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Swift Security Preparations & Recovery This Storm Season

Barrier Gates

This article was originally published in the FLCAJ June 2024 issue

When Colorado State University issued its first outlook for the 2024 hurricane season, it was hard to miss the main takeaway—there’s an “above-average probability for major hurricanes” expected to make landfall along U.S. coasts and the Caribbean. Two primary factors contribute to this forecast: the first being that El Niño conditions are expected to change to La Niña in the summer or fall, which can create favorable conditions for tropical storms and hurricanes; and second, water temperatures in the Atlantic are already at “record warm levels” and will likely stay that way.

Even with this initial outlook, we know that it only takes one severe storm to drastically impact a community and entire areas. While there are many unknowns when it comes to each storm, we do know that the best thing we can do is prepare. Community associations and property managers play a crucial role in creating a posture of readiness each hurricane season and then ensuring a swift recovery afterward.

The key to preparation and recovery lies in three items: planning, communication, and community engagement between community association leaders or employees, property management, residents, and vendors. This, of course, is in addition to the external support and information that comes from local officials and authorities. All plans, communication outlines, safe shelters, emergency contacts, vendor lists, and evacuation routes and strategies should be included in your community’s emergency or disaster preparedness plan.

Part of every association’s plan also needs to address the security measures around the community. First and foremost, if your association employs a security company and services, check or ask about the provider’s specific storm procedures. Many will have standard processes regarding how services are impacted when a tropical storm or hurricane is anticipated. This will greatly assist you and your community with clearly understanding how and when security services will be affected and how your vendor communicates this in real time.

Next, and as a part of your preparedness plan, a thorough inspection of the security infrastructure around the community should be evaluated by an assigned individual or team. For gated communities, this includes all types of gates at vehicle entrances. While most security companies with access to the gates will remotely lock them open ahead of a storm, additional actions may be needed to ensure they remain open and do not prevent unencumbered ingress and egress to the community. Certain staff or community members should be trained in how to secure the barrier gates, swing gates, and/or slide gates based on the recommendations of the manufacturer.

Most gated communities can address the gate infrastructure in one of the following ways. Swing gates can often be secured at the end of the gate frame, opposite the hinges, and slide gates should be opened. For barrier gates, the proper method of securing the gate is based on the type of barrier arms. Some can be disengaged from their cradle with wiring still attached, with the arm(s) then secured to fencing, gates, or stakes in the ground. Other barrier arms can be removed entirely and stored in an indoor, secure location. Once your gate system is locked open and components properly secured or removed, it’s recommended to turn off breakers that supply power to the equipment.

Having a plan to address your community’s gate infrastructure in this way is crucial to ensuring that residents can quickly evacuate should they need or want to. Additionally, emergency vehicles and local authorities will be able to easily access the property if needed. And, the infrastructure itself will be better protected and less likely to be a projectile risk during high winds.

Also, most communities today have access control implemented in one or more ways throughout the neighborhood. The security section of your emergency preparedness plan should also address each amenity or asset with access control installed. Some access systems are set to “fail open” in the event of a power outage, something we generally expect with severe storms. Therefore, community management, staff, or other leaders should be assigned to lock up and secure these areas ahead of time. This helps to prevent unauthorized access to important amenities around the community until they’ve been evaluated following a storm and normal operations have resumed.

As it relates to security, community managers and leaders should also plan ahead or have in place a backup for databases, video footage, and any other important documents. Whether items are backed up on a portable drive, accessible via a cloud-based system, or secured with your security provider, this ensures that valuable information is safe during a storm and can be accessed remotely should staff not be able to reach the community immediately following a storm.

Once your disaster preparedness plan is updated with your security items and other supportive measures available, and everyone understands their roles, make sure community residents can easily view the processes in place. Even when they aren’t specifically assisting with securing gates or locking up the clubhouse, you’re communicating the importance of these measures and keeping them engaged with taking their own steps to prepare and protect their own home.

Following each storm, no matter the extent of the damage, community leaders should be ready to clearly communicate with residents about any issues, recovery efforts, and timelines. This may include reiterating information you have received from vendors who service your association, like security companies who may remotely close your gates when it’s safe to do so. While the aftermath of a severe storm can be daunting, effective communication to residents and amongst the board members and property manager(s) will help manage expectations, reduce anxiety, and allow for community collaboration to address cleanup and repairs.

When was the last time your community reviewed its emergency preparedness process? This season, add or confirm each element of it includes detailed preparation, communication, and collaboration plans. Properly addressing the security methods like gates, access control, and other items before a storm hits is crucial to the safety of residents and protection of the association’s security investments. And following a storm, your community will be efficiently set up to reestablish security and other functions as quickly as possible.

NOTE: Envera-secured communities can access Envera’s standard storm season procedures here