Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dealing with the "People Factor" when a storm approaches

It is important to remember that your board will be dealing with a lot of fearful people who have been listening to round-the-clock media reporting when a storm is looming. In addition to preparing your community physically it is just as important to prepare your owners and residents mentally.

I recommend that you take advantage of all possible means of communication with your residents both before and after a storm. Even though there is always an abundance of tips in your local newspaper and online, it is still advisable to run your own community list of tips for your owners in your community newsletter, your association website and/or your in-house cable TV channel. Here is some of what you should provide:

-Shelter locations and hours

-Emergency Response information

-Hospital location and information

-Evacuation routes and procedures

-Municipal Vulnerable Persons Registry information for those owners with special needs

This is also your chance to remind your owners what needs to be done to secure their own units or homes such as removing any items from their balconies, emptying their construction dumpsters, closing their shutters, making arrangements for pet removal in the event the building and/or homes need to be evacuated. If your association does not have a rule in place regarding hurricane shutter preparation it needs to adopt one immediately.

Of course, the new wrinkle in this drama is the fact that many homes have now been abandoned due to pending foreclosures so there is no one available or interested in securing the property. It is important to speak with your association counsel to identify what steps the association can and should take to prepare these properties for the storm.

The Hurricane Committee should identify any residents who need special care and contact those owners as well as their family members to determine if any arrangements have been made for them in the event an evacuation is mandated. In the event an evacuation is ordered, owners should be told to keep all of their receipts related to any Additional Living Expenses (ALE) such as hotel accommodations, gasoline, etc. which can be submitted as part of an eventual insurance claim.

A board who cares enough to do the necessary preparatory work pre-storm and who promptly tackles any clean-up post-storm should earn the respect and gratitude of most owners.

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