As if 2020 hasn’t been challenging enough, active hurricane and wildfire seasons have been making the year even more taxing. Community association leaders living in areas that may be prone to natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires should be discussing what disaster preparedness and recovery looks like for their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are several actions board members and managers can take to ensure the community is prepared for severe weather. First, convene a working group to review and update your community disaster preparedness plan to accommodate concerns related to COVID-19. Special considerations should be given to incorporating local, state, and federal requirements, including physical distancing, face coverings, checking temperatures, and more.
Resources from government agencies can inform a community’s plan. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has guidance on natural disasters and COVID-19, while the Federal Emergency Management Agency released the COVID-19 Pandemic Operational Guidance for the 2020 Hurricane Season to help emergency managers and public health officials best prepare for hurricanes while continuing to respond to the pandemic.
In addition, communities should take steps to be informed of disasters early by registering to receive free emergency alerts offered by local agencies, the National Weather Service, and the National Hurricane Center.
It’s important for community association leaders to connect with local, state, and federal government officials when updating their disaster preparedness plan. Start by contacting your city, town, or county elected officials and specifically ask them to pass an ordinance that allows the locality to support community associations with recovery efforts. This is particularly important for communities that have private roads.
Association leaders also can encourage residents to reach out to their congressional representative to co-sponsor the Disaster Assistance Equity Act (H.R. 5337), a bill introduced in December 2019 that would allow FEMA’s public assistance program to reimburse costs related to disaster debris removal from association roads and waterways.
The disaster readiness plan should provide specifics about how each resident may take steps to prepare for severe weather. Most may be overwhelmed with news and information about the pandemic and saddled with uncertainties that may include employment, health of their family, school status, and more. Communicating and engaging with homeowners will provide assurances and a sense of relief while bringing their attention to planning for their family and community.