Help Your Boards Avoid Disaster-Related Missteps

Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, wildfires, and thunderstorms, hail storms, and other kinds of freak storms — no community association is immune to disasters these days. Most boards of directors recognize this, but they may find the very idea of disaster planning and response intimidating. This week’s article explains how managers can help their boards reduce the risk of further exacerbating the damage with their own mistakes.

Every association should, at the very least, adopt an official disaster preparation and recovery plan, says Ellen Hirsch de Haan, a partner in the Tampa, Fla., law firm Wetherington Hamilton, PA.

“That includes policies for securing the common areas/elements, ensuring the safety of staff and management, and locking elevators on the top floor,” says de Haan, who specializes in community association law. “The package also should include county or city instructions for preparation, and information about evacuation zones and location of shelters.”

Once assembled, the board should get the information to all owners and residents. “Encourage all residents to make a plan about where they will go if there is an evacuation order and to let the association know where they will go,” de Haan says.

Some boards, of course, go farther. “There are varying degrees of engagement among associations,” says Donna DiMaggio Berger, a board certified specialist in condomium law and planned development law and shareholder in the Ft. Lauderdale office of Becker & Poliakoff, PA. “Some even form their own community emergency response team (CERT).”

Berger says that the boards in such associations must take into consideration issues like who to enlist for a CERT but notes that they generally have protection from liability from Good Samaritan laws, the business judgment rule, and the like.

But that doesn’t mean a board can’t get into trouble with its disaster planning and response.

To learn about some of the riskiest disaster-related areas for boards, read our new article Recipe for Disaster: How Associations Can Fumble Emergency Planning and Response.

Best regards,
Matt Humphrey
President