Florida’s official hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30 – that’s six months out of the year. As we head into the busiest part of the season, weather patterns can be unpredictable and quickly shift from pleasant to severe. This is why hurricane preparation should be a critical component of community association operations.
Eisinger Law services more than 800 Florida homeowners and condominium associations throughout the state and has almost 25 years of experience when it comes to preparing our clients for the inevitable storm.
Here are several tips to help guide both community associations and property managers through this seasonal challenge.
1 – Create a Hurricane Preparedness Plan, not just for your association, but insist that all contractors, such as a contracted roofing company, has its own hurricane preparedness plan and incorporate same into the agreement entered into with the contractor (if there is work to be performed during hurricane season). Request all on-site vendors share their hurricane plans so that the association’s attorneys can review and mitigate any potential liabilities should there be any collateral damage.
2 – Review and Update Insurance Policies. All insurance policies should be reviewed and updated as necessary, at least annually. Renewal dates should be calendared well in advance and incorporated into other annual must-do tasks. Create a thorough inventory of property assets, keep receipts, take current photographs/videos and date them. If an insurance claim needs to be made, an organized catalogue of inventory will be extremely valuable. The association should also consider having a pre-hurricane drone report prepared to document the exterior condition of building(s) prior to a storm.
3 – Maintain Landscaping and Ensure Potential Projectiles are Secured. Trees and shrubbery grow extensively in Florida’s wet, summer months, causing potential problems in strong winds. Trees can block roads and down powerlines when they fall. Items such as ladders, paint cans, supplies, outdoor furniture, etc. which may normally be stored outside have the potential to become airborne projectiles, posing threats to people and property. Such items must be secured responsibly when a hurricane watch is issued. Landscaping and exteriors should be inspected regularly to minimize these potential threats.
4 – Establish Lines of Communication with Local Governmental Authorities. Determine well in advance who is responsible on a municipal level for hurricane response and obtain contact information, including phone numbers and emails. Make sure that the association is included on notification lists (e-mails, texts, and/or voicemail) and that residents have access to transportation in the event an evacuation is ordered.
5 – Adopt an Action Plan for Hurricane Response. Divide responsibilities among officers/directors and management for operations under emergency hurricane conditions. If evacuation is a possibility, have contacts ready and a reliable means of communication to relay messages to residents, such as evacuation orders and/or transportation options. If the association staff will be asked to work during the storm, make adequate accommodation arrangements in advance. This will ensure that they are on-site when needed, as well as avoiding travel that may be impossible during or immediately after a storm.
6 – Ensure Equipment in Good Working Order. Many communities have a back-up generator, water pump, and/or elevator systems. These systems, like all others, require regular maintenance to ensure that they are in good working order when needed and especially during emergencies. If your equipment has not been inspected recently, now is an opportune time to do so.
7 – Communicate with Owners and Residents. Publish your hurricane plans to Owners and Residents and keep them informed of Association’s operations before, during and after a storm. Encourage Owners and Residents to take proactive measures to safeguard their property, including installation of shutters and removal of furnishings from balconies.
8 – Pandemic Preparedness. Not only should associations take heed of the above tips for the current hurricane season, but all of the important preparedness tips above should be considered in light of our new normal and circumstances given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. For instance, certain procedures should be in place to ensure cleanliness is maintained even during a storm and that the residents do not all wait to evacuate at the same time and crowd into elevators in the event of an evacuation order.
Eisinger Law is a full-service Florida law firm focusing on community association law, real estate law, developer representation, commercial litigation, corporate law, insurance law and estate planning. For more info visit eisingerlaw.com.