Do you know how to be prepared for a flood in your high-rise building? Flooding and water damage can pose significant risks, even in high-rise buildings. Common causes include leaking pipes and plumbing issues, which can lead to extensive damage. Although many residents of high-rise buildings might assume that floods won’t affect them due to their elevated living spaces, this is a misconception. Floods can seriously compromise essential systems located underground, such as boilers, elevators, generators, and water pumps. Understanding these risks is crucial for high-rise residents and property managers to ensure the safety and functionality of the building during flood events. 

Vulnerability doesn't have to mean disaster. Management, boards, and residents can adopt powerful strategies to protect individuals and reduce property damage during flooding. By leveraging insights from recent monsoon seasons in Arizona and significant rainfall events in California, we can bolster flood preparedness for all high-rise buildings.  
   
With that, let’s look at how to prepare for a flood and how you can minimize its impact in your high–rise building and meet the challenges of flooding, should it occur.  

Know your flood risk.  

If you live in a flood-prone area, such as near a river or body of water, your flood risk is notably high which makes it extremely important to know how to be prepared for a flood. However, it's essential to also consider less obvious factors. For instance, even high-rises in valleys or low-lying areas can be susceptible to flooding, regardless of their distance from the nearest water source. It’s equally important to consider other potential flooding causes, such as burst city water lines. Numerous news reports highlight incidents of urban flooding due to these unforeseen factors. Being aware of all these risks can help with better preparation and prevention. 

The construction of the building comes into play, too – those with basements or multiple underground levels may find themselves at risk. To get even more specific, high-rises with basements should look at the equipment down there. Are there sump pumps? Are there generators? Answering these questions can help you pinpoint your risk.  

Gaining insights that extend beyond what you can see with the naked eye is crucial. A professional property management company can help you identify and assess vulnerabilities, preparing you for unforeseen events such as a city water main burst. Experienced property management teams have decades of expertise, know how to prepare for floods, and have access to localized flood data and in-depth knowledge of your area. Partnering with a trusted property management company provides essential insights and serves as the foundation of your preparedness plan. 

Protect critical systems.  

It's crucial to identify the exact locations of your mechanical and electrical systems. If these are situated in the basement and your building is prone to flooding, insulating and protecting this equipment is essential to ensure it remains functional during adverse conditions. Similarly, your building's water pump needs attention; in many cities, the municipal system cannot supply water above the sixth floor, potentially leaving upper-floor residents without water in a flood situation. Without water, bathrooms become unusable, necessitating the evacuation of residents. 

Additionally, ensure your fire pump, which is critical for operating the sprinkler system, is safeguarded against potential flood damage. It’s crucial to have emergency lighting in staircases and corridors that stay operational during a power outage. In taller buildings, at least one elevator should function during emergencies, typically powered by a generator. To prevent essential backup systems from failing when they're needed most, protect them from floodwaters with proper storage solutions. Partner with an experienced management company, as they can devise a tailored storage plan suitable for your building’s specific needs.  
   
Evaluate everything stored in basements by visualizing the space filled with water. This assessment can influence how you decide to store materials like fuel or heating oil. These substances present significant environmental hazards and risks to residents during severe flooding. Store materials wisely to ensure safety and protection. 

Create an emergency plan and communicate it.  

Creating a comprehensive emergency plan for residents is crucial. This plan must cover a wide range of potential disasters, including fires, medical emergencies, and floods. 
   
A comprehensive emergency plan should cover essential components such as emergency contacts, detailed evacuation maps and directions, and guidance for residents on how to file insurance claims. Additionally, your plan must outline critical items that residents should include in their personal disaster preparedness kits. It's vital to have provisions in place to protect the most vulnerable residents, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and children. A skilled property management team will understand the diverse needs of your residents and have the expertise to create strategies that accommodate everyone effectively. Effective communication is crucial, especially during emergencies. Many management companies leverage advanced technologies to keep residents informed.  

Look to your property management company to help make a staffing plan for emergencies, with planning right down to stocking food and providing accommodations for the extra team members you’ll need on-site during a flood. They’ll also help source preparedness items such as portable foundation walls or sandbags to be installed around your building when there’s a forecast for heavy storms and possible flooding.  
   
Should a disaster occur, a residential property management company with vast resources can help you find critical equipment like additional back-up generators from their roster of certified, quality vendors in other markets. This can be invaluable when local resources for these items are tapped out due to heavy demands in emergency situations.  
   
Once you have your emergency plan in place, get the word out to your residents, building staff and management team, using electronic documents for the tech-savvy and printed materials for residents who prefer hard copies.  

Ensure that you have the right insurance.  

Much to their detriment, many high-rise associations put their insurance on autopilot. It’s best practice to review your policy with an experienced insurance agent who specializes in high-rise properties annually. By conducting this policy review process each year, you’ll be sure your association has the maximum available insurance coverage for the best possible price. What’s more, a great property management company can help you implement policies and procedures that lower your building’s risk and, as a result, could lower your association’s premiums, too.  
   
There’s one thing to keep in mind that’s specific to flood insurance: will it cover the gaps that FEMA (The Federal Emergency Management Agency) leaves open? For instance, FEMA excludes coverage for business income and additional living expenses. Make sure your property management company connects you with a professional insurance agent who’s familiar with FEMA’s limitations and can craft a flood insurance policy that ensures you’re fully covered.  

Conclusion.

Natural disasters, such as floods, can strike at any time without warning. These events can cause significant damage to communities and disrupt the lives of residents. While preventing a flood is impossible, learning how to be prepared for a flood can significantly reduce potential damage and, most importantly, ensure the safety of residents. Establish your flood preparedness plan today to protect your community and minimize risks. 

Disclaimer: This article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Consult with your association attorney. 
Wednesday June 19, 2024