Before Disaster Strikes

THERE ARE MANY WAYS WE CAN PROTECT OUR HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION (HOA) COMMUNITIES and individual homes prior to a disaster occurring. While there are different types of disasters depending on where you live, California is most prone to earthquakes, floods and fires. It is important for communities to have a “before, during and after” emergency plan.

Savvy managers and homeowners look to long-term safety plans for their communities and residents well before a disaster strikes. Communities and residents should know what steps to take when preparing for a disaster. Earthquakes usually come with no warning. Floods and fires are a little more predictable, giving residents and managers more of a warning before disaster strikes.

There are many agencies that can help along the way when preparing a disaster plan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is one of the largest and well known of these agencies. FEMA can assist with putting a disaster plan in place and ultimately help to protect homes and communities. The organization works with communities across the nation to help homeowners not only create new plans and put them into practice, but also respond to disasters once they have struck in a community. They also work to support citizens and first responders – helping to protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate damages.

Before Disaster Strikes How else can FEMA help? FEMA offers programs like the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). This program promotes disaster preparedness education and informs community members about disasters that may impact the area. This may include earthquake, fire and flood education, among others. The CERT program trains participants in the event of a basic disaster, giving them the knowledge to assist with fire safety management and light search and rescue organization, among others. With these skills a layperson would be able to assist neighbors and others in the event of a disaster.

What should a homeowner consider when assembling their disaster plan? The following are three of the most important things to consider when planning for an emergency:

Communication Strategies

How will your family communicate when disaster strikes? A family plan should consist of where to meet and how to reach family members who are unable to make it to the designated meeting spot. Before an emergency situation, families should choose a friend or out-of-state family member to reach in the event of an emergency and create contact cards for each family member. The FEMA website has many other helpful ideas to ensure your plan of communication is well laid out and effective.

Easy-to-Access Disaster Kit

One of the most important things you will need for your disaster plan is a disaster kit. Your kit should be in one container so it is both portable and easy to grab. The kit should contain an array of basic items such as water, non-perishable food items, medication, flashlights, radios, blankets, cash, matches, candles, and any other items needed in an emergency. Keep your list to a reasonable amount. Remember: You don’t have enough space to pack the whole house! A kit should contain provisions to last at least 72 hours. Since you may not be at home when a disaster occurs, it would be helpful to have a few different kits prepared. Possible locations for these kits include your work office, home or vehicle.

Knowledge of Local Shelters

You should also consider various other items when setting your plan. Do your family members require special attention? Do you have pets? If you have pets, make a kit for the pet – they need to survive too. Some shelters do not take animals; therefore you should plan ahead and locate a shelter that is pet friendly.

Know your options before disaster strikes.

Association managers should have a similar plan for their community homeowners. How will buildings be evacuated? A plan should be set in place beforehand to ensure that homeowners and tenants are educated or informed about evacuation routes and procedures. What if an earthquake strikes? These same homeowners should know where to remain in a building if a disastrous event such as an earthquake occurs. Local fire and police departments, as well as the American Red Cross all offer resources that aid in putting together a personal emergency preparedness program. Property managers should have listings of insurance agents and other local agencies in an easy-to-access location.

All residents should be given pertinent emergency preparedness information upon move-in. Association managers will also want to update residents in writing, on an as-needed basis, when information changes. It may also be worth re-distributing this information annually to ensure it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle as time goes on.

While we never know when a disaster will strike, being prepared is a key component to making things less stressful in the event of a disaster. For more information visit www.fema.gov