Big or small, disasters often strike out of the blue. They catch us unaware, flatfooted and feeling helpless at their impact. This is especially true when these events hit us at home or within our shared communities. When fire, flood, hurricanes or even death occur, residents and neighbors can be left feeling frightened and adrift and look to the board and property management for guidance and help. That is why it is so important for communities and associations to have action plans in place and be prepared as best they can be for the unexpected.
It Happens to Everyone
For residential communities, most 'crisis events' fall into two major categories, says Chuck Schneider, CMCA, AMS, president of Lincoln Hancock Restoration LLC and part of the Associa management company. These two categories are weather-related phenomena, and those typically caused by humans. “Weather phenomena are generally larger in scale; things like hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, wild fires and hail or wind storms. Disasters caused by humans are smaller in size and scope and are most commonly water issues, such as a broken water line, or individual unit or building fires.”
Other major disasters can be even smaller in scale but just as devastating. These involve the aftermaths of violent domestic incidents, and the accidental or unattended deaths of individuals without family or friends who may not be found for days afterward. While these situations may only involve one unit, their impact can be felt by neighboring units or throughout the whole building.
What To Do When Things Get Bad
When disaster strikes, the men and women in charge must prioritize and focus on what matters most: the well-being of their residents. “The safety of the individuals in the building, at the time of the emergency, is always the first and most important priority,” says Schneider. “The first step may entail contacting emergency personnel, such as the police or fire department, if injury or death is a concern. In that case, the community manager should immediately call 9-1-1. After the building is safe and secure, then it is appropriate to focus on the preservation of the property.”
If the worst should occur, says Schneider, “Emergency responders have the authority and training to guide you through the initial response. The police, medical or fire responders will know if city or state agencies need to be contacted, and they will generally contact the appropriate agencies directly.”