Are You Ready?

Preparing for the 2013 Florida Hurricane Season

The state of Florida is already a couple of  months into hurricane season, and we have already dealt with our first tropical storm.  Tropical Storm Andrea hit the west coast of Florida this past June and gave the state some much needed rain, but Andrea was the first sign of a heavy storm season.  Many forecasters are calling for an above average storm season, but the key question is: are our community associations prepared? During this editorial, we will look at some key recommendations in protecting your community and making sure you are staying prepared for the worst.

Disaster planning
If your board hasn’t already established a disaster plan, then you’re behind.  Add this to the top of your to-do list for 2013.  Here are some important factors to consider when developing your disaster plan:
Create a Hurricane or Catastrophe committee.  The responsibilities of this committee should be to stay updated with the entire disaster plan and act as the point of contact during hurricanes or other storms.  This committee will also help during the evacuation process and can be responsible for supplying evacuation maps to the tenants.  
Other important documents to secure.  Residents list, financial records, contracts and governing documents are a few of the key documents which need to be protected.
Reserve Fund.  Available reserve funds to purchase materials used to protect further storm damage and to pay upfront cost of contractors and insurance deductibles.
Keep insurance policies in a safe place.  Scan documents into a computer or place paper copies of them in a fireproof and waterproof lockbox.
Make sure insurance premium is paid current and you are aware of coverage’s and deductibles.  This one sounds simple, but more often than not, it ends up being a problem with coverage.  Your policy could become ineffective because of nonpayment, and in the event of a storm, the insurance company won’t be able to reinstate.  Determine if your wind or hurricane deductible is based on Total Insured Value or per building. This could be a significant difference in out-of-pocket expense for the association.  

Quick pre-storm preparations

Video inventory is an easy way to capture an overview of contents and property of the associations.  Smartphones and tablets are a perfect tool to get the job done.  Having available video of the associations property provides a quick and accessible snapshot of the associations property in times of hurricane damage.

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Landscaping becomes a potential hazard during storms, causing plants or trees to become projectile objects.  Talk with you landscaper about specific trimming instructions during the hurricane season.  Keeping plants, bushes, and trees properly pruned is a simple way to prevent additional damage during a storm.

Oftentimes, power outage occurs during a storm.  Post and send out reminders to the residents concerning the dangers with power outages. Circuit breakers need to remain off until power is restored and stay clear of downed power lines.  Outdoor electronics should have surge protectors and waterproof covering.  

Mobile property and other outdoor objects need to be moved into a secure indoor location.  Associations need to establish assigned areas on property for storing this property in the event of a hurricane.  This prevents confusion and allows for board members or other residents to immediately assist in relocating the outdoor objects.

In the event your building doesn’t have hurricane-grade windows or storm shutters, then make sure windows are covered with 5/8 inch plywood. Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other hardware stores offer different incentives during storms.  Applying plywood to all common area windows will protect from glass damage and interior damage to your property and community personal property.

Following a storm  

After the storm has passed, begin your disaster recovery process.  Use your resident list to check on residents, review your property list or video to evaluate all missing or damaged property, and setup protective measures to prevent any further damage.  Next, immediately begin contacting your list of contractors to assess the needed repairs.  Finally, notify your insurance agent to begin the claims process.

Insurance Deductibles

As mentioned earlier there is a major difference between TIV (total insured value) and per building deductibles.  For example, your community has five buildings valued at $1 million each, and during a hurricane, one building incurs $250,000 in damage.  If your association carries a 5 percent hurricane deductible and has per building deductible, you will have a $50,000 out-of-pocket expense, but if your policy is based on TIV (total insured value), then you would incur a $250,000 out-of-pocket expense (5 percent deductible times $5,000,000 of total property value).  Knowing this coverage is vital because it could have a major impact on your cash reserves.  Also, does your policy carry a Hurricane deductible or a wind/hail deductible?  In this example, if a tropical storm damages your property, you would only incur your AOP (All other Peril) deductible, but if damaged by a named hurricane, then you will be assessed the hurricane deductible, which is normally 2–5 percent of property value.

As you can see, the key to success during trying times of catastrophe is being prepared. Hurricane season started on June 1 and continues through November 30.  The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration is predicting “Active to Extremely Active” hurricane season, with 13–20 storms and 7–11 becoming hurricanes during the 2013 storm season.  It is never too late to implement a plan of action and delegate responsibilities to committee members.  Are you ready?