In the past five years, hurricanes and tornadoes have increased at an exponential rate. Flooding is a byproduct of these storms causing additional damage and displacement. In the areas of our nation that are the hardest hit, property damage is a big concern among property management companies. This brings up many questions among property managers:
- Are we prepared?
- Was enough done beforehand to mitigate damage?
- Are we compliant with building codes?
- What is our communication plan with first responders? With our staff?
- Do we have an emergency action plan?
- Is our list of service providers up to date?
- Is our property portfolio up to date?
Planning is the key to protecting assets and tenants. In the states that frequently experience hurricanes and tornadoes, such as Florida and Oklahoma, it is beneficial to plan for these storms months in advance of each season. To ensure organization and safety, property managers should create a special team for these types of storms. The team will be headed by the property manager and consist of employees that have skills that lend themselves to helping everyone get safety through the storm, such as logistics and maintenance. Team members should be assigned a task before, during or after a storm, which should be communicated prior to the storm season so any issues can be addressed and resolved.
Storm policies (e.g. sandbags) should be annually reviewed with employees and tenants. A special meeting should be held for tenants who are new to the area and/or state. Emergency packets for each tenant should be distributed every year, which include contact names, phone numbers, a list of essentials, pre-storm procedures, volunteer organizations and shelter information. Other ways to help prepare your tenants are to:
- remind them to annually check their renters insurance policy (i.e. flood insurance)
- encourage them to make their own emergency plan
- remind them to monitor their cell phones for important text messages from your organization, the national weather service and government agencies before, during and after a storm
- review your company’s policies on storm damage and repairs with them through the monthly newsletter or email.
In addition, property managers should take inventory of the property before and after a storm. This is necessary for any insurance claims submitted. After each storm, restocking the essentials (e.g. wooden boards) should be done in preparation for the next one. Also, a schedule of repairs should be created and confirmed with service providers to ensure all repairs are done in a timely manner.