Emergency Preparedness 101 On the Front Lines of Dealing with Disasters

 As the devastation of Superstorm Sandy continues to be tallied, (up to nearly  $50 billion in the Garden State alone) and New Jersey residents— those who bore the brunt of the disaster, as well as those less directly  affected— take stock of the catastrophe, one thing is certain: as part of the ongoing  recovery effort, it's crucial for every condo, co-op and HOA to have a solid  emergency preparation plan in place in the not-unlikely event of more severe  weather occurrences.  

 While the basics of preventing—and surviving—relatively common events like fires or heavy snowstorms 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—and as Sandy showed us this past October, there's ample evidence that  devastating weather events are no longer once-in-a-century threats. 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

 The Garden State routinely experiences severe winter weather events to  torrential flooding in the fall and in the spring. So the experts say it’s imperative to have a plan. Experts believe that the main areas to focus on are  response, recovery and restoration and that the management company and board of  directors should work together to prepare a disaster management plan for their  community.  

 A condo association's management could be held liable if there's no plan in  place and tragedy results during an emergency. In short, say the pros,  preparedness is not an option; it's part of a board/management team’s fiduciary responsibility. In a large condo or co-op, the association’s responsibility includes all the common areas and amenities, plus the  physical-plant equipment such as HVAC systems, emergency generators, elevators,  fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, and other life-safety systems that  require additional protection and maintenance.  

 Resources Abound

 While crises such as power outages or damage from high winds or heavy snow and  ice are practically routine for New Jersey HOAs, staff and residents alike  should be ready for any eventuality—and the elements of readiness are the same for any emergency. Boards and  managers can create and implement customized emergency plans for their  buildings, but they must know where to look to find the right information and  with whom to work to make the plan.  

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