responsibilities makes it easier for the association’s board and membership.
Pre-event preparation is vital, but be sure to read my upcoming Insights articles. I will also be sharing tips and strategies for how to react and act after a disaster or catastrophic event happens.
Mike Stonestreet is a 26-year veteran of the professional HOA management industry who has achieved one of the highest education-based designations in the field, that of Professional Community Association Manager (PCAM). Community Association Management Services (CAMS) has been a leading association management company since its inception in 1991. CAMS is a trusted provider of management services for more than 265 associations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. To find out how CAMS can benefit your community, call 910-256-2021, email [email protected], or visit www.CAMSmgt.com.