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Planning for Tornado Season: How to Keep Your HOA Safe

by Benjamin Kirby on May 1, 2018 8:01:00 AM

Planning for tornado season is the best action to take in keeping your HOA safe. With over 1,400 tornadoes in the U.S. during 2017, and with the year being the fifth highest tornado count on record, tornadoes are indeed a serious matter. Be proactive rather than reactive by taking the following steps to ensure your HOA is ready for a tornado:

Have an Emergency Plan in Place

Create an emergency plan for the HOA and distribute it to all members. Develop the plan with particular attention to procedures for evacuating children, the elderly, and anyone with disabilities or special needs. Obtain evacuation routes from local and state agencies. Highlight shelter information along the routes and any possible alternative routes or transportation. Be sure to designate a chain of command for emergency contacts. Let residents know who they should call first, second, or even third in the event of an evacuation.

Having an emergency plan in place is only good if all residents are aware of the plan. Conduct community meetings, promote via social media and association website, and even email. It is better to over communicate the plan than to have members unaware and unsure what to do. Update and redistribute frequently to ensure new members are aware of the plan. If your association is located in an area known for tornadoes, consider holding evacuation drills once a year.

Secure Windows and Outdoor Items

With wind speeds of 200-300 mph, securing windows with plywood and removing outdoor items in preparation for a tornado is an important safety step for your community. Bring in any outdoor items that have the potential to become airborne during a tornado, such as patio furniture, grills, and trash cans. Turn off pool pumps and if time, have someone inspect the roof for loose tiles. 

Pack Emergency Kits

Emergency kits packed in preparation for tornadoes are life-saving items for elderly or disabled residents. Have a community packing day or distribute lists with tips for what to include in a kit, items like:

  • Flashlights
  • Bottled water
  • Battery operated radio
  • Extra clothes
  • Waterproof matches
  • Medicines
  • Extra batteries
  • Non-perishable food

 In addition to these basic survival items, remind residents to carry proof of residency, have their identification, and credit cards in their possession when evacuating.

Review Insurance Policies

If your area is facing a possible tornado, review your HOA insurance policy. Double check to ensure the association's policy includes coverage for extreme damage caused by tornadoes. Another great idea is to take time-stamped photos of common areas and the building before the tornado. This provides documentation of conditions prior to the severe weather and any damage it causes.

Take Warnings Seriously

The word tornado comes from the Spanish "tornar," meaning to turn and "tronada," which means thunderstorm. Tornadoes are known for their funnel shape and violently rotating winds. If a tornado warning surfaces on local media channels, it is best to take the warning seriously, even if your area has never experienced one before.

Reach Out to Reliable Sources

Evacuating for a tornado is scary. Invite local community responders to speak to your association at an annual meeting. Encourage them to communicate how to remain calm during an evacuation and what to expect. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for tips and information. The site includes templates for creating emergency plans and other useful items.

Be Ready

The scope of planning for tornado season will depend upon the size of the association. Condominiums, for example, will have different planning processes than neighborhoods with individual homes. The key strategy is to have a plan in place, communicate that plan, and to remember that property is replaceable and people are not. Take care of your members first, secure your buildings the best you can, and double check your insurance.

Mother Nature is unpredictable and it is worth noting that every state in the U.S. has experienced a tornado at some point in time. Whether it's a tornado, hurricane, or some other natural disaster, be prepared with plans and strategies that will keep your HOA safe.

An experienced homeowners association management provider can help you put a plan in place. Contact RealManage today!

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