You are a Homeowner. You live in a Community Association. What can you do to prepare for a Hurricane?
Property Management for every community is unique, because every property has its own personality and palate, or said differently, expectation of level of management from the Management Company. The level of service provided by the Management Company is almost directly related to the cost of the contract: the higher the contract, the more concierge-like service is delivered to the community.
Some communities prefer a hands-off approach. I once managed a community who said: “We can watch the news and weather. We do not need to know when a hurricane is coming, or when flash floods are occurring. We receive those alerts, thanks.”
Where other communities really appreciate advanced notices and preparations before a storm hits, and reminders to not drive on certain roads where we know that flooding is likely to happen (especially when it is dark at night and it is hard to see it is flooded). The residents and Board state: “I don’t even need to turn on my TV, you are on it, and know our community well!”
Unfortunately, there is not a one-shoe-fits-all book for Community Management and Properties. However, we will provide some scenarios below that may be helpful to you.
How Can Homeowners Prepare for a Hurricane?
The Red Cross provides a great resource for emergency preparedness, which includes a section on how to prepare your home and family for a hurricane. You may visit their site at: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/hurricane.html.
A few key factors will determine the severity of your need to respond to hurricanes:
- the strength of the storm
- the risk of your home flooding
- access to and from your home
In the above cases, you are either preparing your home to avoid as much damage as possible, and/or determining whether you will remain-in-place through the storm or evacuate.
There are a few basic items that you can do to prepare in advance for any major emergency:
1. Have a go bag packed for each person in your home. This should include:
a. At least one (1) change of clothes
b. Battery Operated Flashlight (with Batteries) or Crank Flashlight
c. AM/FM radio
d. Glow Sticks
e. Reflective Vest
f. Latex Gloves
g. Work Gloves (heavy duty used for gardening or yard work)
h. Duct Tape
j. Safety Goggles
l. Ear Plugs
p. Charger cord for cell phones, with connection piece
q. Portable charger bank for cell phone (able to be solar charged, if possible)
s. Emergency Blankets
t. Emergency Sleeping Bag/Tent
u. Three (3) days of medicine
v. Emergency food
2. Non-Perishable Food Supply: In your house, you should have a regular can opener (not electric), non-perishable food, and drinking water for 4-5 days for your family. This should be able to sustain you should you not be able to cook or have running water for that 4-5 day period of time. Get those flashlights ready 😊, and test your batteries!
3. Pet food: It is wise to have 4-5 days of pet food on hand at all times in the case that you are not able to go to the store, or if the stores are not able to open.
4. Baby Food/Supplies: If possible, try to plan baby supplies in advance as well, to always be one week ahead before needing to restock.
5. Relocation Plan: Where are you going? Where is your go to place if you need to evacuate for a day or an extended period of time? It’s good to have a place that is close by in the case of an emergency like smoke, or fire, but also a further away place in case of a major event like a hurricane or major snow storm that might create a power outage for several days.
Deciding to Stay or Go: What Should You Choose?
This is a personal decision between you and your family, as well as the requirements of the local municipality. If the storm is so severe in your local area, you may be forced to leave the area. If you are not required to leave, you have to evaluate the risk to your home and family. Unfortunately, no one can make that decision for you.
Part of your decision to evacuate may be based on how strong the storm winds are. Are you in a high-risk area with a category 4 or 5 hurricane heading your way? Did you board up your house (or did your community have it boarded up?). If that’s a yes, you may consider evacuating.
Do you have hurricane shutters custom made for your house? I did when I lived in Florida. I never had to install them for my short tenure of residency, but I figured if I did, there was a good chance I was heading back north to Philadelphia during that event. My gut instinct says if I am installing hurricane shutters, I am evacuating, especially since many homes are ground level and the risk of flooding is also high. This also meant we were most likely losing all plumbing (drinking water) and sanitary lines (sewer).
Do you live near a river, creek, pond, ocean, or other body of water that may flood during rain? My grandmother lived near a little creek. It was little, when it wasn’t raining. But if you sneezed, or shed a tear, all of a sudden, 12’ of water raised from the ground and came up the bank as if an arc was going to start floating down “the little creek”. If you live near one of these bodies of water, that could encroach your home during a light or heavy rain, you may want to consider evacuation, or at least taking precaution to help prevent water from entering your home during the hurricane. Local hardware stores sell sandbags that can be used to create a barrier to divert water away from doors or low entry points.
Please consider evacuating early, before the roads are jammed. Many people decide to try to ride out the storm and see if it changes paths, just to get stuck on the highway, running out of fuel, and having no where to go. Don't wave at us on the news...
Be sure to communicate your plan to friends and family too, so that first responders and others are not concerned about your well-being. Communicate with your employers and arrange for tele-work where able.
Make your plan, plan early, and stick with it.
Are you going to be able to travel to and from your home during the Hurricane?
Even if you are not being hit with category 4 or 5 hurricane winds, hurricanes can create terrible trouble for different parts of the country, hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. This can include inches of rain dropped in the matter of hours, increased winds, downed trees, and loss of power.
While most of this is an inconvenience that can be worked around, we have to consider, can we get to where we are going, and can we get home?
With good planning, tele-work is a great option for uncertain times. I’m in a situation where we aren’t sure how bad the rains will get later. Local roads are known to flood which means commuting home would be extremely difficult and dangerous. So, instead of adding that risk factor, working from home was a more feasible option. I can work safely, put in more hours, and even get the kids off the school bus. It’s a win-win. I also feel more prepared, ready, and less stressed so I can better respond to my residents if they are having questions or concerns about today’s storm. I might not be as responsive if I was trapped in a flash flood, myself.
If you traveled to the office, here’s some things to consider:
- Keep an eye on the weather and consider leaving early.
- Flash flood alerts sometimes happen exactly when that river is flooding and you are
in the middle of the alert. Avoid roads that are near rivers that easily flood today and tomorrow.
- Give yourself extra room to slow down and break while driving. Not all drivers are cautious in the rain.
- More trees may be down, creating road closures and the need to detour. Provide additional time for travel.
- Try to travel before it is dark. It is difficult to tell if roads are flooded at night because the water sometimes looks like the road itself especially when the road is not in a well-lit area.
Preparing the Outside Of Your Home
For those residents who have hurricane shutters or required board up, this is performed 2-3 days prior to the arrival of the hurricane. There is always a chance that this work is performed at a cost to the homeowner and/or the Association is for “no reason” because one never knows. The storm may not strike. It may change paths. It may not be as strong as anticipated. But, if the chance is great that the storm will strike, it is better to be prepared then not.
Please also check with your Property Manager as to the proper steps to have this work performed and to find out who is paying for the cost thereof. You do not want to perform the work and assume that the Association will pay for it, and likewise, you do not want to break any rules in the process of trying to protect your property. Sometimes, an Association will perform the work, but still charge the cost of the work back to the Homeowners, as well. It is good to know in advance, and be prepared.
For those of us who are getting prepared to experience Hurricane Ida, if you have an outdoor patio or deck, and you haven’t already done so, now is the time to secure any lose items. If possible, patio and deck furniture should be brought inside (if you are in the line of heavy winds) or at least tied down. Anything that can be picked up by the storm will become a flying object and create damage to your property (like your sliding glass doors), cars, or other windows. It could also harm another person or animal..
This includes the removal of any pots or plants that can be picked up and tossed around in high winds.
If you are just expecting a lot of rain, it’s a good time to give your outdoor furniture a heavy washing before the end of the season nears!
Summary: Natural Disasters like hurricanes happen throughout the course of the year. As Property Management Professionals, we work with Homeowners, Board Members, and Contractors to prepare for events as best as possible to alleviate potential damage to property and to reduce stress to Homeowners.
Bricck Property Management is a Boutique Property Management Firm specializing in the management of Condominiums, Homeowner’s Association’s, and Office Buildings. We provide best-in-class property management services for a cost-efficient price. We put people back in property management by automating simple services, so that our managers have time to focus where it matters most: developing relationships and spending time with the residents.