When thinking of emergencies, one of the more common natural disasters that affects the multifamily industry is hurricanes. We have seen their power and devastating effects both during and after the storm through storms like Andrew, Ivan and Katrina. This week in our blog we will give you some sage advice on how to prepare for and deal with multifamily hurricane season in your community.
Resident Preparation is Key
Plan, prepare, perform. The key to any successful emergency plan is proper preparation. (Is that enough “P”’s for you?) Here are a few steps that should be taken before there is any hurricane in sight:
- Create an emergency kit. This kit should include things like First Aid supplies, batteries, flashlights, blankets, bottled water, spare keys, emergency documents and more! For an extensive list of what to include in your multifamily community’s emergency kit check out #6 from our previous blog post on Emergency Prep.
- Be prepared BEFORE hurricane season hits. Even the first storm of the season can be serious and cause damage to your property. Be sure that you are taking all of the storm warning and evacuation notices seriously.
- Make a written / published hurricane and evacuation plan and SHARE this with all of your residents. This written plan should include things like:
- Secure your outdoor patio furniture and décor / anything that could become a projectile in high winds.
- Clean out your refrigerator before you evacuate. After days or even weeks without power all of the foods in refrigerators and freezers spoil and lead to bigger issues for residents and maintenance.
- Some communities ask residents who are staying put to fill their bathtubs with water before the storm hits as clean water quickly becomes a valued commodity during post storm days.
- Ask residents to have their own emergency supplies mentioned in the emergency kit above.
- If your community allows pets, be sure that your residents are preparing not only for themselves, but for their pets also. You can find a great list of emergency prep for pet owners here: People with Pets: Emergency Prep
- Be sure to have all of your community’s emergency contacts for residents, vendors, management etc. in an easily accessible location. Use these contacts to quickly accomplish restoration efforts and to inform your residents.
Inform your Residents
Any plan is only as good as its word and how far that word is spread. More than half of the effectiveness of emergency plans is found in their ability to guide people. Spread the word of impending storms by:
- Printed / laminated flyers delivered to every resident.
- Postings on your website.
- Email Newsletters.
- Social Media Postings.
- Text / Phone Tree Messaging.
- In Person Visits / Meetings.
Make every available effort to ensure that your residents are informed. If you leave messages for your residents, ask that they return the phone call to confirm that they have received the pertinent information.
Instead of making hurricane preparation a scary thing, spin it in a positive light. Invite locale officials such as police, EMT and fire to give informational talks and tips to your community. Host the night as a community event and allow residents to ask questions. This is not only a service to your community but it will help alleviate stress and anxiety amongst your residents.
Communication is Paramount
During times of emergency the number one thing that people NEED is communication. From beginning to end, communicating with your residents should be high priority. In high stress times, many people just want to hear a friendly voice and have reassurance that everything will be ok. Beyond that you, as a property management team, have the obligation to field all points of contact to keep your residents informed throughout the storm and recovery process. Even if phone lines are down, you can post updates via email newsletters, community website, and social media.
Here are some great examples of community pages announcing storm prep:
Maintenance & Management Preparation is Important Too
Ensure that all of your essential staff know their roles and responsibilities during a hurricane emergency. It is true that many of your staff will be dealing with high stress situations not just in your community but at their own homes also. If you have staff that reside inside the community, make them your “point” people during the storm. Someone will likely need to remain on site as long as is SAFE to do so.
*If mandatory evacuations are in place, refer to your management’s rules and requirements for handling the community in this situation. *
Before the Storm
Prior to the storm’s arrival, ask your crew to prepare the property by:
- Trimming any low lying or loose limbs and shrubbery.
- Lower the pool water levels.
- Check and clear all drains, downspouts and gutter systems.
- Check all roofing and exterior areas for possible weak areas.
- Stow and secure all outdoor décor, patio furniture, pool area accessories, etc.
- Consider ordering additional dumpsters and generators for your community.
- If supplies are low (and you can guarantee they will be) focus your “boarding up” efforts to the office and common areas as you will need these first and foremost during the recovery efforts.
- Check your emergency kits for the community and ensure that all contents are fresh and not out of date. Nothing would be worse than needing batteries for a flash light only to find out they are corroded or no longer good!
- Property managers should also contact your insurance providers to ensure that all proper paperwork is in place and that the community is protected.
During the Storm
- STAY SAFE! You can continue property and resident checks as long as it is safe for you to do so. Do NOT endanger your own life! Your community, family and friends need you!
- If you choose to ride it out, prepare for loss of utilities.
- Keep in contact with your managers, residents and team.
- Plan for the worst and hope for the best!
After the Storm
- In the hours immediately following the storm the “to do” list will seem overwhelming. Start at the top and work your way down. The number one priority will always be to ensure LIFE and SAFETY of residents. If resident chose to stay and ride out the storm, be sure that you have a listing of these units, names and numbers and immediately check to make sure they are ok and without injuries. Tend to their needs first.
- Re-establish communications as quickly as possible and set up a HOME BASE of operations in your community.
- Begin communicating your progress with your residents ASAP. Keeping the lines open, keeps the tensions down.
- Perform necessary property checks. Check for any leaks, damage, or flooding.
- Make any reports needed to local authorities.
- If your community sustained damage be sure to accurately document and report to all necessary agencies such as insurance, management, vendors, contractors, etc.
- First in = first served. The demand for trades like roofers and tree trimming post storm will be high. Get your calls and notifications in to your contractors ASAP.
- If there is flooding, do all you can to eliminate the water and dry out the area ASAP as this will help to eliminate the chance of mold.
- Keep in mind that tensions will be high. Be patient with authorities, residents and vendors on all accounts.
- Be kind and reassure everyone involved that everything will eventually be OKAY again!
Proper planning and communication will be key to ensuring a safe community during a hurricane. Leonardo247 can help! Want to know how? Schedule a FREE Demo today!