Why You Need to Understand the Importance of Emergency Evacuation Planning

It’s impossible to know when an emergency could occur. Potentially dangerous events could happen at any time, manmade or natural. Whatever form a disaster could take, you need to be ready for it by establishing an emergency response plan. The safety of your building’s residents depends on it. 

While you can prepare for some emergencies by stocking up on food or installing shutters, other events may demand a more extreme response, such as an evacuation. Hurricanes are devastating, but come with plenty of warning. As a member of your Condo, Co-op , or Homeowner’s Association (HOA) Board, you have a duty to create evacuation plans to protect yourself and your residents. Keep reading to discover why emergency preparedness for residential buildings is so important and how your property management company can help.

Why creating an emergency evacuation plan is important for your community

One of the main pillars of a good emergency plan is to outline proper evacuation procedures. Evacuations help people stay safe by moving them to a location away from the area of danger. The amount of time people spend in this safer location varies and depends on the severity of the emergency. 

Some of the benefits of creating a residential emergency evacuation plan for your community include:

  • Ensuring the safety of your residents: The safety of your community’s residents is your top priority. With a proper evacuation plan, you’re helping your residents stay safer in the face of an emergency by giving them the information they need to find a secure location to avoid danger. 
  • Reducing chaos, panic, and worry: It’s normal for people to experience intense emotions during an emergency. This fact is especially true when local officials call for an evacuation. Your residents will be more likely to maintain composure during an evacuation if they know that a streamlined evacuation process is waiting for them, thanks to their HOA or Board members. 
  • Limiting accidental damage: Limiting unnecessary damages to your building directly relates to reducing panic. In the frenzy of a disorganized evacuation, residents may forget to unplug electronics, blow out candles, or take other necessary evacuation steps, which can put your building at risk. Plus, a large, frenzied crowd can inflict its own type of damage on your building. Limit these forms of damage with a solid evacuation plan. 

Roles and responsibilities of the community

It’s easy to think of Board members and residents as having a line of separation between them regarding emergency roles and responsibilities. Instead, think of these two entities as working together to achieve the same goal — greater safety in the form of emergency preparedness. Make sure each group understands its responsibilities to achieve higher levels of protection in an emergency. 

Here are some of the roles and responsibilities of your community’s Board members:

  • Identify potential threats: You should be familiar with the potential dangers of your area. These can include natural disasters or other types of emergencies. Understand your area so you can better prepare for the unique emergencies that could befall your community. 
  • Construct an emergency action plan: Create an action plan so that residents know what to do during an emergency. Be sure it includes clear, specific directions for evacuations. Your professional property management company should have the resources to guide the creation of this plan.
  • Minimize damages: Always take necessary steps to minimize damages. This includes working with building staff to move inside any public furniture, decorations, or utilities before a storm. Reducing damages also comes in the form of clearly communicating with your residents so they know what to do during an emergency. Your property management company can assist with the communication.
  • Respond calmly: Even if you’re feeling stressed, as a Board member, it is helpful to project an aura of calmness. Your residents will be looking up to you for leadership and guidance, and seeing a confident demeanor can likewise raise their confidence. 

The people who live in your units have the responsibility to care for their own possessions and take measures to decrease the likelihood of damage to the property as a whole. This can include unplugging electronics, closing windows, and following the actions outlined in your emergency action plan. You should also encourage your residents to take pictures of their homes to compare with pictures taken after the emergency for insurance purposes and to upload any important documentation like insurance polices to the cloud before an emergency situation. 

Common emergencies you should plan for

Emergencies include natural disasters and human-made emergencies, both intentional and not. You should account for each one in your emergency plan. Here are some common ones to consider.

  • Household fires
  • Hurricanes
  • Active shooter
  • Floods
  • Wildfires
  • Tornados

You should also prepare for the following less common emergencies:

  • Terrorist attacks
  • Biohazard situations
  • Hazardous material contamination
  • Riots

What to consider when creating your plan

Evacuations could be necessary for any community, from the most rural areas to a bustling metropolis as large as New York City or South Florida. While an evacuation plan is helpful for both scenarios, they are essential for evacuating from a city like NYC in a safe and orderly way. Whatever type of town or city your community is a part of, here are some factors you should consider when creating your emergency preparedness plan:

  • Regulations: Different cities have varying regulations that could affect how you respond to emergencies. An NYC emergency evacuation plan may have more existing stipulations created by local officials. In contrast, municipalities in some parts of Florida may have looser regulations that give you more freedom when constructing your plan. Know your local regulations to create an emergency plan that ticks all the appropriate boxes for your area. Your property management company will be able to assist you with this.
  • Contact info: You and your fellow Board members should always be ready to answer your residents’ questions and provide them with essential information. Be sure your emergency preparedness plan includes all updated contact information for responsible Board and committee members, as well as your management team. 
  • Unique risks: Every emergency action plan is at least a little different from the next. Your local emergency management officials can help review your plan and make sure that you’ve covered all your bases.

Contact AKAM for help with your community’s emergency action plan

An emergency can strike at any time, but you and your community can be ready for it with a strong emergency action plan. If you need help creating a plan and managing your residential community, the team at AKAM is here to help. Our professional services will ensure you and your association have the best tools and insight possible to lead your community during even through the most difficult times. 

Contact us today for more information on creating an emergency action plan and taking the next step toward a residential management partnership with us. We look forward to working with you. 

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