Natural Disasters Underscore Need for HOA Disaster Plan
These days, when tornado sirens blare, condo owners in Judy Rosen’s 70-unit St. Louis high-rise go straight to the building’s underground, windowless garage and huddle in the center.
They won’t soon forget the late April “Good Friday” tornado that carved a 22-mile track of destruction through their city, damaging 200 homes and leaving thousands of people without power. Although the community wasn’t damaged, residents were assured by the Crescent Condominiums’ disaster preparedness plan.
“I would be just panicked if something happened to the people who live in my community,” said Judy Rosen CMCA, AMS, PCAM, community manager with more than 30 years’ experience. “But because I took the time to sit down and write an emergency preparedness plan, I know I had done my job. That prepares me, and that prepares my community, for whatever can happen.”
With more than 60 million Americans living homes governed by community associations, emergency planning has become an essential skill of HOA managers. Community managers play a key role in any emergency response effort. HOA managers must understand what types of disasters are likely to occur in their community, develop emergency response protocols, practice them and then communicate them.
Disasters range from summer wildfires to hurricanes, tornadoes to blizzards. Their impact on communities varies, depending on their size and location, the age of the housing stock and a community’s degree of preparedness.
According to the American Red Cross, writing a disaster preparedness plan has six steps:
- Committing to preparedness for the community or property. This means getting the HOA board and other top leadership committed to disaster planning.
- Conducting a hazard vulnerability assessment. George Sullivan, an expert in disaster preparedness for the American Red Cross says, “A lot of people write an emergency response plan based on something that happened to someone else.”
- Developing an emergency response plan. “If you already have one, now is the time to revisit it and ask all the big ‘what ifs,’ such as ‘what if we’re no longer able to operate in this location?” Sullivan says.
- Testing your plan. An untested plan is not a real plan – so go ahead and plan those drills.
- Communicating about preparedness. Managers must make preparedness top of mind in their communities, through newsletters and bill inserts.
- Helping others. By definition, a commitment to disaster preparedness is a commitment to helping others – so some communities consider adopting a local school or church or hosting a blood drive.
“CMCAs learn these are things they have to be aware of,” said Rosen, who teaches classes on emergency preparedness. “They know they are responsible for the people in their community, and they have to have a written plan.”
Do you have a plan in place? Tell us about it.