Common Disasters Affecting Community Associations
Therefore, it is important that a disaster recovery plan should be in effect and implemented whenever there is a natural or man-made disaster affecting a housing community. Here are some of the common disasters that have affected community associations in the past decade:
Disasters, whether man-made or natural, are occurring with increasing regularity each year without warning. Climate change has had an immense impact on the frequency and ferocity of natural disasters, while it seems man-made disasters aren’t few and far between either.
There are many ways a disaster can affect single-family homes, townhouses, planned unit developments, community developments and condominiums detrimentally. When disaster strikes, buildings and facilities may need complete demolition or repairs, and most residents will be displaced, while reserve funds may deplete completely.
It is up to public and governmental safety agencies to create comprehensive plans that respond to and mitigate emergency events or large-scale disasters. Most businesses have created formal plans to respond to disasters, especially because the employees, business profitability and continuity will all be compromised if they don’t act.
However, most Home Owners Associations (HOA), have no specialized training or formal plans to help respond to a disaster that impacts their residents, property owners, and properties. There aren’t even any mandates for HOAs to create disaster response or recovery plans.
Pre-Plan Disaster Response Roles and Responsibilities
Numerous studies have already shown that the most effective way to respond to any emergency or disaster at any level is to pre-plan the response, responsibilities, and roles. It is important to have an earthquake kit ready when an earthquake strikes, but you should also have a formalized plan to respond to an earthquake that has struck the community. There are some HOAs, who have created procedures and rules for regulating disaster-related board responsibilities, but they mostly cover the expenditure of HOA money.
Disasters are unpredictable events, which present long-term and immediate considerations for the HOA board, and the best way to handle them is with a formal plan. If there is no planning in place to deal with disasters, then even simple events can become burdensome and overwhelming. The most important things in any effective disaster response and recovery plan for homeowners are research, planning, and effective response.
Questions Board Members Should Have Answered
When you’re developing a disaster recovery plan It is imperative that you outline exactly what is expected from every member of the association. The following questions must be asked from all board members of the home owners association.
- Will the manager be available?
- What role does the community association manager assume?
- What resources are available to help with disaster response and recovery?
- What are their roles as board members when a disaster strikes?
- How they are expected to respond during and after a disaster has occurred?
- How do current processes and rules impact their disaster response and recovery?
If the board members fail to answer these questions, then the Homeowner’s Association isn’t prepared to handle the situation if a disaster strikes.
The Management Company’s Role
Most HOA board members are either residents or volunteer owners, with no experience in managing large-scale emergencies or disaster responses. Acts of terrorism, storms, explosions, chemical spills, wild fires, earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes are all disasters that create complex situations. The best way to deal with them is through a planned and coordinated response for optimal recovery and relief.
If you’re hiring a management company for the disaster response and recovery of your community association, you should ask them the following questions about disaster planning:
- Are all on-site managers experienced and trained to handle disasters and emergencies?
- How skilled are they at disaster management and what previous experience do they have?
- Do they have the resources to help you in the event of a regional disaster?
It is important to define the role of the management company in an emergency, since it will help the board members of the HOA to identify their own roles in a disaster recovery and response plan.
Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan for Your HOA
The disaster recovery plan doesn’t have to be too broad or restrictively complex but must have crucial information that can be quickly understood and digested by board members. It is important that everyone understands their responsibilities and roles when dealing with disasters that impact the community. Therefore, when creating a disaster recovery plan, the board directors should focus on two main parts of the plan, which are:
- Creating an effective response to the disaster while it is happening
- Restoring the affected area to pre-disaster conditions
These are the most crucial aspects of any disaster recovery and response plan, without which it will fail.
Effective Response and Restoration
Effective response after a disaster mainly includes reaching out and helping affected members quickly, and can include:
- Emergency short-term sheltering
- Providing food and other supplies
- Attending to immediate needs as events unfold
The restoration of affected areas to pre-disaster conditions, includes a reestablishment of the community to a state of normalcy as smoothly and quickly as possible. To ensure that the main functions of a disaster recovery plan are successfully performed, the board of directors must have complete knowledge of their available funding, property status, and insurance coverage.
Finalize and Adopt the Plan
Once the disaster recovery and response plan has been drafted, and finalized by the board of directors, it should be reviewed and formally adopted. After the plan has been adopted, formal training should be implemented for the successful execution of a plan in disaster conditions.
There are a lot of consultants and companies that are great at developing and executing effective and realistic disaster exercises and trainings. The board should also communicate the disaster plan to all HOA members, so they understand their roles and responsibilities in response to any disaster that strikes the community.