As a board member of a New York City condominium or cooperative, you understand how this coastal metropolis can be impacted by large storms. The good news is that by partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable property management company, your building can be thoroughly prepared while minimizing the risk of potential damages during hurricane season. Your property manager shouldn’t be your fair weather friend. Rather, they should be a valuable asset to your community as it relates to hurricane preparedness (as well as recovery)! 
Complete hurricane preparedness goes beyond your typical checklists related to physical structures prior to the landfall of a storm. A truly thorough preparedness approach will take into account all aspects of your New York City property – structural, financial, digital, and more
To help you and your property achieve the best property management service before, during and after hurricane season, here are some helpful tips. 

1. Create an effective plan.

It is essential to create your hurricane preparedness plan in conjunction with your property management company. Remember to consider all members of your community – those snowbirds who may not live in your building year-round, the elderly, young children, and those who have special needs or require additional assistance. All residents should also understand their roles when it comes to securing their private property, and/or their jobs as volunteers when aiding the community during an emergency situation. It is a good idea to provide instructions for vendors to secure their equipment before and after a storm.

2. Empower your building staff.

Make sure each staff member understands and knows what to do before, during and after a storm. Train them on every aspect of your hurricane preparedness plan, and clearly define their roles and responsibilities. That includes knowing where all vital materials and supplies are to ensure resident and building safety in the event any hazards arise. Be sure to give your staff the space to store personal emergency kits and personal space to stay overnight at the building if necessary. Emergency situations may warrant all available staff to stay on premise and require them to have essentials for their safety too. 
If the board wishes for building personnel to assist residents in securing their units, make sure waivers of liability are in place to safeguard the association’s interests. You’ll also want to let residents know that management will be entering their premises if units need to be drained or dried.
Ensure each staff member knows their supervisor’s phone numbers and when they should report back to work following a storm. All staff members should have identification that confirms they are employed by your association to allow them to get past potential checkpoints set up by authorities following a storm.

3. Communicate your plan.

You must ensure that all components of this plan are communicated frequently and articulately to all board members, building staff and residents. Share critical information such as pre-storm plans, storm procedures, disaster relief information, New York City shelter locations, evacuation zones and routes, emergency response phone numbers, information on shut downs of major building systems and  those residents with special needs. This information should also include tips on how residents should storm-ready their units, as well as information that will help them navigate the insurance process afterwards, such as saving all receipts for expenses paid in the aftermath of the storm. 

4. Check and double-check, early and often.

The best time to perform maintenance on major building systems and equipment is before the season starts. Preparing early and often can prevent headaches and stress in the time leading up to a major storm. If you have generators, test them and ensure you have an adequate supply of fuel available. Same goes for tree trimming and debris removal – these tasks should be completed before hurricane season so you’re not hurrying to complete them when a storm is on its way. The most important thing to remember is that it’s essential for any necessary maintenance work to be completed before a named storm is forecast. 

5. Think digitally.

Most of us tend to focus on physical structures as part of hurricane preparation. But don’t forget your digital files – all of your association’s records and files should be backed up on a remote server, on a hard drive that’s kept in another location, or in a fireproof, waterproof safe. That’s a good way to store hard copies of your personal documents, too. Be sure to include building and facilities plans in case first responders, utilities or insurance representatives need to reference them.

6. Take building inventory.

Knowing exactly what systems and areas are at risk of potential damage and where things are is critical. In the event of extensive damages, being able to identify where pieces of equipment are, and the state they were in, is valuable documentation that can be essential during the recovery process. Videotape your community, its assets (equipment, artwork, furnishings, etc.) and common areas while everything is in working order. Make sure the footage is time- and date-stamped. Another option is to hire a professional engineer to conduct a formal life expectancy analysis of all equipment and systems. This information will be invaluable during the insurance claims process.

7. Financial efficiency.

Your property management company should offer you the ability to pay expenses electronically. This is helpful if signatories are displaced after the hurricane and service providers need to be paid for emergency services.

8. Secure the building to minimize damage.

Prioritize your efforts in minimizing damage to common areas of the property that are frequently used by residents. This is key to preparing for a hurricane. These areas can become a place of refuge for staff or a designated safe area if residents must evacuate their apartments for their own safety. Take measures to properly tape glass windows, barricade entrances with sandbags, and have flashlights available in these spaces. Speak to your property management company for further measures to ensure safe refuge. Securing these areas with proper supplies and equipment can minimize damage to the overall property.

9. Maintain your relationships. 

A crisis is the wrong time to engage in first contact with your insurance company, a remediation firm or public adjustor. A remediation company can help with securing the property post-storm, so it’s wise to arrange for this possibility now rather than during the post-hurricane confusion. 
As for public adjustors, make sure you establish a relationship with a national one that is reputable and qualified. Fly-by-night operations prey on desperate clients after storms. Engaging with a good adjustor now will save you headaches – and money – later.

10. Facilities preparation.

Last, but not least, if a storm is imminent, make sure any landscaping debris is removed, all building materials and equipment are properly secured, dumpsters are emptied and generators are in working order. Store or secure outdoor furniture and prepare your pool and spa. Shutting down major building systems such as HVAC systems and elevators is recommended for the duration of serious wind events.
While you can’t control hurricane season, you do have power over its impact on you and your community by ensuring that your building is prepared. When you partner with a good property management company, all of these steps happen seamlessly. To feel confident that your property and your community is well prepared this season, contact FirstService Residential, New York’s leading property management company.

Request our free hurricane guide today! Fill out the form below to receive our guide full of proven tips, checklists and timelines to help your building staff and residents prevent damage and stay safe during hurricane season.

Sunday July 24, 2016