Hurricane Ian pummeled Florida’s southwestern coast last week, causing dozens of deaths, generating widespread property damage, and knocking out access to basic utilities in communities across the state. Considered one of the worst natural disasters in the state’s history, cleanup, restoration, and rebuilding efforts are ongoing and will take some time.

There are practical first steps community associations can take now to assist frightened and overwhelmed homeowners in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

Barry Nicks, owner of Expert Water Removal in Bradenton, Fla., says Hurricane Ian caused “pretty significant losses” to condominiums, cooperatives, and homeowners associations throughout the state. He’s seen buildings with windows and walls blown out, roofs detached, and storm water pooled in buildings. Fortunately, no one was hurt in communities he visited last week.

Nicks says it’s important for board members and community managers to have all units affected by the storm inspected by professional restoration services that use special equipment such as infrared cameras. A visual “look-see” isn’t enough after this kind of storm, he says.

Drying out affected areas as soon as possible to prevent mold and water damage also is essential, Nicks adds. Rising water contains harmful bacteria and other contaminants; drywall, carpeting, and other soaked elements should be cut out immediately rather than dried in place to prevent further loss and harm.

Once the immediate danger has passed, community association managers and board members must clearly communicate with owners so they understand who is responsible for specific repairs. Governing documents will spell out these responsibilities, but most owners don’t know what those documents say. Communities can clarify owners’ obligations so everyone has the correct information and can make informed decisions following the devastating storm, Nicks says.

Residents and business owners who sustained losses areas can begin applying for assistance at, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App.

Community associations should work with localities to coordinate debris removal because FEMA does not typically reimburse associations. A community must complete and submit the right of entry form.

Condominiums and housing cooperatives should submit an application under FEMA’s assistance program if critical components (elevators, heating/AC, building structure, parking garages, etc.) need repairs and replacement. If condominiums or cooperatives don’t receive relief from FEMA, individual owners may be eligible for homeowner assistance for their fair share of the repairs.

Reach out to your member of Congress and ask for assistance if you or your community aren’t receiving what you need from FEMA.

Florida Resources

>>Review CAI’s disaster preparedness and recovery pages for emergency information and volunteer opportunities in Florida after Hurricane Ian and for planning, preparing, and recovering resources.

Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images News

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