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Governor Scott has signed Executive Order 16-230 declaring a state of emergency for every Florida county due to the severity and magnitude of Hurricane Matthew.

Governor Scott said, “Hurricane Matthew is a life-threatening category four hurricane and we must all take it seriously. If Hurricane Matthew directly impacts Florida, there could be massive destruction which we haven’t seen since Hurricane Andrew devastated Miami-Dade County in 1992. That is why we cannot delay and must prepare for direct impact now.”

Hurricane Preparedness Tips from the Red Cross

Hurricanes are strong storms that can be life-threatening as well as cause serious property-threatening hazards such as flooding, storm surge, high winds and tornadoes. Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a hurricane. Know the difference between the threat levels and plan accordingly.

• Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio for critical information from the National Weather Service (NWS).

• Check your disaster supplies. Replace or restock as needed.

• Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (bicycles, lawn furniture).

• Close your windows, doors and hurricane shutters. If you do not have hurricane shutters, close and board up all windows and doors with plywood.

• Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting. Keep them closed as much as possible so that food will last longer if the power goes out.

• Turn off propane tank.

• Unplug small appliances.

• Fill your car’s gas tank.

• Create a hurricane evacuation plan with members of your household. Planning and practicing your evacuation plan minimizes confusion and fear during the event.

• Find out about your community’s hurricane response plan. Plan routes to local shelters, register family members with special medical needs and make plans for your pets to be cared for.

• Obey evacuation orders. Avoid flooded roads and washed out bridges.

For additional information, please check the information at www.redcross.org

Emergency Powers

The shared ownership statutes, Chapters 718, 719, and 720, Florida Statutes, authorize the board of directors to exercise certain emergency powers in response to damage by an event for which a state of emergency has been declared, including using reserve funds for emergency purposes without a membership vote. For a full list of emergency powers available, please see Sections 718.1265, 719.128, and 720.316, Florida Statutes as applicable.

Dealing with the Aftermath of the Storm

If your community is impacted Hurricane Matthew, 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 Matthew 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.

Do’s and Don’ts

1. Do Download the Becker & Poliakoff Hurricane Preparedness and Recovery Guide

2. Do 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 www.redcross.org/apps

3. If Matthew crosses your path and causes damage to your community, Do 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.

4. Don’t 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.

5. Don’t hire a Public Adjuster 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.

6. Don’t sign a repair contract which assigns your insurance benefits to the contractor.

7. Don’t be fooled by 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.

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 are hopeful that Matthew turns away from Florida, but if not, please stay safe.

Yeline Goin

Yeline Goin

Contact: ygoin@beckerlawyers.com

Yeline Goin is a member of the Firm’s Community Association Practice Group and Government Law & Lobbying Group. She concentrates her practice on the law of community associations, primarily representing condominium, cooperative, and homeowners’ associations. She also represents local governments and other entities in Tallahassee as part of our State Lobbying Team.