Hurricane season starts June 1st and researchers at Colorado State University are predicting an active hurricane season for 2019. The group predicts that 13 named tropical storms will form and that five of these will become hurricanes. Of the five predicted hurricanes, two are expected to become major hurricanes with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater. Now is the time to prepare your property for the high winds and water that these storms may bring.
Before any large storms head your way, take steps to minimize property damage. Start with your entry, parking and grounds. Fix damaged fences and secure any signage to withstand high winds. Trim trees and large bushes and remove any dead branches, plants or trees. Fill in any low spots on the grounds prone to flooding. Reduce the risk of damage from projectiles by firmly securing outdoor furnishings or ensuring they can be quickly and safely stowed when a storm arises. And remember to remove any coconuts!
Then, take a look at the buildings. Examine and replace interior and exterior caulk on windows to provide a tight seal. Evaluate emergency lighting for adequacy and function; stock up on batteries and bulbs. See whether downspouts and gutters need cleaning or additional fasteners. Make sure that water from the downspouts and property drains away from the building—fix the grading if it does not. If your property extends to the water, have an inspector assess any docks, marinas, moorings or pilings for high wind worthiness. FEMA recommends also checking the roof for damage or debris. Make any minor repairs now to avoid major damage later.
Inside the buildings, make sure the elevators, HVAC system and water pumps work as they should, advises Lorraine Megdanis of Presentation Dynamics. Contact the companies that maintain them to find out how to prepare these systems for a hurricane. Keep instructions for their storm preparation in hard copy in a designated emergency preparedness notebook as well as online—remember, power may be the first thing to go out.
Document on a site plan the location of all lift stations, fire pumps, generators, fuel storage, electrical rooms, shut-off valves, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, hydrants and alarm control panels. Add the plan to the notebook. Inventory emergency suppliessuch as generators, sandbags, medical kits, plywood, saws, shovels, flashlights, batteries, battery-based phone chargers, disposable cameras, weather alert radio and Walkie-Talkies. Buy any needed items now.
With physical issues under control, take some time to protect the property financially. Review the property insurance policy—does it cover any recent additions or modifications? Is it adequate to repair or rebuild the property in the event of significant damage? Document the current condition and assets of the property from multiple angles to support any later claims, if necessary. Video footage may give a better perspective, but photographs will work, too. Verify with your attorney that you have the necessary legal protection, such as waivers or hold harmless clauses, and make arrangements for a line of credit to pay for major repairs or other unexpected costs arising from a hurricane
Double check your business disaster recovery plansas well. Make sure critical computer files automatically back up to a remote or cloud-based system. Ensure all critical documents—insurance papers, financial data, leases and contracts—have been scanned and will be available even if the property becomes inaccessible. Review any special services requirements and responsibilities to tenants in connection with a storm or natural disaster. Determine, document and discuss the specific roles staff members will play in preparation for, during and after a hurricane. Talk with an attorney about what responsibilities you have for the property and to employees in the event of a mandatory evacuation.
Finally, focus on communicating plans and preparations. Establish who will monitor weather alerts and make decisions about preparing or closing the property. Determine who will keep your clients informed about the state of the property and any closings, hazards or specific damage. Designate someone to contact emergency services. Establish a clear plan for reaching all tenants and employees, along with alternative means of communication if the power goes out or phone lines are overwhelmed. Keep a phone list in the emergency preparedness notebook. Let all tenants know their responsibilities and what you will do prior to a hurricane via both email and letter.
In subsequent blogs, we’ll discuss how to secure and close down common areas and what to do after a major storm. Check back soon!