Time to Triage Post Hurricane Hermine
Hurricane Hermine made landfall early this morning as a Category 1 hurricane along the Florida Panhandle in an area known as the “Big Bend.” It was the first hurricane to directly hit Tallahassee since Hurricane Kate in the mid 80’s. If you have ever been to Tallahassee, you will know that they have beautiful trees all around town. The reports that I am hearing from friends in Tallahassee are that most people are without power, there is damage from downed trees and power lines, but thankfully, no devastating damage or casualties. However, the coastal areas did not fare as well because of the storm surge and flooding, and there are communities who were impacted greatly by the storm and will need to triage today and in the coming weeks. We are thankful for our first responders and emergency aid workers who have already started the recovery efforts.
Here are a few helpful tips for dealing with the aftermath of the storm:
1. Account for your residents particularly the most vulnerable (I.e. Elderly or those with medical needs) in your community. Use your emergency contact list for those residents who cannot be found or who may need help post disaster.
2. Secure your property. If you have a security gate in your community, make sure it is functioning. If your community has been evacuated make sure that all entry doors to the building and recreational amenities are secured. You do not want trespassers finding their way onto your property in the aftermath of this storm.
3. Take immediate steps to prevent further water and element intrusion if Hermine blew out windows or doors or tore openings in your roof.
4. To the extent water damage has occurred, remove damaged Association personal property and work with the owners to remove their damaged water-soaked property to prevent mold infestation.
5. Take date-stamped pictures and video of the storm damage, assemble maintenance records and any benchmarking data you previously compiled and contact your agent.
6. Separate the urgent tasks from the important ones. The foregoing steps are urgent. The next steps for your recovery include properly vetting contractors to undertake all necessary repairs and working with your professional advisors to shepherd your insurance claim.
If you have reserves and the Governor has issued a state of emergency in your county your statutory emergency powers are activated and you can use reserve funds for emergency purposes without a membership vote. If you do not have reserves or your emergency powers have not been activated you may need to obtain a line of credit to pay for repairs.
The following are some “Don’ts” which you should bear in mind today, tomorrow and in the coming weeks.
1. Do not rush to bind the association to a long-term repair contract. Your immediate needs include safeguarding the property from element intrusion. You have time to properly vet contractors and negotiate a contract which preserves the association’s rights.
2. Hiring your own Public Adjuster instead of relying upon the adjuster supplied by the insurance company is important but that hiring decision should not be made until you have spoken with your association attorney to discuss what a PA can and cannot do for your claim and to clarify the terms of that PA representation.
3. Do not sign a repair contract which assigns your insurance benefits to the contractor.
4. Resist sales pitches from attorneys, contractors, engineers, public adjusters and others you do not know. Every disaster brings with it a certain amount of opportunism which is usually not in the best long-term interests of your community.
A few other things to keep in mind to help in your preparation and recovery efforts:
1. Download the Becker & Poliakoff Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Guide
2. Download the Red Cross Emergency App: The Red Cross Emergency App provides people with instant access to emergency alerts and life-saving information. The app is available in app stores by searching for American Red Cross or by going to redcross.org/apps.
3. If Hermine crossed your path and caused damage to your community, please call or email your Becker & Poliakoff community association attorney as soon as possible so that we can help fast track your recovery and repairs. You can also feel free to contact CALL toll-free at 1-844-4FL-CALL (1-844-435-2255). You can also reach CALL via email at CALL@bplegal.com.
One of the many benefits of being an annual retainer client of Becker & Poliakoff is that you are entitled to receive a post-disaster visit from your association attorney as well as one of our Insurance attorneys, to help you assess and document any damage you have suffered. We can also handle any insurance coverage claim you may have, and in most circumstances, without any out of pocket cost to your association. If you have property damage please keep in mind that proper notice to the insurance company is critical. We can assist you with that notice and initial claim preparation as well.
We hope that the remainder of the hurricane season keeps all of your community members well and safe.