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.
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.