Protecting Your Home and Guests During a Storm
by Vicki Langhel
In the midst of Winter Storm Riley in early March, Outer Beaches was on the scene of Ocean View Drive in Avon to witness blocks-long dune breaches, waves crashing under the oceanfront homes and spilling over across the road. While sand, propane tanks, AC units, decking, hot tubs and more rolled across the lawns to the semi-oceanfront homes and farther, ocean water inundated Highway 12 and kept moving west as far as soundside homes tucked back in Kinnakeet Shores. We watched as this repeated at every high tide for days, closing businesses as workers were stranded on either side of the flooding, destroying oceanfront pools, and carving sand out from under the Avon Pier. Meanwhile, dune destruction on Pea Island closed Highway 12 to traffic, keeping guests and residents from getting on and off the Island.
And this wasn’t even a hurricane.
It’s no secret that Hatteras Island has to face nor’easters, hurricanes and other significant weather events – what makes this place so beautiful is also what makes it vulnerable to high surf and winds. Preparing your home for a storm and responding quickly afterward is a non-negotiable, and for most vacation rental homeowners who live off Island, that means you need to put your trust in your property management company to care for your home and your guests before, during and after these situations. As we head into 2018’s hurricane season which is predicted to be another busy one, now is the time to make sure your home has the right plan in place. Here’s what should be included in your storm preparation:
A storm response plan!
First and foremost, your property management company should have a set and practiced plan in place to secure homes, communicate, and restore homes to reopen them to guests as quickly as possible, with defined roles and responsibilities for every team member. At Outer Beaches, every office is prepped with backup power and supplies well ahead of a potential storm so our staff is prepared to maintain operations, and when we know a threat is likely, we activate an all-hands-on-deck mode in which every available team member from any department is deployed into the field before and after the storm with pre-planned supplies, checklists and procedures.
Home protection protocols.
Preparing a home for a storm means more than tying up trash cans and hot tub lids. It also includes securing all pool and deck furniture and grills, moving elevators to the top floor, closing all blinds and interior doors, disconnecting power, and many other steps to prevent and minimize potential damage. We also educate our guests on their own hurricane preparation checklist to help expedite this process in the event of an evacuation.
Storm situations can be chaotic with misinformation and constantly changing forecasts, but good communication can alleviate this challenge. Property management companies should communicate early and often with guests, owners and staff with clear and helpful information at all stages of the storm. This includes not just weather and island access information, but also strategies for evacuating stubborn guests and contacting individual owners on the status of their home once the storm has passed.
Transportation for staff.
Staff can’t help with recovery efforts if they are stuck at home because their personal vehicle can’t make it through standing water or sandy roads. Your property management company should be prepared to help shuttle team members with dedicated vehicles and carpool routes by area.
Quick recovery action.
Once it’s safe to access homes, your property manager should be out in the field quickly but thoroughly assessing any damages. At Outer Beaches, our storm recovery assessments start before water on the roads fully recedes and includes notes and photos, as well as drone photography when available, and any reported damages are immediately triaged by our maintenance department or sent out to our approved local vendors for bigger repairs. At this stage, our maintenance department contacts each affected homeowner 1-on-1 to discuss repair needs. Our housekeeping department is also dispatched to clean and ready homes for the next incoming guests so your reservations don’t skip a beat.
We can’t control the weather, but we can control the response. Does your property management company’s plan put you at ease when you’re off the Island? If not, now’s the time to re-evaluate it for this year’s hurricane season.