New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Preparing for the Next Disaster: Tips from a Building That's Been Through One

Ronda Kaysen in Building Operations on February 5, 2013

200 East End Avenue, Upper East Side, Manhattan

220 East End Avenue after Superstorm Sandy. Click to enlarge.
Feb. 5, 2013

1) Prepare to be in the dark for a week.

Superstorm Sandy was New York's first real experience with a long-term outage. Staff at 200 East End Avenue quickly ran out of emergency supplies like batteries and lanterns for hallways. With the building plunged into darkness, locating extra parts proved a difficult and exhausting task. Your co-op or condominium should stock up on enough supplies to last a week, including batteries, backup equipment, lanterns, water and food.

2) Compile a list of e-mail addresses for every resident, and keep it current.

The biggest frustration for shareholders was the lack of communication. With residents and staff dispersed in temporary housing across the city, communication became a major challenge. The building set up an e-mail list, but it took several days before the board and management could track down all the e-mails. Collect e-mail addresses from residents early and update the list frequently.

3) Get keys for every unit.

The staff had to gain access to each unit in the building to restore gas service. But with residents staying elsewhere, that was not easy. Co-op and condo boards should ensure that staff collect keys for each unit before a storm hits.

4) Urge residents to read and understand their insurance policies.

Residents were devastated to learn that their damaged belongings were not covered by their individual insurance policies. Urge residents to read their policies carefully so they are not shocked when damage occurs. "So much of it is semantics," says Robert Mellman, a property manager at Orsid Realty. Board members should also fully understand building policies so they're not caught off-guard, and consider flood insurance if necessary. 

5) Keep a list of all the elderly and infirm residents.

Many residents had to be carried out of the building. Some were unable to evacuate. Knowing which residents will need extra help in a disaster can save lives.

6) Staff up.

If you know a disaster is imminent, call in backup before the storm so all hands can be on deck.

7) Raise the elevators and shut down critical systems quickly.

As the waters rose, building staff made a critical decision to raise the elevators to the seventh floor to keep them above floodwaters and shut down the mechanical systems. Mellman credits their efforts with reducing damage, particularly to the elevators.


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Photo courtesy Orsid Realty. Click to enlarge.

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