When it comes to ensuring the safety of each resident in a homeowner’s association before, during, and immediately after natural disasters like tropical storms and hurricanes, South Floridians know that it’s critical to have an updated emergency plan in place that reflects the uniqueness of their individual building and property. The end goal in any emergency event is a clearly defined, safe evacuation plan.
“It’s important to go back to the basics of emergency planning,” says Aaron Gallaher, communications director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). “We just don’t look at floods or hurricanes or fires, because some of the same steps you would take in a hurricane are the same steps you would take in flash flooding. Our main goal in any event is to secure and stabilize 72 hours after the event.”
And while it is recommended to revisit a disaster plan each year, there isn’t a template that will cover all the bases every time. “Every community is different. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to disaster planning,” says attorney Anne Hathorn with the Tampa-based law firm of Becker & Poliakoff. “The most important thing is getting the dialogue started. Associations need to figure out what they want to do, determine their resources and where they are vulnerable.”
Gallaher says that the more prepared a community is prior to a natural disaster or other crisis event, the better prepared FDEM is in responding. The best way for a community to determine if they have a good plan in place, or if there is no plan in place, is to visit the newly launched Get a Plan (www.flgetaplan.com). “Families and businesses can both go there, plug in information and it will allow you to build your own emergency management plan,” says Gallaher. “If there are residents with special needs or special medications, those things are taken into account. It’s a good basic starting point.”
With late August and September being peak hurricane months, the FDEM annually recognizes the National Hurricane Preparedness Week during the first week of June. This is to encourage all Floridians to review emergency plans and restock disaster supply kits.