July 2, 2018
How to prepare for storm season: Lessons learned from Hurricane Irma
Hurricane Irma was projected to hit Florida last September as a Category 5 storm, and as the threat of the storm became more imminent, we helped our 118 CDDs and 165 HOAs in Florida take action to secure their communities.
While most of our communities were spared from serious damage, one of our communities in Southwest Florida suffered significant landscape damage and downed trees. Based on lessons learned from Hurricane Irma, here are some tips to ensure that your community is prepared and protected:
- Have a plan in place before there is a threat of a storm. It’s important for any master-planned community to have a plan for severe weather. Rizzetta’s hurricane plans vary by community, but they all have emergency phone numbers and a checklist of what to do for each part of the community upon notice of a tropical storm warning or hurricane warning. Depending on the community amenities, the plan may also include securing the clubhouse, fitness center, pool area, or other facilities.
While board members or property management companies are not authorized to make evacuation decisions, it is their responsibility to decide when to close the clubhouse and other amenities if weather becomes unsafe for staff and residents.
- Secure vendors for pre- and post-hurricane needs. By the time a storm is on its way, many landscape and maintenance vendors are already booked. Make an agreement with vendors before hurricane season for them to assist with any preparation needs, such as trimming trees, or storm cleanup, such as clearing fallen trees.
- Prepare for extended power outages. Develop a list of important people to call, which can be useful during widespread power outages. During Hurricane Irma, Rizzetta’s servers went down and we could not communicate by email. So we improvised, typing any lengthy communications into a Word document, photographing the document with a cell phone, then texting it to all community personnel on the call list.
- Keep in constant communication with residents. As your most important audience, develop a program to keep residents informed, especially during severe weather and facility closures. This could be done through email updates or posting on your website. Make sure this communications plan is also included in your overall hurricane plan, so you can update residents before and after any storms.
By planning ahead, communities can weather a storm as smoothly as possible. After all, it’s better to be more prepared than not be prepared enough.