While the basics of preventing—and surviving—relatively common disasters like fires or severe weather events should be well known to anybody living in a community association or planned development, the reality is that each building community is equipped with different equipment, constructed with different materials, and served by unique evacuation routes for emergencies. There's no one-size-fits-all plan that works for every building or association—so it’s important for board members and management to devise customized emergency plans for their particular community. That way if the unthinkable happens, everyone can escape quickly and safely.
Have a Plan
Jim Stoller, the president of The Building Group, a management company in Chicago, believes that preparation is key. “I'm a former Boy Scout, and our motto was 'be prepared,'” he says. “An association must have a plan in place. It doesn’t matter what the emergency is—blizzard, fire, electrical outage, blackout, plumbing, you have to have a plan in place for everything.”
“The three main areas to focus on are the 3 R’s: response, recovery and restoration,” says Gina Rossi, the manager of marketing and sales for nationwide HOA management firm Associa, which has offices in Chicago, Schaumburg and Plainfield.
“The management company and the board of directors should work together to prepare a flexible disaster management plan for their community. The best prevention is to know your environment, the risks of the area, and then prepare for the worst. Associations that are prepared can reduce the inconvenience, losses and fears that encompass disasters.”
“Employees should be trained to be responsive in emergency situations,” says Rossi. “Frequent drills for fire, tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, wild fires and bomb threats will help instill the process.”