What Boards & Brokerages Need to Do Before a Hurricane
Florida Realtors has prepared these guidelines to help organizations prepare and weather hurricanes and other tropical events. While this plan is structured for associations, brokerages and agents are encouraged to refer to it in their disaster planning.
1. Talk with the MLS vendor.
This important service needs to be operational as soon as possible after the storm.
Ask the vendor if they can host your MLS data off-site, preferably out of state. There is probably a charge for this service. Inquire as to the location of the vendor's back-up system. Is it also housed in an area prone to hurricanes?
Be familiar with the clause covering "natural disaster" in the MLS contract and review with the vendor and your attorney.
2. Consult your insurance agent.
Include an officer and/or member familiar with insurance jargon. Update the agent on recent equipment purchases or modifications to the building. Check on the following:
- Flood Insurance
- Policy Exclusions
- Replacement Coverage
- Modifications made by the insurance company to your policy since last review, if any.
- Amount of deductible (look at pros and cons of decreasing/increasing deductible
- Is Business Interruption Insurance available?
Some companies offer mortgage disaster insurance that covers mortgage payment in the event of a disaster. Discuss the pros and cons of this with your insurance agent.
3. Talk with the landlord or management company.
If you rent space for your association office, determine who is responsible for pre-hurricane preparation and storm recovery. Some leases hold the tenant responsible for securing property and/or repairs to the interior of the building. Check your renter's insurance policy with your agent.
4. Talk the Leadership Team (elected officers) and address the following:
- Who and what conditions will determine when the office will be closed?
- Does the association have sufficient funds to repair the building in the event of major destruction or should the association secure a line of credit (offered through most banks)?
- Who will be responsible for the office preparation in the event of a hurricane?
- Review what is important to the association to safeguard and how/where it will be stored?
- Discuss staff/leadership responsibility.
- Contact at least one AE or association in your area and create a partnership for member services in the event of a storm. You may be unable to conduct business for weeks and may need meeting space, lockbox service, MLS, CE classes or someone to process new members. Some associations may want to partner with another association outside of the area if the storm has widespread damage. Brainstorm with your partner on what would happen if you were out of business for an extended period of time.
- Video record and photograph the building and the contents. Store copies of recordings and photos offsite.
- Update the office inventory list including the date of purchase and the amount paid.
- Update home addresses, cell and land phone numbers for staff, key leadership and vendors. Request emergency contact phone numbers for staff.
- Make a list of local, licensed repair and service companies. These would include but not be limited to a roofer, plumber, tree service, electrician, water/mold remover, carpet cleaner, computer technician, mobile office provider, portable storage, dumpster, backhoe operator, trash remover, general handyman, portable potty provider, public adjuster, and/or mental health counselor. Your large property management companies may provide you with the names of licensed individuals. If you have a list with telephone numbers it will save you hours of time if you have storm damage.
- Scan or make copies of your insurance papers with policy numbers and store one copy offsite.
- Purchase basic supplies that could include: heavy-duty trash bags, plywood, waterproof storage for office papers, heavy-duty extension cords, bottled water, duct tape, rubber gloves, bleach, plastic sheeting, maps of the area (for insurance adjusters) flashlights and batteries, portable radio, fire ant killer, manual telephone, hammer and nails, disposable cameras, cleaning supplies, mosquito spray, first aid kit, tarps (preferably blue), chain saw and gas. If you purchase a generator, be sure to know your needs and the capacity of the machine you purchase. Most generators require an industrial extension cord.
- Copy or scan your office building plans and store them offsite.
- Price and review the benefits and costs of hurricane shutters or hurricane film for your windows.
- Review the association's hurricane procedures, especially with new employees. Give everyone a copy of the plan.
- Start a hurricane spreadsheet and record everything. This will be your most valuable tool if a hurricane hits.
- Work with Florida Realtors on the temporary emergency residential rental database to serve members and the public. In the event of a storm, this information will be important. This is an excellent project for the Property Management Committee.
- If you have an old roof, consider replacing it. New roofs usually survive the storm and protect your building.
- Trim any large trees or hanging limbs.
- Contact the telephone company about establishing a dedicated emergency phone line. Also consider outsourcing the telephone system.
- Link to the Florida Realtors Disaster Fund on your website and email the link to each office with instructions.
- Ask your commercial brokers to identify potential space in your community in the event the association headquarters and brokerage offices experience extensive damage during a storm and need to relocate.
- Develop a news media kit. This would include social media posts and news releases on using a Realtor and advising consumers not to panic sell.
- Review hotel and speaker contracts you have signed which occur during the hurricane season for cancellation penalties.
Schedule an education program for your members with a local attorney on handling contracts, closings and damage after a storm.