Managers and residents in communities everywhere should have an emergency plan in place in the unlikely event of any kind of natural disaster—hurricane, tornado, earthquake, blizzard, or flood.
But associations also should have a clear strategy for reacting quickly and appropriately to more localized types of emergencies—incidents that can happen in a heartbeat at the community pool, at the beach or lakefront, on the playground, or at any community-sponsored event.
For instance, does your community have easy access to a First-Aid kit and—especially—an up-to-date EpiPen® (epinephrine auto-injector) near the park or other outdoor public areas? Bees and wasps are attracted to open drinks and food left on picnic tables, and EpiPens are effective for treating anaphylaxis caused by severe allergies to bee or wasp stings, spider bites, or other allergens while municipal first responders are
And speaking of first responders, if a community you manage is gated or within a secure high-rise building, can the police, fire, or other emergency personnel access the gates, doors, elevators, and all residential units at any time of day or night? Do they have a map of the community so they can find the picnic area, pool, or playground easily?
In case of a fire, broken pipes, or suspected gas leak, is your emergency number and instructions for turning off the power, gas, or water posted prominently in the association office, clubhouse, and other public areas in the community?
Children are around a lot more during the summer, and they are particularly vulnerable in the pool area. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children under age 5, and the second leading cause of injury-related death for kids under the age of 15. Since 80 percent of drowning deaths occur in residential swimming pools, does your community's summer staff include a well-trained, CPR-certified life guard on duty whenever the pool is open? Are the pool's drains and chemicals checked regularly? Are the association's pool rules—no running, no pushing, 10 minute breaks every hour—posted prominently and enforced consistently?
If the community has a lake, are bathers required to wear water shoes and life jackets? Is a lifeguard on duty? Does the association require boaters to have boating safety certification, and—if the lake is large enough for motor boats—are speed limits posted, monitored, and enforced?
Does your association's emergency plan include procedures for treating serious cuts, burns, and other injuries that can happen during cookouts or fireworks displays? Are you, or is someone on your staff or board, certified in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the Heimlich Maneuver? Because choking is another frequent cause of injury or death in very young children.
September is Emergency Preparedness Month, and a good time for managers and volunteer leaders to update their communities' emergency plans and educate residents on what steps to take during all types of critical situations, including local incidents as well as natural disasters.
>>For more information or training, visit the National Safety Council website at
>>The American Red Cross, at
www.redcross.org/get-help/prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/water-safety, is also an excellent resource for information on water safety.
©2018 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.
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Seabrook Island Property Owners Association in coastal South Carolina, and The Landings at Skidaway Island, just outside Savannah, Georgia, recently were named Certified Sustainable Communities by Audubon International. Both communities are the first in their respective states to receive this prestigious, difficult-to-achieve designation.
Two other South Carolina communities, Oldfield Community Association and the Town of Hilton Head, also recently joined the exclusive Audubon International list of certified communities.
Seabrook Island is a 2,400-acre coastal barrier island about 20 miles south of Charleston, S.C. Incorporating maritime forest, tidal marshes, and beachfront, Seabrook is home to a diverse range of wildlife including several endangered species. The community's 1,800 residents share 500 acres of common area, including a 14-acre lake, miles of hiking and biking trails, a marina, and beaches. The association began work to formalize its sustainability efforts in 2011.
When Seabrook was awarded the certification in December, it became the sixth community in the world to earn the honor, joining Eufaula, Ala.; Williamston, N.C.; Coconut Creek, Fla.; Stowe Mountain Resort, Vermont; and Rio Verde, Ariz.
“This designation signifies that Seabrook Island has been recognized as a community that has demonstrated leadership in creating a sustainable future," says Heather Paton, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, Seabrook Island's executive director.
“The property owners of Seabrook Island have long believed in and practiced many of the tenets and principles of sustainability, as demonstrated through their volunteerism," says Edward Houff, president of Seabrook Island's board.
“Sustainability means not only preservation of our existing environment but also taking actions to help ensure the treasures of our environment are not wasted," says Houff.
The Landings at Skidaway Island, a community of 8,500 residents, is about 120 miles south of Seabrook Island and just southeast of Savannah. According to Meredith Welsh, who spearheaded the community's efforts, the decision to pursue the Audubon International certification came about in 2013 at a roundtable meeting of several independent Skidaway Island environmental groups.
At the time, Welsh was board chair of the Skidaway Audubon, a not-for-profit organization that had a long-time relationship with Audubon International through The Landings' environmentally certified golf courses. In their discussion, she and other group leaders realized they “had already done a good portion of the work that would be required" to become certified. “So why not aggregate the work of all these people?" she says.
“We are honored to receive this award," said Shari Haldeman, CMCA, AMS, The Landings Association's general manager. “Many people worked diligently to help us attain this honor." Along with volunteers and The Landings' staff, Welsh and Haldeman also credit many non-residents: the manager of Skidaway Island's 500-acre state park and educators and researchers from University of Georgia Marine Extension, which has an aquarium on the island, and the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography.
“This is one of the most wonderful aspects of our becoming certified … the people who share this island with us but who do not live within our community," says Welsh. “They are enormous contributors to what we did."
Centered around creating measurable goals and objectives that benefit residents, visitors, and the environment, the Audubon International certification program can be a rigorous process that may take several years to achieve.
The program focuses on three sustainability areas—a vibrant economy, a healthy environment, and an equitable community—and is designed to support a community's previously identified priorities and build on its ongoing sustainability and planning efforts. Communities that plan to pursue certification should already have some sustainability efforts in place.
According to Jessica Latus, Audubon International's director of Sustainable Community Programs, the program is a “way to publicly recognize and reward the environmental achievements and leadership of communities that learn about sustainability and how it can be implemented on a local scale."
Environmentally aware communities like Seabrook and The Landings at Skidaway Island find themselves in a much better position to attract new business and encourage expansion, which can result in local job growth, according to both Paton. She adds that becoming a more sustainable community produces a ripple effect on many economic fronts, including business growth, reinvestment, and expansion. Welsh, who believes her community's new certification is attractive to potential homebuyers, agrees.
“The Sustainable Communities Program helps communities—whether they are municipalities, large resorts, lake associations, or planned communities—take steps to ensure that they are healthy, desirable, and vibrant places in which to live, work, and play—both today and tomorrow," says Latus.
Adds Welsh: “We'd love to see this (certification) become a trend."
>>More information on Seabrook Island and Audubon International's sustainability program for communities is included in the May/June 2018 issue of
Common Ground magazine, available now at
Wired: 2018 Survey of Cybersecurity in Community Associations, a report released in May by the
Foundation for Community Association Research, affirms that most associations recognize the need for vigilance and active security to protect electronically stored data in community associations.
More than half (56 percent) of community associations—including homeowners associations, condominium communities, and housing cooperatives—already have policies and procedures in place regarding the collection, storage, and security of homeowners' personal data, according to this critical, informative report, which was presented at CAI's 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition in Washington, D.C., and is now available as a free, downloadable PDF.
As security and data breaches become more prevalent in the U.S., states are amending and adopting laws governing the protection of personal and financial information and how breaches in these areas must be reported and addressed. In 2018, the Foundation surveyed more than 600 community association managers, board members, and the professionals who support associations to identify the risks and liabilities associated with using technology to conduct association business.
According to the Foundation's research, ransomware and phishing are the most common forms of attack on community associations. More than half (52 percent) of the communities surveyed reported that fraud and theft are their top concerns. Additionally, the majority of respondents (92 percent) report that their community associations use software management programs, and nearly half (49 percent) of respondents indicated that cost and program compatibility (46 percent) are the most common considerations when selecting financial software.
The research also shows that the overwhelming majority (70 percent) of associations continue to store hard-copy documents like contracts, financial and payment data and records, and resident contact information.
“As technology continues to consume every aspect of our daily lives, there's not one sector of our economy that's safe. Community associations and the residents who live and work in these communities are no exception," says David Jennings, CAE, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the Foundation's executive director. “This new research helps us establish a baseline of awareness that will be used to develop tools to educate community association leaders about cybersecurity issues arising from social media, community websites, and third-party payment portals."
>>Visit foundation.caionline.org to access the survey.