According to a recent study conducted by Business Insider, from 2000 to 2015, natural disasters have cost the global economy 2.5 trillion dollars. Last year saw 15 separate severe weather events with losses exceeding $1 billion each, including winter storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. This year alone, the United States has already faced multiple severe weather events that have resulted in billions of dollars in damage.
A severe weather pattern spawned 61 tornadoes in the south in late February, wildfires in the Pacific Northwest destroyed multiple properties and forced hundreds out of their homes, and hurricanes and flooding plagued the south in August and September.
And while this year’s hurricane season may seem to have done its damage, we are not out of the woods yet. Hurricane season is not over and can still impact the southern and eastern coastlines, and the impending winter storms will soon cause their damage.
With the unpredictable weather patterns we consistently face, it’s important that multifamily property managers have a plan to safeguard their residents and their properties. Following these steps can prevent unnecessary costs and damages, and provide peace of mind for residents and staff.
Develop a Disaster Preparedness Plan
Natural disasters are unpredictable, so it’s best to be prepared for the worst in any given situation. Developing a plan of action in the event that a natural disaster affects your property will prepare you in case of emergency. Proper disaster planning and training can go a long way in helping you remain calm during the event, direct residents appropriately, and be better prepared for the aftermath. Knowing the steps to take if your property is in the path of a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire will help ease the recovery process.
Construct a Communication Plan
The first and most important step to protect your community during a natural disaster is communication. Text notifications that give your residents real-time weather updates, evacuation plans or helpful news updates can greatly reduce anxiety and keep the entire property on the same page.
Distributing resources in advance, like a disaster checklist, will help residents prepare for an impending natural disaster as well. A clear plan of action and established line of communication will allow you to safely evacuate employees and residents and prevent damage more efficiently.
Back Up Your Documentation
It’s important to protect your communications and records, especially in the event of fire, water, or winter disasters and loss of power. Depending on your property, you may rely on paper data or digital data.
- Paper data – A lot of properties are still using paper documentation for rental leases. With the amount of physical storage required for paper documentation, this definitely puts a property at risk in the event of a natural disaster. If your property is still relying paper processing, you must make sure there’s a system in place to keep your data safe. Make duplicates of all important documents and keep them in a separate, safe location in case of disaster.
- Digital data – As digital leases and documentations begin to become a more common necessity, it’s important to ensure your digtial data is safe. If your property management software aids you in backing up your data, you can rest assured all files will be safe in the event of physical damage to your property. For example, ResMan stores your data and documents safely and automatically in the cloud. This allows you to focus on other important aspects in the event of a disaster. However, if you are self-hosted, make sure you are doing a nightly back up to ensure no data is lost in case the power goes down.
Stock Up on Supplies
The aftermath of a large natural disaster is unpredictable. Stores may be inaccessible for days or weeks at a time. By following the forecast, you might be able to anticipate certain weather events and stock up on supplies that your property needs beforehand. General supplies such as water, dry goods, ice, and basic first-aid needs are worth keeping on hand in preparation for a natural disaster. Flashlights, batteries, radios, and lanterns are important to have in stock regularly. Make sure you have enough supplies to last two weeks. If your community is located along the coast lines or areas prone to winter storms and has not invested in a power generator you may want to consider doing so. In the event of an extended power outage you clubhouse could be a gathering area.
Prepare a Disaster Response
If you’ve been hit by a natural disaster, assessing damage is one of the most crucial steps in recovery. When preparing to file an insurance claim, it’s best to gather important business records, photograph destroyed items, and stay organized. Property managers should instruct their residents to claim damage to their units through their rental insurance. Contacting your insurer as soon as possible is the best way to ensure that residents, employees, and property are restored to their original state in a timely manner, and directing residents ahead of time will reduce confusion in the aftermath.
When natural disasters happen, the damage they cause can be unavoidable. However, as multifamily housing continues to increase in popularity in our major cities, it’s best to be as prepared as possible in order to prevent excess damage and costs. When implementing these steps, you can save lives, time, and money. Remember that your local, state and national apartment associations can be a great resource after an event. NAA and TAA made great efforts to help get donations for Texas and Florida during the recent hurricane relief initiatives.