Emergency Training for your HOA Staff Calm in a Crisis

Be Prepared" is not just a timeworn motto—it's a piece of advice that can save lives, property, and countless dollars. While the average person doesn't really think that they'll be a victim of a fire, flood, earthquake, or even a terrorist attack, one look at the world's headlines over this past year proves that emergencies do happen.

In light of that simple fact, it's vital for HOA boards and managers to think seriously about how well prepared their association community is for an array of possible worst-case scenarios. New Jersey condo owners probably don't need to worry that much about massive earthquakes or direct terrorist attacks, but there are plenty of crises—like floods, fires, and severe storms—that can happen anytime, and that can cause untold damage to people and property. If your association's staff members, security guards, superintendents, and maintenance personnel are prepared to deal with emergencies and have the proper training and tools, that damage can be minimized.

Taking the Initiative

According to New Jersey law, there is nothing on the books mandating that HOA personnel undergo any kind of emergency preparedness training.

In any emergency, whether it's a building fire or a much larger problem, such as a natural or man-made disaster, local government resources are mobilized immediately to help contain the situation, followed by state and possibly federal assistance if the situation warrants. In the case of condos and homeowner associations, however, most likely it's the in-house staff, maintenance crew or security guards who will serve as the first responders in case of an emergency. Having a well-trained staff on-hand to manage the situation before the professionals arrive can make all the difference.

According to Raymond Roe, emergency management director of the state Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in Mahwah, "There are a number of factors [in how soon help will arrive], like the number of victims, possible communication failures, and roadblocks. Any one of those can prevent people from accessing the emergency services they've come to expect at a moment's notice after they dial 911."


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  • Robert You have really valid ccnreons, and they're issues we all have to deal with as we reach any level of preparation. My husband and I have a tiny farm, and our hope is that it would partially sustain us in a crisis but what if someone steals our goats and chickens? In an instant we could lose our means of having fresh eggs and milk. It's tough. We plan to bring the animals into our (large) garage if we need to, but even that may not be enough. This is something we've really thought about. It's definitely possible that in a true crisis someone could want your food storage and be willing to kill you for it. This may be a good topic for a future blog post, but here are a few ideas that may help:1. Hide your food storage. If people don't know you have it, you'll be much safer.2. Plan to have a little (or a lot) extra, for people you would actually want to share with.3. If you live somewhere where you can legally own firearms, seriously consider getting a gun. (My hope is that we will never have to use our guns but, at a minimum, they will make us less of an easy target. If it came down to protecting your own life or someone in your family, you have to remember that in a crisis law enforcement will certainly be overwhelmed.) A taser is another option.4. Take a self-defense class. A practical one may be more helpful than a traditional one.5. Have a plan. I think a lot of times crises are made worse because people don't have a plan in place. Do you have another relative or close friend that your family could evacuate to be with (safety in numbers)? What portions of your house would be the safest in a crisis? If the emergency is really local, often the safest choice is to just get out of the area.6. Even if your neighbors are not interested, I strongly recommend developing some sort of community with people who are interested in preparing. My church group has emergency plans in place. If you are religious, that may be a group of people that is receptive to the idea of preparing. It could be any group of people that you associate with regularly, though coworkers come to mind. Does your community have a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) program? Check with your fire department. I think they're typically the ones who develop and run CERT programs. Just some ideas to think about. The best idea for you may be to just hide your food well; this is pretty easily accomplished (under beds, behind other objects in cupboards, etc). It will really depend on what you think will work for you. In any case, it would probably be a good idea to work with the cop on the corner to set up a very basic neighborhood emergency plan. Of course, still try to develop friendships with the other neighbors even if they're not interested in emergency prep. They may have skills or tools or something that they could contribute in a crisis. Hope that helps.