Pre-Planning for an HOA Disaster Response: Roles and Responsibilities
Disaster planning is critical for anyone--but it's doubly significant for HOAs and others in positions of authority. If a natural disaster strikes in your area, are you prepared to respond? Knowing the roles and responsibilities your HOA has in times of disaster will help everyone respond more efficiently, restoring order to your neighborhood sooner.
The Most Common Disasters
When it comes to disasters, there are several key things you're planning for. While the full scope of disasters you need to anticipate will depend on your area, there are several you can count on needing to cover: fire, flood, earthquakes, tornadoes, and extreme storms that cause damage to the surrounding area. You'll also need to think about human-made disasters: chemical spills, explosions, and terrorism, among others. If your HOA covers multifamily units, consider the possibility of building collapse. Make sure that you consider any other disasters that are common to your geographic area.
Pre-Planning Your Role
As you're considering the role that the HOA should take in responding to a disaster, there are several key questions you should ask. These include:
- How do local first responders act in the event of an emergency? Are they typically very involved with putting the community back together, or does it take them longer to respond, with less involvement?
- What does the community expect of the HOA in the event of an emergency? Are you supposed to be very hands-on, or will the community expect to take care of itself? Note that the higher the dues paid by members of the community, the more
involvementthey will expect by the HOA.
- How often is disaster likely to strike in your community? For example, do you live near a high-crime area or an area where natural disasters are an annual event? Does your area frequently experience strong storms?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you shape a more effective HOA disaster plan.
Typical HOA Responsibilities
When it comes to planning your responsibilities, there are several things you can assume will fall to you in the event of an emergency. These include:
- Helping to notify residents in the case of a mandatory evacuation
- Helping to evacuate residents who are elderly, handicapped, or who might otherwise struggle to evacuate on their own
- Assisting with returning residents to their properties as soon as possible
- Coordinating information with emergency response personnel to keep everyone safe and informed
- Providing aid to residents where possible throughout and following the emergency situation
Within your HOA, there are likely several leaders who are willing or able to take
members of the HOA canassist with evacuations, phone calls, and other tasks? Keep in mind that members with young children or with disabled dependents may not be suitable for these tasks, as they will be otherwise occupied.
- What member will be responsible for coordination efforts following the disaster?
- Are there members of the HOA who are able to pitch in and help with things like removing fallen trees or limbs or other basic tasks for homeowners in your area, especially if there is a need to evacuate quickly?
- How large is your homeowner's association? How many properties does it cover? Sharing responsibility is more critical for associations that cover a large number of units than those that cover only a few.
Being prepared for a disaster ahead of time will prevent you from needing to scramble when an emergency does occur. By asking yourself several key questions ahead of time, you can start the planning process and help your HOA prepare for the possibility of an emergency. These steps will allow you to pre-plan. In our next article, we'll discuss how to create your actual HOA emergency plan and what it should include.