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May 23, 2014 Jonathan H. Fine

Disaster Planning - Is Your Condominium Corporation Prepared If Disaster Strikes?

The world’s climate is changing and the effects of these changes are evident as we face disturbing fluctuations in temperatures, melting glaciers and rising water levels, stronger storms, increased storm damage and other extreme weather events. Do you recall the recent ice storm of December, 2013 which left hundreds of thousands of people all across Ontario and the surrounding areas without heat and power for days? What about Hurricane Katrina which destroyed much of New Orleans? In the past few years, there have been more reports on floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, snowstorms and blizzards, wildfires, volcanic eruptions, melting polar icecaps, and major health epidemics occurring all around the world than ever before. These events have an enormous impact on our communities, health and the economy. Governments are recognizing the impacts of climate change and have started warning and advising people on how to be better prepared for disaster.

Picture this: your condominium corporation has a power outage, leaving everyone without heat, electricity, water, elevators and a functional generator. What do you do? In another scenario, a fire in one of the units spreads throughout the building. As a result of the fire, all of the corporation’s computers and paper records are destroyed and the building has to be evacuated.

The incidents mentioned in the above scenarios do occur, and usually, when you least expect it. However, this is not to say that a disaster is only limited to the incidents mentioned above.

The Necessity For A Disaster Plan

The two most important reasons why a condominium corporation needs a disaster plan are:

i) the condominium corporation is dealing with people’s homes and everyday life; and

ii) the condominium corporation is managing, in most cases, hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate and revenue streams of millions of dollars.

Having a disaster plan will assist in minimizing the interruption to unit owners’ daily living routines, as well as to the continuity of business services of the condominium corporation with respect to the units and common elements. Scenarios such as the ones mentioned in this article bring to light the importance of being able to understand and identify the wide array of adverse consequences that can ensue as a result of an unforeseen disaster, and illustrate how crucial it is to plan accordingly.

Points To Consider

  • Develop your disaster plan before a disaster occurs
  • Have a disaster team and a disaster plan that has clearly laid out steps for each member of the team
  • Test your disaster plan, review it regularly, and revise it when necessary
  • Review insurance policies and pay close attention to any exclusions and fine print. The last thing you want to find out after facing a disaster is that certain types of damages are excluded from your coverage, which will inevitably leave the condominium corporation responsible for all costs associated with repair
  • Create a website that sets out all the information that anyone would need to know in the event of a disaster, including an evacuation plan and emergency phone numbers.
  • Do you back up computer information on a daily basis? Do you take the back-up information offsite? Are all corporate records in fire proof cabinets and/or in a fireproof vault? Do you have an emergency “go to” list of personnel, suppliers, and emergency contacts for residents?

Note: this article is meant to be general in nature to provoke discussion and thought, and is not meant to be an all-encompassing treatise on the subject. 

~~ with the assistance of Yalda Jalili, Junior Legal Assistant to Jonathan Fine

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Jonathan H. Fine

Jonathan H. Fine Partner

B.Sc., J.D., F.C.C.I.

jfine@finedeo.com
905.760.1800 x226
905.760.0050

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