HOA Emergency Preparedness: HOA Emergency Plan & Checklist
Natural disasters and emergency events like tornadoes, earthquakes, or infrastructure failures are often unexpected. But that doesn't mean your HOA community shouldn't have a plan for if and when they happen. Everyone, from residents to board members, should be on the same page regarding emergency protocols and procedures. While most communities don't have an emergency plan for their residents, it's never too late to start preparing one now. Here’s what to do.
First Things First, Set up a Communication Plan
When an emergency arises, chaos usually breaks out, especially when you don’t have an emergency plan, or yours isn’t communicated clearly with residents. To ease the situation, set up a communication plan, in addition to your emergency plan. Assign one person to relay crucial information, including:
- Scope of event
- Immediate actions to take
- Emergency contacts
- Other important community information
Any information communicated to residents should be done through one channel or platform. This could be via HOA software, social media, email, phone, or text messages. Regardless of the platform, double-check that every resident is aware of how details will be communicated and how to get in-touch with key parties.
Things to Include in Your HOA Emergency Plan
Having all emergency-related information in one place will ultimately benefit the residents and community. We recommend creating a digital or physical HOA emergency plan that anyone can quickly access, even when the power goes out. Here are five things to include in your HOA emergency plan:
List out contacts of people who can quickly assist and answer residents' questions. We suggest adding the following:
- Local authorities
- Community emergency response teams (CERTs)
- Medical facilities
- Key HOA personnel (board members, property manager, maintenance staff)
- Insurance agents
- Law firm representative(s)
- Emergency contact info for each homeowner
The best way to arrange all contacts is by categories and alphabetically. If cell phone reception is unavailable during a disaster, include any alternative methods of communication, like landlines or handheld radios.
When disaster strikes, residents may not know where to go. Make a clear site map of the neighborhood and highlight a designated meeting place. You can work with local authorities to determine the safest meeting place. Also, specify where to find shut-off locations for water, gas, and electricity.
Specific evacuation directions should be a component of your HOA emergency plan. Remember to include conditions requiring an evacuation, evacuation procedures, how people will be accounted for, shelters (pet-friendly ones, too), and generator-powered gas stations and stores.
Disasters often happen unexpectedly and at inconvenient times, catching you off guard. There's little time to gather essential items when they occur. That's why keeping a copy of your insurance policies in your HOA emergency plan is important. Also include agent contact information and instructions on how to file insurance claims so you can start the process quickly.
Response and Recovery Plan
After a disaster occurs, you should assess the damage as soon as it's safe to do so. You should also have a plan of how to rebuild and recover.
You should have arrangements for displaced residents and contact information for architects, engineers, and contractors. Just in case a disaster causes consequential damage, include the contacts of at least three debris management vendors to help clear scattered material. As always, communicate regularly with residents throughout this response and recovery process.
How to Prepare for an Emergency
Here are some things you can do to prepare for potential emergencies:
Check safety equipment.
Managers and boards should regularly check safety equipment like fire extinguishers, smoke alarms or detectors, generators, and indoor sprinkler systems to prevent problems.
Set up a budget.
Your board or committee should establish a dedicated emergency and disaster relief plan budget. This involves thoroughly examining your current spending and financial plans and making any needed changes to accommodate emergency readiness and response efforts.
Further, conducting an annual insurance coverage assessment and aligning your objectives and budget accordingly with these coverage details is advisable.
Hold emergency drills.
Work with your community members to create and practice readiness exercises for fires, floods, chemical spills, contagious diseases, and severe weather. These drills are especially critical in places with elevators, multi-story homes with staircases, or communities close to major highways used for evacuations.
Continually review and update your plan.
Avoid the "set it and forget it" mentality. It's essential for HOA members to stay ahead by routinely reviewing and updating the emergency plan and checklist. Treat your emergency action plan as an ever-changing document that requires annual review and continual improvement.
Seek input from residents and experts, utilizing their feedback to enhance and update your response strategies, team performance, residents who require special assistance, and contractor evaluations. This ongoing effort helps your community stay ready for unexpected situations.
Prepare For the Unexpected with TownSq
The safety and welfare of your community’s residents is a top priority, especially during emergencies. To simplify this task and improve communication during emergencies, consider using a community app like TownSq. This helpful tool facilitates fast and smooth communication when required, making it easier for your community to respond effectively.