Hurricane Preparedness for Florida Condos & HOAs

B. Michael Clark, Jr.
June 11, 2024


Hurricane Preparedness

Every year, natural disasters destroy homes, cause catastrophic damage and change families’ lives. In Florida, hurricane seasons vary, with two or three storms some seasons, sometimes followed by a much-welcomed, prolonged period without a major storm. Living in a hurricane-prone area can be troublesome, and condo and homeowners association boards may find hurricane preparation overwhelming. All communities must have a proactive hurricane preparedness plan to limit the catastrophic impacts on association property and maintain residents’ safety.

Property Maintenance

Periodic maintenance and inspections of community infrastructure are critical to assuring the ability to withstand a hurricane. Inspect the roofs of all structures, windows and doors of units and common areas, including clubhouses or community centers. Trim trees and remove any broken branches that could cause damage. Inspect drainage systems, storm channels and retention ponds to prevent flooding. Also, associations must consider requiring all residents to install impact-resistant shutters, windows and doors to reduce the risk of damage from hurricane-strength winds and flying debris.

Planned Approach

The most efficient way to respond to a crisis or emergency at any level is by establishing the roles and responsibilities of the board and management before it happens. Just as it is critical to have a hurricane preparedness kit on hand in case of a hurricane, community association members should have a structured disaster response approach in place. Coordinating with local emergency management officials to identify evacuation routes, designated shelters and official procedures is critical. Delegating duties to a core team of management and resident volunteers to develop procedures for notifying residents, safeguarding common spaces and assisting vulnerable people is vital.

Insurance Benefits and Requirements

After the appropriate people-power, adequate insurance is quite possibly the most important means of minimizing the catastrophic impacts of a significant hurricane. Florida has specific statutory requirements delineating minimum coverages that an association must maintain to protect its residents and unit owners. However, the association must also understand that it has certain obligations under its insurance policy after a loss. Nearly every policy will require the association to mitigate its damages, document the loss and provide certain information to its insurer. Some policies have express timeframes in which the association must provide certain information, such as a sworn statement in proof of loss.  Failing to comply with these requirements can negatively impact the association’s coverage. Similarly, the insurance company must comply with specific statutory timeframes in response to the information provided. Understanding all these requirements is crucial to efficiently managing the loss.

Protecting Information

Paper copies of all official documents should be kept in a secure place to avoid damage from hurricane winds and flood waters. The association records should be maintained in waterproof storage containers. The association’s documents should also be preserved in electronic format. Copies of electronic and paper records should be saved across multiple locations, including the manager’s office, the association’s office and the cloud. The association must plan for a power outage that will last several days or longer. Copies of contact lists, vendor lists, insurance policies, emergency service information, evacuation plans and other critical documents should be printed and kept by a designated board member and management.

Staying Informed

Strong communication with residents is critical during the hurricane season. To send crucial updates, alerts and evacuation notices, use several communication channels such as email, text messages, social media and community websites. Regularly update all residents’ contact information to guarantee correct communication. Conduct instructional sessions or workshops to educate your residents about hurricane preparedness, such as emergency supplies, evacuation protocols and the value of personal safety. Encourage residents to create emergency plans and catastrophe supply packages for their condo units or homes.

Documenting Damage and Mitigating Loss

If a hurricane impacts the association, the association must act quickly to identify and document the damage. Photograph any damage to the association’s property. Consider what the association can do safely to prevent damage from continuing, and, after documentation, take reasonable steps to mitigate further loss. Ensure your manager or a designated resident will be present to promptly allow public safety and other inspectors access following a hurricane. Entry to assess and address damage is time-sensitive, and delays can lead to further damage.

How We Can Help

In essence, hurricane preparedness is critical for Florida associations and owners to protect property, protect resident safety and ensure that damage claims are well documented. Though no one can control a hurricane’s severity or where it makes landfall, associations must be prepared! Taking proactive measures by establishing a well-thought-out Hurricane Preparedness Plan will help reduce the impact of the hurricane on your property and residents.

Keep your attorneys informed, and don’t hesitate to call us for advice on all critical issues before or after the loss. Remember, our firm has represented many of our association clients since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew made landfall and caused severe damage. We were there for our clients then and will be there for you now. We will help with your preparedness plans, assist with getting your property up and running as quickly as possible, and, if necessary, help hire emergency restoration companies and file insurance claims. Please call, email, or text your Siegfried Rivera attorney with any questions.