Your Condo Association Should Be Ready Before Disaster Strikes

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Members of the leadership team for a self managed HOA or condo association have important duties and responsibilities even when times are easy.

Tax time is a potential bear that prowls around every year at condo associations. Dealing with some vendors can require a preternatural calm just to get through a phone call. Little conflicts can feel giant when you’re the one caught in the middle.

Luckily, serving your community is also richly rewarding. You’re a member of a team dedicated to creating the most comfortable and inviting living environment possible. Maybe it’s going too far to call it holy work, but home should be a refuge, and it takes work to make it so.

However, times aren’t always easy:

  • Winds can blow too hard.
  • Waters can breach their banks.
  • Fires can consume everything they touch.
  • Earthquakes can shake the ground apart.

As the song goes, “Into Each Life, Some Rain Must Fall,” but there’s no rule that says anyone has to experience a full-on disaster. Some will live their lives in blissful ignorance beyond the news footage they see on their TVs and phones.

But when luck runs out, disasters have a way of changing what’s important. That’s true when they’re happening, in the immediate aftermath, and weeks and months later.  In an instant, your home and refuge, along with your neighbors’, can be gone.

HOA board members have no legal authority to expand their powers during a disaster, but courts and homeowners have been willing to grant HOAs and condo associations more discretion during legitimate emergencies.

 “Transparency” is the watchword for HOAs and condo associations, but that could be hard to achieve during the aftermath of a storm or wildfire when so much is happening at once. A history of being above board during good times will help your board earn leeway from your neighbors if there ever comes a time when normalcy jumps the rails.

In order to deal with situations effectively, leaders need to be aware of the potential for catastrophic events and put disaster plans in place.

In fact, some states across the country have rules that require homeowners associations to prepare for disasters. Beyond making good sense, creating a plan could be a legal obligation in your area.

When someone agrees to serve on their HOA’s board, they agree to take steps to protect the community’s:

  • health
  • safety
  • welfare

If you’re new to the board, it’s a good time to inspect your HOA’s emergency plan. There’s a chance it’s a solid and robust roadmap to deal with potential crisis situations, but it might need to be updated and amended to be ready when needed.

If your HOA has no emergency plan, then it’s time for you and your fellow volunteers to do some research and hammer out a plan that—in the best-case scenario—will collect dust because it’ll never be needed.

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Clear communication

In an emergency situation, communication is extremely important. The right self managed condo association software can serve as a way to get information out to those who need it. The best software includes tools for mass communication, such as texting or phone calls that alters residents in emergency situations. 

But it’s not a one-way deal. During a crisis, residents can become reporters who share what they know. A  message board provided by your self managed condo association software can include:

  • alerts about downed power lines
  • notices about missing pets
  • pleas for assistance from elderly or injured neighbors
  • plans to deliver food or water to those in need 

Take some time to consider how your board will get the word out to residents. In the absence of software, you could set up an old-fashioned phone tree with callers assigned to check on people in their group.

A condo or neighborhood-wide phone and text list could be difficult to keep current from year to year, but it could prove vital when disaster strikes.

Lines of authority 

Your board should have clear lines of authority. Any committee formed to develop emergency plans should include members of the board, who are the only ones who are able to take action. Committees without board members can do wonderful work, but they exist in an advisory role. 

The charter for a disaster committee could give powers to the board president to expedite recovery efforts. For instance, the board could give the president the authority to file all insurance claims.

Disaster plans are all about contingencies. It’s not a happy thought, but the charter should include a clear line of succession in case the designated person is injured.

There is no way to plan for every possible negative event. Questions you didn’t think to ask will rise in the aftermath of a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire. There will be surprises.

But planning is about removing as much guesswork as possible before bad things happen. Conduct difficult conversations during regular times when nothing hangs in the balance. Invite your neighbors to meetings or solicit their ideas with help from self managed condo association software.

You also could consider looking beyond your condo association to see what other associations have done to prepare for the worst. Perhaps they’ve considered different ideas, and a productive give-and-take could someday benefit everyone.

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A plan or plans?

The problem with unexpected situations is they’re unexpected. Flooding creates one set of issues while a wildfire creates another. If you don’t live in a coastal area, hurricanes might not be a concern, but a tornado’s winds could be just as destructive.

Your geography and historical weather patterns will serve as a guide going forward, but you’ll probably need to make multiple plans for multiple scenarios. These can be posted and mailed, or they can be shared through self managed condo association software.

You also want to work with your insurance agent. Make sure the condo’s communal properties have adequate coverage for what troubles may come your way.  You don’t want to be on the condo association’s board if residents find out that destruction caused by certain types of disasters isn’t covered.

If you’re looking for certainty in an uncertain situation, expect the clean-up to cost money. That’s one reason why it’s important to have a reserve fund. Reserve funds may not be mandatory by your state’s regulations, but they’re often included in your condo association’s bylaws.

Reserve funds can help cover the cost of damage to condo association property:

  • roofs
  • pools
  • outbuildings
  • fitness centers

If a natural or manmade disaster could destroy it, smart board members should have a plan in place to fix or replace it.

Connecting with self managed condo association software 

During easy or difficult times, it’s important to stay in contact with your fellow residents. PayHOA’s self managed condo association software allows you to message members, share documents, and create public forums.

Quality communication is crucial when dangerous situations threaten and after they hit. But PayHOA’s software also can help you prepare when there’s nothing looming on the horizon.

Your fellow condo members aren’t just your neighbors. They’re people with varied lives filled with rich experiences. They might not want to be board members, but there’s a chance someone in your community has specialized information.

They could be current or retired insurance agents. Or they could have experience as disaster coordinators on the local, state, or federal level.

PayHOA’s self managed condo association software provides an easy way to tap into their knowledge and apply it to the benefit of the overall community. 

If luck’s on your side, you’ll be able to put your completed disaster plan aside and knock the dust off of it once a year during a review. But the plan needs to be ready just in case.

PayHOA offers an HOA management software solution for HOAs of any size or managerial priorities. To find out if PayHOA fits all your HOA management needs, try our software free for 30 days.

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