191211_FIRSTSERVICE__cards_1268-1.pngLiving in an area prone to natural disasters can be stressful and the boards of condos and community associations may find storm preparation overwhelming. With a wide range of responsibilities—from securing the property to ensuring effective communication with residents—it may be difficult knowing where to start. The good news is that a professional property management company can provide the expertise to help keep everyone safe during extreme weather.

Before the storm hits

If you serve on a board in a Tennessee community, you know storms and extreme weather events are common. Severe storms with pounding rain, destructive winds and localized flooding can take a drastic toll on your property's infrastructure, value, safety, and security. Boards should have emergency plans in place.

Create a plan
Consider your property's equipment, structures, and evacuation routes when creating an emergency preparedness plan. Your plan should also include steps to take before, during, and after a storm. Your property management team should work with your board as early as possible to ensure everyone, including your residents, knows what to do during severe weather.

Share your plan
Your property management team should communicate your emergency plan information well before a storm hits. Even the most comprehensive preparedness plan won’t be very effective if you haven’t communicated it to residents, staff, and vendors. This includes sending notifications to all residents and reminding them what to do at each stage. This communication should include information about shelter locations, evacuation protocols, and what the association is doing to minimize risk in the community.

Make sure your insurance policies are up to date
Examine your policy to ensure you have the right coverage. Without proper insurance, repairing or rebuilding your property after a disaster could be challenging and lead to special assessments or other increased costs. Speak with your insurance companies before a storm hits. Make sure your insurance policies are current and you understand their limitations, exclusions, and deductibles. Keep a current inventory of assets with photos for potential insurance claims. Your insurance broker should be familiar with your region's risks and your community's assets.

During the storm

Be flexible
Storms can be difficult to predict, and flexibility is essential. Severe weather can throw even the most well-prepared plans into disarray, and it's vital to be ready to pivot. This might mean making your fitness center showers available to residents who want to bathe or use the toilets if they lack water. This might also mean, if your property management company manages multiple properties, taking advantage of their available resources.

“Whatever plan you think you have is probably the best case scenario,” according to Anh Nguyen, vice president at FirstService Residential. “Don’t be afraid to assess the current situation and do what works best in that moment.”  For example, when one of our properties temporarily lost water after the storm hit, board members, staff, and volunteers came together and formed a human daisy chain five floors high to deliver water to residents. At the time, this was the most efficient way for residents to receive water.

“We also set up an amenity center with emergency power and Wi-Fi access that residents could use while their power was out,” said David Astrello, regional director at FirstService Residential. “Our goal was to help them feel more connected during the power outage.”

Keep the community informed
Do your residents know where to turn or who to contact in an emergency? Communicating your emergency preparedness plan in advance of a storm is essential. Share critical information with your community, including pre-storm plans, storm procedures, disaster relief information, shelter locations and hours, evacuation routes, emergency response numbers, and information on shutdowns on your property. Share the information via email, in your newsletter and at your association meetings.

Keep in mind, when a storm hits, your community must have a reliable communication system, like FirstService Residential Connect™. This system features a mass communication tool that can reach your entire community via email, text message or phone call in seconds. A backup communication plan is also essential since many residents may not have power or cell phone service.

"Information about a storm and its hazards can change quickly in real-time, and rumors can run rampant," said Astrello. "During Hurricane Ian, we realized that many residents weren't getting our email blasts due to a widespread power outage, so we immediately had to pivot. We needed to ensure that the information we were getting in real time was shared with each resident, and the best way to do that was through the building's emergency broadcast system to get regular updates to residents. This allowed us to make regular critical announcements via a speaker system in each resident's unit. This helped us control the message while giving residents the most up-to-date information."

Download our infographic for tips on how to prepare for a tornado.

After the storm

Assess the Damage
As soon as you've confirmed everyone on your property is safe, you can begin to assess the damage to the property. A quality property management company will visually assess the extent of damage in and around your community as soon as possible. 

Turn to your emergency response vendors for help
Vendors are critical to your community’s emergency planning for any storm. In the wake of Hurricane Ian that hit FirstService-managed properties in 2022, vendors played a crucial role in our properties' emergency response.

After the storm passed and it was safe to travel, our teams got to work.  

We found that some elevators in our high-rise buildings were temporarily out of service due to power outages. Residents were unable to walk their pets outside; the result was pet waste in the common areas of these buildings. Our management team worked with our emergency response partner to remove hazardous pet waste, and clean and sanitize the buildings.

“Having relationships with vendors specializing in hazardous waste removal has been a great advantage,” said Danny Ellis, president at FirstService Residential. “We also have relationships with vendors who will work to get our elevators back online and deliver fuel for generators that supply power to our buildings after a storm. We strive to provide unparalleled service and support to our valued communities by partnering with quality vendors who will be there when we need them.”

Work with your association’s insurance company
Many association board members find dealing with their insurance company the most challenging part of recovery. Your property management company can support your board from start to finish, coordinating with the claims adjuster if needed, documenting the property with "after" photos, addressing any issues and communicating progress with the board.    

Work to rebuild
Your property management team will support you during rebuilding and recovery so project managers, contractors and other service providers deliver what they promise. They can also help your property prepare for construction by developing schedules, communicating with residents, and liaising with your board.

Watch our video, Ask the Experts: Hurricane Preparedness, to learn more about how an experienced property management company can help.

Hiring a professional property management company is one of the best ways to protect your property during a storm. A good management company will have local area experts and go-teams that will work to protect your property before, during, and after the storm. 

For more information on how we can help, contact FirstService Residential.

Friday June 30, 2023