If you and your community are bracing for Hurricane Florence, please click here for information on working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to prepare and recover.
As community association managers and boards of directors prepare their residents for the dangerous Category 2 storm, they are burdened with the knowledge that FEMA will likely not be there to support disaster recovery in their community.
When the CAI government affairs team hears a monster hurricane is heading toward the coast with a dangerous storm surge, damaging winds, and catastrophic rainfall, we step into high gear contacting members of Congress, governors, and FEMA officials. We plead with them to consider providing explicit guidance to first responders to remove debris from private property following the storm because it will likely be an immediate threat to public health and safety. We followed the same routine preparing for and recovering from hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Understandably, FEMA usually waits until after the storm wreaks havoc to give guidance to first responders. For managers and board members, it becomes very difficult to appeal to their governor, FEMA, and Congressional representatives to authorize debris removal on private property while trying to navigate the destruction and loss that tends to follow a hurricane. It is preposterous to ask residents who are trying to deal with the devastation of loss following a disaster to call their Congressional representatives to get help.
What’s not understood by FEMA and many members of Congress is that the local municipality may have mandated the developer privatize streets in the community, resulting in association residents bearing the financial, legal, and operational responsibility for maintaining and insuring the streets. The residents have to pay for the streets when their neighboring community may not, and FEMA often refuses to reimburse for debris removal following a disaster on these streets owned by the association. These residents pay the same local property and federal taxes as everyone else, but they are being penalized because their streets are “private.” The Disaster Assistance Equity Act is solving that inequality.
If you aren’t facing Hurricane Florence, you can prepare your community for a future disaster by contacting your Congressional representative and urging them to co-sponsor the Disaster Assistance Equity Act. Click here.
Visit CAI’s Disaster Preparedness resource page. Please share the information below with our friends and neighbors bracing or Hurricane Florence.
HURRICANE FLORENCE – PREPARATION AND RECOVERY
GUIDANCE FOR COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS WORKING WITH FEMA
As community associations brace for hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, there are a few key steps communities may take to increase the possibility of getting assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for recovery efforts.
Community association residents are most likely concerned with debris removal.
- Debris removal from private property requires prior FEMA approval. It is highly unlikely community associations will be reimbursed for expenses if they do not use the proper channels.
- Your community should be in touch with your local county or city, and you should ask them what your community needs to do to ensure debris will be removed from your community following the disaster.
- If your locality asks for authority to access your private property (association-owned streets), you may complete and submit to them this form.
Piles of disaster debris may line streets in numerous community associations in the Hurricane Florence impact areas as residents return to salvage belongings and rebuild homes. A priority of associations must be the prompt and proper removal of this debris.
In general, federal funds may NOT be used for debris removal from private property, such as a community association, without prior FEMA approval. It is highly unlikely community associations will be reimbursed by FEMA for debris removal expenses unless proper channels are used to authorize the work.
Here are steps a community association manager or board member should take to see if your community is eligible for post-disaster debris removal assistance.
- Verify your community’s eligibility for federal debris removal assistance by contacting your municipal government (county, city, township, etc.) and your local FEMA representative to request debris removal assistance for your community association.
- Verify your municipal officials understand how to obtain FEMA approval to remove disaster debris from your community:
- Ask that representatives of the municipality and FEMA view debris in the community
- Ask that the municipality declare debris to be a threat to public health and safety
- Ask that the municipality invoke any existing emergency authority to enter private land to respond to immediate threats to public health and safety
- FEMA may deny your request for debris removal services in your community association by classifying the association as a private community or business. If your community is denied federally-funded debris removal assistance, request an immediate review of the denial by regional FEMA officials and inform your U.S. Representative and U.S. Senators of FEMA’s denial. Contact your member of Congress by clicking here.
- If FEMA denies your appeal and will not approve debris removal from community association streets, verify with county and FEMA officials that debris within the community may be moved lawfully by a private contractor to the closest public street or other designated location for removal by the county.
- Be patient.
- Visit fema.gov and www.caionline.org/communitypreparedness for updates.
State Emergency Management Agency (for those in the path of Hurricane Florence).
Dawn Bauman, CAE
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