While calamities like fires, floods, and tornadoes can happen almost anywhere and impact anybody, thankfully most condo and HOA residents will never have to deal with such a major emergency. That doesn't mean that boards, managers, staff members, and unit owners shouldn't be ready, however. In fact, the unpredictability and suddenness of emergency situations make it all the more crucial that HOAs formulate clear, concise emergency plans and see to it that everyone knows them.
“We see everything here in the state of New Jersey from severe winter events all the way up to heat events,” says Nicholas J. Morici, public information officer for the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in West Trenton. “Power outages of course, in a large building where you have multiple units there, multiple residents living there, power outages are quite common. But anything can happen.”
And whatever the emergency is—fire, electrical, blackout, or even terrorism—it's vital to have a plan for coping with it and keeping residents and staff safe. Without a plan, people may panic, and that nearly always turns a bad situation worse.
Tailored Emergency Plans
Although an emergency can strike any building at any time, the reality is that an emergency plan is a not a one-size fits all solution. The professionals agree that while certain emergency protocols—such as making sure fire doors remain closed, for example—are standard regardless of the size or type of building, individual communities may have particular needs or challenges that should be addressed in a plan custom-tailored to that community.
According to Christine Messina, marketing director for allRisk Property Damage Experts in Somerdale, “The first thing is to gain an understanding of the definition of an emergency. Yes, it can be as extreme as the devastations that are felt in a Katrina or 9/11 situation that really affect day-to-day life and operations, but could be a smaller event that's much more common in community associations, like water damage.”