Florida is a well-known vacation destination, especially for snowbirds that flee the seasonal cooling of the north. But there is a side of the Florida weather that is not so popular, in particular – storms, hurricanes, and floods.
During hurricane season, daily showers generally start immediately, then increase in volume until a large storm forms. The largest storms may get named in the national media, but even small ones can cause damage.
William and Susan Raphan are statewide education facilitators for Katzman Garfinkel, a community association law firm that has offices all over South Florida.
The Raphans teach a pro-active class on hurricane preparedness for community boards and associations. “Boards of directors in community associations cannot become complacent and jeopardize their community by not preparing for a hurricane or a major disaster that could happen at any time,” says William Raphan. “Just because we have not had a major storm for many years does not mean we won’t have one this year. It only takes one storm to do sufficient damage to make an entire community shut down.”
The Raphans also suggest creating a board-appointed hurricane committee to identify residents with special needs and to accumulate a list of contact numbers for assistance agencies. The list should be given to all residents along with instructions in the case of a possible evacuation.
According to the Miami-Dade County website, communities should be informed of the following: the location of defibrillators and first aid supplies, guidance on where generators are and how to activate them, and how to prepare landscape in advance as to limit destruction wrought by high-speed winds.
After the major winds cool down, it’s time for what may be the hardest part – cleaning up after a major weather event, and restoring the property and lifestyle. “A property manager’s role is to immediately assess the situation and determine if there is any actual damage, water intrusion, and downed power lines,” states Turner Billups. Senior vice president of FirstService Residential Florida.
Always defer to your experts and seek the advice of a professional, but whenever possible work with your usual vendors who are familiar with the property. Post-storm repair is not the best time to bring in a new contractor.
The building staff should assist the association and the property manager in collecting and documenting the information on damages. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may be able to provide recovery resources after a major weather event. Call 800-621- 3362 or apply at www.DisasterAssistance.gov. The South Florida Region of the American Red Cross may be reached at 305-644-1200 or at www.RedCross.org/fl/miami. The Florida Division of Emergency Management may be reached at 850-413-9969 or at www.FloridaDisaster.org.
Additionally, associations and boards should take advantage of all local disaster planning classes offered by local government offices. In the Miami-Dade area, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program is available to educate interested individuals in disaster preparedness, basic response skills, and disaster medical operations. Classes are a combination of online and in the classroom with hands-on exercises. More information is available at www.citzen corps.gov/cert/ training.