HOW LANDLORDS CAN PREPARE FOR A HURRICANE
Only a week after Hurricane Harvey hit the Southeastern U.S., Hurricane Irma is making its way towards Puerto Rico and Florida. As residents start to evacuate, business owners and landlords need to ready their property for any possible storm damage.
But where do they start? Back in 2012, I authored a post about how to recover after the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy. Below are the tips I shared, which are just as timely today as they were five years ago.
Preparing for a disaster
Before Sandy struck the East Coast, we prepared our centers for the hurricane. Landlords are generally responsible for our centers’ exteriors, roofs, and common areas, while tenants are responsible for the interior of their spaces and all fixtures, inventory, and other materials contained therein.
Here at Kimco, we’ve instituted a few additional steps since Hurricane Sandy. First, we are now mapping the FEMA flood zones around each of our properties to gauge the likelihood of each property flooding. This allows us to better direct our resources to the highest priority sites. Second, our Gateway Building Controls Program is being used to monitor power outages. Now property managers can see at a glance the power status of the entire portfolio, no matter where they are located.
Some of the most important preparation steps landlords should take include:
- Clear roofs of any flying debris.
- Relocate trash cans into vacant spaces.
- Secure dumpsters.
- Clean gutters and downspouts.
- Clear storm drains.
- Ensure all contractors and first responders are geared up and ready to respond immediately following the storm. Some contractors might be strategically positioned just outside the storm zone so that they’re able to respond immediately following the event.
- Conduct pre-storm conference calls with property management and insurance departments, as well as contractors, to review everyone’s role, both pre- and post-storm.
- Purchase and deploy satellite phones to property managers and other head associates in the field to maintain communication in the event that cell service goes down.
- Urge tenants to be in contact with insurance companies immediately in case of damage.
By taking these precautionary steps, landlords can help tenants get up and running quickly after a storm. In turn, this lets tenants begin serving their customers expediently, which is particularly important if customers rely on your tenants for items they need post-storm.
Recovering from a disaster
Once the disaster passes, landlords should launch a series of recovery efforts. These efforts should be guided by a team of first responders who understand their obligation and responsibility to get on-site as quickly as possible and start assessing the conditions in the field.
Some of the most important steps this team should take include:
- Assess the physical condition of each site and thoroughly document the situation for your insurance company with digital pictures and standard reports.
- Determine if there are any safety issues in the common area for tenants and their shoppers, and resolve them immediately.
- Ensure all electrical equipment serving the common areas and parking lot light poles were not compromised.
- Set up portable lights in the parking lots at properties that don’t have electric supply.
- Install generators where needed.
- Bring your insurance team on-site as soon as possible — preferably within a few hours of the disaster — to begin assessing any damage and handling claims.
This recovery plan should be clear and well-understood by your property management team so they can begin executing it immediately and help facilitate tenants’ re-openings. In our case with Sandy, most of our centers and tenants are now running business as usual, and some were back up in less than a day.
We hope that all residents and tenants in Texas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and Florida stay safe. For more tips on how to recover after a hurricane, visit the FEMA website at www.fema.gov.