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."