a disaster plan emergency kit

Disaster Plan: Creating a Disaster Plan for your HOA

If you’re familiar with the show, The Office, you know the name, Dwight Schrute — one of Dunder Mifflin’s most dedicated employees. In one of his most popular episodes, Dwight stages an elaborate fire drill because no one bothered to pay attention to his fire drill presentation. As a result of Dwight’s plan, the entire office goes frantic and starts running in circles when they discover smoke coming from the room next door — in fact, it was Dwight that was behind the entire scheme —setting a trashcan on fire. 

When you stop to think about the scenario, you can’t help but wonder why everyone went frantic? Was there no protocol? Perhaps no one bothered to take Dwight’s safety presentation seriously?

Disasters and catastrophes never come with a warning. In fact, “the average advance warning of a tornado in the United States is about 13 minutes, according to National Weather Service data.” Studies also show that “people spend precious time looking for more information if warnings are confusing or short on detail.”  If you do not provide people with the proper information they need, they will spend more time searching, rather than listening or taking action. 

HOA Disaster Plan 

HOA preparedness is important. This is when an HOA disaster plan must come into play. The sole purpose of a disaster plan is for an HOA to prepare themselves for an unpredictable event such as a: tornado, hurricane, fire, flood, harsh weather conditions, or even a wildfire. It also provides a thorough plan and outline of how a community must respond in the event that an incident or disaster occurs. 

Educate your community 

  • As a way to enhance communication and transparency, consider hosting a community meeting to discuss a disaster plan. Topics of discussion may include: 
    • The practice of evacuation drills. 
    • Assign specific tasks to certain members (Ex. an on-site community manager is assigned the responsibility of creating and executing an emergency exit plan).  
    • Provide employees training on how to assist community members especially the disabled, elderly, or visually impaired.
    • Network with a local fire department as a way to educate your community about safety protocols and evacuation plans.  

HOA disaster preparation 

Before we dig into an emergency plan, we must start with the preparation. In September of 2022, a study conducted by Wells Fargo evaluated the readiness of Americans during a natural disaster. Results showed that “72% of Americans said their families were personally affected by a natural disaster at some point in their lifetime.” When it came to having a plan, “71% of Americans said they do not have a detailed plan.” In fact, the survey also found that “40% said they’ve never thought about making a plan, 35% are more focused on immediate issues, 31% haven’t gotten around to it and 16% said they don’t know how to prepare.” 

Elevate your possibilities

When preparing your plan, evaluate the possibilities within your community:  

  • HOA capacity –  Are there enough people to execute a disaster plan?
  • HOA capabilities – Are there any HOA members that may not be capable of executing a disaster plan.
    • Consider individuals that are disabled, elder, visually, or speech impaired. 

Inspections

Inspections are a large part of helping prevent severe damage due to natural disasters.

  • Inspect roofs – check for cracks in tiles and potential hazards that could cause more severe damage down the road.   
  • Proof of inspections and properties – consider taking dated pictures during all inspections and checks. This will help in the event that insurance may need proof of the property or the property’s original state before the disaster occurred. 
  • Create an evacuation plan – The purpose of an evacuation plan is so that all members know where and how to evacuate the premises. 
    • Provide alternative ways to evacuate a building such as: utilizing ramps, braille, or verbal emergency instructions. This can also include color-specific signage for those that are colorblind. 
    • Children – Have a procedure for evacuating children to a safe space.
    • Provide a site map as a way for members, along with their pets to know where to go in the case of an emergency. This also includes a map of nearby grocery stores and shelters in the event that it’s safe enough to exit the premises.  
    • Practice drills on a monthly basis  – test your evacuation plan for any drawbacks or misguidance.
  • Disaster-prep necessities – Provide a list of all necessary items that are needed in the event that a disaster occurs and resources become limited or unavailable. 
    • Food and water, canned goods, MREs (meals ready to eat).
    • Social security cards, credit cards, passports, and proof of insurance.
    • Gasoline, propane, and a generator. 
    • Candles, batteries, flashlights.
    • Prescriptions and first aid kits. 
    • Blankets and towels. 

Alarm systems 

  • Avoid alarms that have continuous or reverberating tones.
  • Visual alarms – Check to make sure that signals are fully functional and are visually noticeable throughout a large space.
  • Tactile alarms – For those that may be heavy sleepers, encourage homeowners to use vibrating sound alarms that can be placed between a mattress or pillow. 

Insurance

  • Insurance – All HOA insurance policies must be up-to-date including replacement coverage. 
    • Replacement coverage helps with replacing HOA property at full cost (not the depreciated value). 
    • Provide instructions to community members on how to file claims, along with the contact information of the HOAs insurance provider. 
  • Debris and repair plan – An HOA must create a repair and debris plan so that the community can quickly recover and rehabilitate itself. 
    • Provide a list of vendors that are available to help rid and manage debris.
    • Due to the large demand for dumping spots that will be needed, create an alternative list of spots that can be used to move large trees or debris until proper venues are available.

Community designated assistance area

  • In the event of a disaster occurs, there may be members that are disabled and unable to use emergency stairs. In this situation, prepare a designated rescue assistance area that allows people to have direct access to an exit and a designated safe spot to wait until emergency assistance can become available. 

Severe weather emergency disaster plans 

Hurricanes

  • Prepare an evacuation plan that provides detailed routes and shelters. 
  • Prepare a response plan for when the hurricane has passed. This includes a plan to manage damages, debris, and electrical issues. 
  • Provide safety kits

Floods

  • Encourage residents to never drive, walk or swim through floodwaters. Risks can include: drowning or walking into contaminated water.
  • Provide waterproof containers for residents to put essential items and documents in. 
  • Move elevators to a higher level to prevent flooding. 
  • Move vehicles to a higher level above the ground if possible. 
  • For those that may own small boats, prepare an evacuation plan for anyone that may need a boat as a source of transportation or to transfer people to a safe area. 

Tornados

  • Provide community members with training on how to detect a tornado. 
  • Create a detailed evacuation plan in the event that a tornado occurs. 
  • Encourage residents to prepare a fast accessible safe space within their home or basement. 
  • Prepare a response plan — this includes debris and cleanup plan-of-action. 
  • Have wireless chargers, proper clothing, and water/food available.  

Strong thunderstorms

  • Trim trees to prevent severe breakage and injury.
  • Encourage residents to bring large outdoor furniture inside their homes — this includes bringing all cars into a garage or covered safe area. 
  • Be cautious of devices that can easily attract electricity. 

Snow

  • Encourage residents to stay indoors — do not drive in hazardous conditions.
  • Prepare a guide on using generators and electronic devices — this will help prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Create a community social channel as a way for residents to keep open communication with one another. 
  • In the event electricity may not be available, prepare extra clothing and blankets to keep warm.  
  • If available, encourage residents to utilize fireplaces, along with preparing extra wood in the event electricity is out for multiple days. 

Fires

  • In the event that a fire occurs in a common area or resident home, provide a detailed evacuation plan and safe spot for members to go to.
  • Prepare emergency kits in the event someone is hurt or injured.
  • Check smoke detectors in all common areas and offices. Encouraging all members to check smoke alarms and fire hydrants on a monthly basis.
  • Perform monthly fire detector inspections. 

How TownSq Business has helped communities with a disaster plan

Over the past few years, we have seen a change in how managers react to pressing situations. TownSq allows managers to prepare their communities through cutting edge features:

  • Global announcements: Send announcements to multiple communities at one time saving valuable time.
  • Documents: Upload important documents such as emergency numbers, evacuation plans, and lists of items that could be needed during a disaster.
  • Requests: Homeowners are able to send requests to managers, TownSq business allows for managers to access all the requests from every community from one screen.

Want to learn more? Request a demo today to see how TownSq Business can help you manage your communities with ease.

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