Hurricane Prep: Your Association Management Company and You

As they say, everything is bigger in Texas—sometimes even hurricanes. And during hurricane season, being a board member for a residential community in the Houston area can bring some big challenges, too. To help get you and your community ready and reduce the effects if a hurricane does strike, we’ve put together these six important tips.

1. Establish a hurricane plan
Your plan should be specific to Houston conditions and your community’s needs. Involve your entire board and your association management company. Designate someone to interface with emergency responders during and after a storm. Ask for volunteers from the community in case needed personnel are unable to get to the property. Be sure that roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and that people are trained well in advance. Others should be cross trained as well to ensure full coverage.
 
2. Keep your community and staff informed
Share important storm information with your residents, such as: your hurricane plan, how to get disaster relief, the locations and hours of shelters, evacuation routes, emergency response numbers, and how to shut down major building systems. When a storm is imminent, inform residents on how to make their homes storm ready and file insurance claims. Ensure that your staff has important contact information and knows when to return to work. Remind employees to carry identification not only to protect residents, but also to get through safety checkpoints set up by authorities following a storm.

3. Secure important records
Keep backups of all your electronic records on a remote server or on a hard drive. Secure copies of all important paper documents and any hard drives in a weather-proof safe or securely offsite. Don’t forget to include building and facilities plans in case emergency responders, utility companies, or insurance firms need them.
 
4. Protect your assets
If you know that a storm is coming, check that there are no loose items around the property. Secure construction materials and equipment, empty trash cans, trim tree limbs, test generators, and check fuel supplies. Prevent clogging during heavy rains by cleaning the gutters regularly. Store or secure outdoor furniture and prepare your pool and spa. It is also a good idea to turn off major building systems, such as heating and cooling systems and elevators, during serious wind events.

Once a storm is over, ensure resident safety and minimize further property damage as soon as it is safe. For example, put tarps over open roofs, broken windows, and open doorways. Clean up debris, and secure the community from vandals and looters. Provide forms that residents can fill out to document any damage to their homes or common areas.

5. Get your financial house in order
Some association management companies still don’t offer a way to make electronic payments.  Does yours? This is particularly important during a major event like a hurricane when authorized signatories may not be available in person to sign for emergency services.
 
Establish special assessments to pay for unforeseen expenses. Earmarking a portion of your fees for an emergency fund prevents unexpected expenses down the road. Secure a special line of credit ahead of time so you have money available quickly.
 
6.  Re-evaluate your insurance needs
Speak with an insurance remediation company and a public adjustor before a storm hits. Make sure your insurance policies are up to date and that you understand their limitations, exclusions, and deductibles. Prepare ahead by keeping an up to date inventory of assets with photos for potential insurance claims. The public adjustor you choose should have a solid reputation, the necessary credentials, and a nationwide presence.
 
You can’t control the weather, but you can minimize its impact on you and your community. A good association management company can take care of all the steps needed to protect your residents and your property. Find out how we make it happen. Contact FirstService Residential, Houston’s leading association management company, today. 

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