Eye of the Storm

How to Keep your Condo/Co-op Safe Amidst Disaster

In September, Hurricane Florence ravaged the Carolinas, causing extensive damage to the area’s people and properties. A Category 1 storm at landfall, Florence created a real estate nightmare. And while we here at Mann Report Management certainly can’t stop a hurricane, we do know a thing or two about disaster preparedness and precautions. So, without further ado, here are some natural disaster need-to-knows for the New York City condo/co-op scene.

Better Insured Than Sorry

Obviously, insurance is your best bet in any less-than-savory situation. In condominiums, insurance policies are relatively easy to follow: unit owners are responsible for any damage to their individual unit, whereas the larger building’s insurance will cover damages for public areas such as basements, rooftops, etc.

Co-ops, on the other hand, are a bit trickier. The building’s insurance is responsible for the original structure, while any changes or remodels made fall under the unit-owners’ insurance. This leads to some almost comical breakdowns of responsibility: a unit owner is responsible for the paint on the walls, but the building must cover damages to the wall plaster.

That being said, if you expect incoming disaster à la Hurricane Florence, it’s best to check your policy and do everything you can to prevent as much damage as possible. Such a proactive approach will prove better for the long-term health of both the building and its residents.

Stop, Drop, and Roll

Every condo/co-op should have a disaster management plan in place. This can include everything from the basics—such as evacuation points—to some more nitty gritty details dependent upon the individual building in question. It’s important for managers to do their own due diligence and educate themselves on the many natural disasters Mother Nature has up her sleeve: from snowstorms to power-outage-inducing rainfall.

To keep management experts abreast on all necessary safety precautions in their building, The Red Cross offers educational courses on disaster protocol. They can even visit buildings and facilitate with the creation of a proactive and efficient disaster management plan.

The Red Cross’ typical recommendations include having emergency kits with food, water, and medicine, as well as extra fuel needed for a generator. There should also be one designated “shelter space” in a building where residents can gather and take shelter if need be. This space must also be adequately stocked with the aforementioned supplies.

Assemble a team on hand comprised of individuals—it can even be other property managers in the area—who are ready and able to help one another and their buildings in case of disaster. Having a few members of this group who are trained in CPR and first aid isn’t a bad idea, either.

“Preserving the lives of residents and ensuring that safety systems are functional is paramount in any emergency,” David Abel, a property manager in Boston told New England Condominium. “Clear communication and guidance to residents should be the main concern.”

To maintain the safety of residents, it’s wise to also keep emergency hotlines on hand for all residents centrally located—this can include the obvious 911 as well as the Red Cross, or even nearby hotels that can house residents in case of evacuation.

“A key component in disaster preparation is to ensure that all staff has instant access to data, i.e. owners’ and vendors’ contact information, and to be able to quickly and efficiently communicate this to owners and residents,” Abel added.

The Calm After the Storm

So, at the end of the day, while maintaining the structural integrity of a condo/co-op is important from a managerial perspective, the lives of a building’s residents must always be top priority. To ensure that these residents remain safe and sound, management and boards must conduct meetings, create clear emergency signage, and allow experts to educate the entire building on what to do in the dreaded worst-case scenario. Once the smoke has cleared, management can make the appropriate call to vendors and insurance companies.

With any luck, such a proactive approach will keep both residents and property managers in the eye of the storm.


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