Don’t Sleep on Natural Disaster Property Prep

Whoever has control over the plotline of 2020, on behalf of property managers everywhere, I would like a word with you please.

APPARENTLY, it’s not enough that we’re still in the thick of a global pandemic. Trying to navigate the nuances of that clown fiesta, with mask protocols and social distancing measures, but now we’re also dealing with some of the most destructive natural disasters we’ve seen in a while. (Maybe this is what the murder hornets came to warn us about?)

Depending on where in the world you’re reading this from or how much brain capacity you have left for yet another breaking news headline, your knowledge about the latest environmental tantrums might not be up to par, so let’s recap. 

  • August 15th brought us the start of the 2020 California Wildfires, which honestly is a misleading headline since they’ve now spread to 14 different states including Arizona, Oregon, and Colorado. Over the last two weeks, these 93 individual blazes have managed to burn more than 1.8 million acres, which is the size of like six New York Cities. The California Fire Department recently reported that fires in their state alone have devastatingly taken the lives of seven people and have destroyed over 1,400 buildings.
  • On the other side of the nation, Hurricane Laura brutally introduced herself to the state of Louisiana and its neighbors at 2 a.m. on August 27th with wind speeds up to 150 mph, which makes this storm one of the most powerful on record. According to The Louisiana Department of Health, more than 220,000 residents cannot access water in their communities due to 67 water system outages caused by the storm. The power company, Entergy, also reported that the storm left 540,000 of its customers in the dark. Even worse than the immense statewide destruction is the loss of twelve lives in Louisiana, and another four lives in Texas

It’s terrifying, heartbreaking, and downright overwhelming. 

If you’ve personally been affected by either of these recent events or know someone who has, our hearts go out to you and we want you to know that your best efforts to navigate the aftermath are enough. For the rest of us who have been fortunate enough to have never experienced a natural disaster, it’s crucial to make sure we prepare ourselves, our communities, and our properties for the worst possible outcome.

Because I swear, this year the universe seems to be pulling scenes straight out of our nightmares.

The following nuggets of wisdom have come from ridiculously qualified parties, and are only the tip of the iceberg for natural disaster education.  I’ve selected the few that seem to be the most universal in hopes that no matter where you’re located, something will stick to the parts of your brain that haven’t gone ooey-gooey in quarantine.

Resident Safety

This is the big one. If you can only focus on one section, make it be this one because material things (even the buildings we pour our heart in soul into) can be replaced, but people can’t. As property managers, or building staff in general, residents will look to you for guidance in times of crisis, and communicating the right information is key. 

During natural disasters, one method of communication just isn’t enough. Natural disasters have a reputation for limiting cell service so calls are typically a no-go.  Plus, how many individual phone calls do you really have time to make when you’re battling a natural disaster? Opting for automated text or email platforms like Remind or Mailchimp allows you to send out the same information to all of your residents. If you have a community-based platform like LittleBird or CommunityAlerts, using in-app features to post announcements or send notifications during the preparation stages can also be extremely beneficial. 

The type of information you should be providing varies based on what disasters you’re likely to encounter in your area. However, as a general rule of thumb, residents should be familiar with the essentials of an emergency kit, building evacuation plans, and have their emergency contacts on standby.

Building Preparedness

Making sure your property is prepared comes into play even if you aren’t expecting a natural disaster anytime soon. Not only can this save you money in the long run, but it can also improve resident retention if they can clearly see the steps you’ve taken towards keeping them safe. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, preparing your community won’t be a penniless task. According to the IREM handbook, money may be required for a variety of prep items.  From printing costs of emergency manuals and signs to the added training hours you might have to schedule for your staff, be prepared for some upfront costs. Some of the most expensive costs, such as a good attorney as well as hiring a disaster-risk professional, are the most vital to you as a property manager. 

Having a good lawyer helps you be aware of potential liabilities and laws will apply to you in the event of an emergency. If you already have a trusted attorney, make sure to follow up with them if you have any questions about natural disaster liabilities in your area. 

Getting your property assessed for disaster risk is an important next step. Understanding how your building is expected to hold up in different scenarios is great knowledge to have, especially when answering questions from anxious residents. This assessment also provides you the opportunity to update certain aspects of your property to better your outcomes before it’s too late.


Ah yes, insurance. Doesn’t that word just fill your heart with joy? Ya, me too. I know it probably seems like we saved the most boring topic for last, but trust me I wouldn’t be bringing it up if it wasn’t important.

In the event that your property is located even remotely close to any fire, tornado, hurricane, earthquake, etc., there is probably going to be some form of property damage. I know we all hate to think about that, but it’s better to be realistic than blindsided.

One proactive step you can take that will actually remove some of the hassle off your plate is requiring tenants to have renter’s insurance. This creates a better net of coverage for your property and minimizes any chance of you having to pay for residents’ losses or damages. Now, of course, requiring renters insurance is an all-or-nothing scenario that might not make sense for all properties, but it’s something to consider (especially if you’re in a natural disaster strike zone). 

The second piece of insurance advice we can give actually applies after the calamity has passed. Make sure to document everything. Photos, videos, and written accounts help make sure that you’ve covered all of your bases when it comes time to file those insurance claims. The better you are at documenting damage, the more likely it is that any expenses are minimized and any “out-of-pocket” costs are reimbursed. 

Side note: Insurance claims are frustrating to begin with, and after a natural disaster the system becomes bombarded with claims of varying degree, so making any progress towards compensation may seem nearly impossible. But, they too are trying their best in this situation, so practicing patience goes a long way.

We see you

When it all comes down to it, natural disasters are incredibly unpredictable and hard on everyone involved. The important thing, the thing that really counts, is that you’re taking the time to try and figure out how to navigate the chaos. No one handles disaster perfectly, and in our book, any level of trying is better than not caring at all. 

So, from me and everyone else at Multifam, thank you.

Thank you for still trying to do what you can in this topsy-turvy world of turmoil we currently find ourselves in. You’re doing your best, and that’s all anyone can ask of you.

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