Emergency Preparedness for Neighborhood Organizations

1. Ready, Set, Prepare

Preparing our residents and neighborhoods for weather emergencies and potential disasters is a priority of the City of Orlando. The City is asking your association, as well as all our other neighborhood organizations, to provide the leadership at the neighborhood level by adopting an emergency preparedness plan and helping your neighbors prepare, too. 

This guide is an outline for your association to follow, resources to use, questions to think about and tips to create your association and neighborhood emergency preparedness plans. We can’t stress enough the importance of planning for emergencies and disasters. 

2. Office of Emergency Management - Your Best Resource 

Response Teams at Emergency Operations Center

You can count on the City of Orlando for help with creating your emergency plan. Our Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has information and resources to help City residents, neighborhood organizations and businesses prepare for, cope with and recover from the effects of natural and manmade disasters.

OEM accomplishes this through all four phases of emergency management: 1. preparedness; 2. response; 3. recovery; and 4. mitigation.

OEM ensures the City’s Emergency Operations Center is at a constant state of readiness. As the coordinating body for the City, OEM works year-round with City departments, regional emergency management and public safety officials, elected officials and private and community based organizations to develop and maintain plans to lessen the impact of disasters on City residents.

The OEM wants all our City residents to take three actions to be prepared for any type of natural or manmade disaster. Residents need to:

  1. Make a Plan
  2. Build a Kit
  3. Stay Informed

Learn more about the Office of Emergency Management or call 321.235.5438 or 321.235.5439 for assistance and resources. 

3. The Role of a Neighborhood Organization

As a neighborhood organization, your role is to help your neighborhood and its members be ready for an emergency. Part of this role is producing and adopting an association or neighborhood emergency preparedness plan. Your association should have an emergency plan in place before hurricane season and review it annually. It is just as important for associations, Neighborhood Watches or neighbors to create a neighborhood emergency preparedness plan. Once an association or neighborhood plan has been adopted, be sure to share it with your neighbors/members. They have a vested interest to know how their association will respond before, during and after a storm or emergency. The easiest way neighborhood organizations can help neighbors/members prepare is by partnering with the City’s Office of Emergency Management and Office of Communications and Neighborhood Relations (OCNR) for training, information and resources on what to do before, during and after a natural or manmade disaster. Invite the City’s OEM staff to speak at an association meeting in late winter to early spring, before hurricane season which is from June 1 - November 30.

Voluntary Neighborhood Associations 

As a voluntary neighborhood association, your role is to help your neighborhood and neighbors be ready for a natural or manmade emergency. Part of this role is adopting a written neighborhood emergency preparedness plan. In addition to creating an emergency preparedness plan, the association needs to help keep neighbors informed and encourage neighbors to create individual and family emergency plans, and build an emergency kit.

Mandatory Condominium or Homeowners Associations 

As a mandatory association, your association may own property and community amenities that require securing before a storm or hurricane. Most property owned by an association will have insurance coverage; check with your insurance carrier to see if they have an emergency preparedness guide to help with your emergency planning. In addition to your association’s preparedness plan, the association needs to help keep neighbors informed and encourage neighbors to create individual and family emergency plans, and build an emergency kit.

4. Make a Plan

Having a plan in place will make your emergency preparation, response and recovery much faster, possibly saving lives and dollars. The City wants to make it a little easier to generate an association or neighborhood plan.

Here are some simple steps to follow and at the end you will have an association or neighborhood emergency plan.

Visit orlando.gov/imready for detailed information and resources. It is critical that your association customize your emergency preparedness plan to your neighborhood, keeping in mind your neighborhood assets, threats and risks.

Create an emergency preparedness team to produce, implement, manage and update your association and neighborhood emergency plan. We suggest a team of three to seven people depending on the roles your association identifies in its plan. Break up the assignments based on before, during and after a storm or emergency. It will make the duties easier and clearer for all the volunteers. For an outline of a community/neighborhood emergency response plan, visit floridadisaster.org. This plan should be reviewed and updated annually at least 45-90 days in advance of hurricane season.

Identify threats and risks to the neighborhood, assets, roles and responsibilities, and a neighborhood disaster response strategy.

Questions to ask include:

  1. What does the association or neighborhood need to do before the storm hits?
  2. Does the mandatory association own common property that may need securing, such as pool furniture and other items that could be blown away; if the association has a pool, does the water level need to be lowered?
  3. What are neighborhood threats and risks?
  4. What assets does the neighborhood have to mitigate its threats and risks?
  5. What is the role of the association during the storm?
  6. What does the association need to do after the storm?

Create a list of your neighborhood’s threats and risks, for example:

  1. Large, old trees that may fall and block roads and sidewalks
  2. Low-lying areas in the neighborhood that could flood
  3. Elderly neighbors who may need assistance with preparing their home and yard
  4. Neighbors that are not fluent in English and may need translation or interpreters to understand the safety information

Compile a list of neighborhood and City resources in a printable format to address neighborhood threats and risks. For example, neighbors:

  1. Willing to help elderly neighbors secure their home and property
  2. Willing to open their homes to other neighbors that may not want to ride out the storm alone
  3. With chain saws and trucks for debris removal
  4. With generators, refrigeration and gas grills
  5. Who are bilingual and can translate safety information for neighbors

Based on your neighborhood’s threats and risk, as well as the type of emergency, make sure you plan includes informing your neighbors about how to find shelters, including for those with special need and pets. Orange County government is responsible for setting up shelters; City residents should call Orange County’s 3-1-1 before the storm for information about shelters.

Be sure to list the neighbor or resource, their contact information and what resources/tools they can provide the neighborhood.

Emergency Planning

Inform neighbors with medical or mobility issues to register with Orange County’s Special Needs Registry. This registry is a part of a statewide system that keeps first responders informed about residents with special needs. Everyone registered will receive critical information and assistance during a disaster. After the emergency has passed the Orlando Fire Department will visit the homes of City residents in this registry to conduct a wellness check and provide any assistance to ensure the safety of the residents.

Learn more about the Orange County Special Needs Registry

Define responsibilities. Create a checklist of roles and responsibilities assigned to the association and to neighbors/members. Assign duties to positions instead of specific people. If you assign Fred Smith, the association’s vice president, to walk the neighborhood looking for potential hazards before the hurricane, what is going to happen if Fred moves out of the neighborhood? Since Fred no longer lives in the neighborhood, his role may be overlooked because it was assigned specifically to him and not a position or committee. Be sure to include association emergency preparation and response roles in the job descriptions of officers and committees.

Outline the role of the association or neighborhood after the storm or disaster has passed and the City is in the recovery stage.

Here are items to address in your plan:

  1. Go out in teams to conduct an assessment of your neighborhood. There is safety in numbers. Be safe. Don’t tackle things that may be beyond your resources.
  2. Call 9-1-1 for a police, fire or medical emergency.
  3. Take photos of the damage and check on neighbors to see if everyone is okay or needs medical attention.
  4. Call the City’s Emergency Information Line (407.246.4357) to report any power outages, damage to homes, down electrical wires, shattered glass, gas leaks, debris, standing water, trees and debris blocking roads and other hazards.
  5. If the power is out, the association can help facilitate neighbors gathering on streets to share cooking and other duties.
  6. Make the necessary arrangements to remove debris to prevent accidents. Most of the time neighbors will instinctively help each other. Again, be sure to report debris to the City. The City will do its best to respond to debris blocking roads and other concerns.
  7. Mandatory association may also need to:
    1. evaluate the damage and determine the need for emergency repairs; contact your vendors in order to assess damage and prepare plans, and; don’t tackle things that may be beyond your resources
    2. review insurance policies and contact insurance company to report any damage
    3. review financing options
  8. Gated neighborhoods will need to bring debris outside of the gate(s) to the right-of-way for pick up by the City.

Know how to contact the City. During a hurricane, disaster or other emergency when the City’s Emergency Operation Center is activated, the number to use to reach the City is 407.246.4357(HELP), which is the City’s Citizen Information Line. You will be able to report down trees and power lines, flooding and other issues by calling the line. However for police, fire or medical emergencies, you will still need to dial 9-1-1. Another source of information during an emergency is the City’s emergency radio station – 1650AM (WQDC), which is activated for hurricanes and other similar emergencies.

How and when are you going to communicate with your members and neighbors? The association needs to be a source of information for your neighbors as they prepare for a hurricane and then deal with post-storm issues and problems.

Be a source of information for your neighbors as they prepare for a hurricane and aftermath. Determine what information is appropriate for the association to share with its members. Create the basic information message in advance to post on your website, Facebook, Nextdoor and other communication tools at your disposal. By doing this in advance, you will only have to update or edit it to reflect the specific emergency before distributing the message. Your messages need to include important phone numbers, how to make a kit, how to contact the association and the role of the association’s emergency preparedness team. Please be sure to include the City’s Citizen Information Line – 407.246.4357(HELP) and emergency radio station – 1650AM (WQDC).

Network with other neighborhood organizations. Sometimes pooling resources with other neighborhood organizations near you may help lighten the load when hosting emergency preparation workshops and fairs. By working with other neighborhood organizations, you will increase the success of your fair and attract more vendors.

Apply for a Mayor’s Matching Grant to help offset any costs your association may have with developing your emergency plan and purchasing resources the neighborhood would need before, during or after a storm or another emergency. For more information about the Mayor’s Matching Grant go to cityoforlando.net/grants.

5. More Steps for Mandatory Associations

Review association property insurance policies. Mandatory associations owning property need to review their property insurance policy and emergency plan annually. Check with your property insurance company for assistance and to explore any premium discounts for having a plan in place.

Define the role of your community association manager. If you are professionally managed, go over your emergency preparedness plan with your property manager and be clear about how management will help you during the emergency. Don’t assume! Make sure you are clear with how much, and with what specifics, management will help you in the crisis. Determine and agree on the additional charges, if any, so that there will be no hesitation on their part when you ask for help. Make sure crisis-related manpower and equipment is designated for your community. Also determine how many of their resources will be available to you.

Secure common areas and amenities. Be sure your emergency preparedness team has a committee that is responsible for securing pool furniture and other items that could be blown away, lowering the water in the pool and other tasks.

Take pictures of the property before and after the emergency. Use photos to document damage. Having video and/or photographs of the buildings and association amenities will help facilitate damage assessment and any insurance claims.

Association files and banking resources. If any association files are kept with the board, be sure these files are in waterproof containers or a secure location that will stand up to the weather disaster. Keep a list of bank account numbers. Have a couple of blank checks in case the association’s debit, credit card and computer checks are not available.

Backup association computer files. Before the storm hits, be sure to back up any association computer files that are crucial to the association through online systems, CDs or portable storage devices.

Hard copy list of owners and contact information. Be sure you have a hard copy list of all your owners and their contact information. If possible try to get emergency contact information and second residence addresses. This list maybe invaluable for your neighborhood’s recovery after the storm or disaster, helping you to know who lives where.

Gated communities. Prior to the storm, open the entrance gates so neighbors/members may freely go in and out of the property. This is a precaution if your neighborhood loses power and is not able to manually open its gates. Also, after the emergency has passed and your gated community has a significant amount of debris, that debris will need to be brought outside the gate to the right-of-way in order for the City to pick up the debris. This is a requirement of FEMA for disaster funding for the City.

6. Resources

Making a Plan

Here are resources to use in making and maintaining an association and personal/family plan, building a kit and staying informed. Associations are encouraged to share this information with their neighbors.

City Resources

 Orange County and Central Florida Region Resources

State Resources

Federal Resources

For Kids

Staying Informed


  • Citizen Information Line: to report problems and find resources during and after the storm or disaster.
    This phone line is active only when the Emergency Operations Center is activated.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Nextdoor - Register with your neighborhood Nextdoor to receive updates from the City of Orlando
  • Radio Station - 1650 AM Orlando's Emergency Radio Station
  • Non-emergencies
    • Fire: 321.235.5200
    • Police: 321.235.5300

Orange County and Central Florida Region

  • OCAlert - Orange County's hazard alert notification system


7. Helping Neighbors Prepare

Here are some suggestions your association can use to help your neighbors plan, respond and recover from weather or other disasters.

Educate. Host events or guest speakers to inform and train your association, members and neighbors on what to do before, during and after an emergency. Each neighbor/ member is responsible for their personal and family safety; this is not a responsibility of the association. Consider hosting an emergency planning fair with vendors and government resources. The City’s OEM may be able to help you identify vendors and government resources for this fair. Contact the City’s Office of Emergency Management at 321.235.5438 or visit orlando.gov/imready. Encourage your neighbors to take first-aid and CPR training. Contact the Orlando Fire Department for hands-only CPR/AED training at 407.246.4277 or handsonlycpr@orlando.gov.

Promote your association’s emergency preparedness team. Let your neighbors know about the role and resources of your team. This team can help identify neighbors that may need a helping hand in securing their property and home or have special needs. Your association should have a team to inspect the common areas and secure all objects to keep them from being blown by the storm.

Encourage individual and family emergency response plans. Planning in advance for emergencies is often a task we mean to do, but don’t get around to until we are facing an emergency. As an association, host a workshop specifically designed for neighbors/members to create or update their personal and family emergency plan. This helps those who tend to put off this type of planning.

Promote building a kit. Encourage your neighbors to build an emergency kit that meets the needs of their family and pets.

Promote communication. Be sure your neighbors know what resources and tools the association is using to communicate before, during and after the storm or disaster.

Commuter emergency plan. Encourage your neighbors to have a plan for traveling between work and home, and other commonly visited locations. Before an emergency happens, list all of the routes you can use to get to your destinations. Keep a copy of this plan in a safe place where you can access it in the event of a disaster.

8. Build a Kit for Individuals and Families

Building a disaster kit is an easy way to protect your family and business during an emergency. A disaster kit makes resources and supplies easily accessible for you and your family or business during an emergency.

Visit orlando.gov/imready for a detailed list of what a kit should contain. The kit should be stored in a waterproof, easy-to carry container and include:  

  1. Water - Store one gallon of water per person per day (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for food preparation/sanitation). Store 1 1/2 to 2 gallons a day for the elderly. Keep at least a three-day supply of water per person.
  2. Food - Store at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking and little to no water. If you must heat food, pack a can of Sterno (canned heat) or a camping stove. Select compact and lightweight foods.
  3. First Aid Kit - Assemble a first aid kit for your home and for each car.
  4. Clothing and Bedding - A set of clean bedding and extra set of clean clothes for you and your family members is important during an evacuation because laundry facilities may not be available.
  5. Tools and Supplies - These supplies should last for 72 hours without electricity, water and other utilities. Items such as paper products, medicine, money, battery operated radio, batteries, non-electric can opener and duct tape are among that items are important.
  6. Money - Keep some cash on hand in small bills to buy incidentals if the power is out and you are not able to use credit cards for purchases. 

Family Pets - Assemble a Pet Emergency Preparedness Kit

A resident walking their dog in the City of Orlando.

If you are a pet owner, be sure to include your pets in your emergency preparedness plan. Do not leave your pets behind! Your pets most likely cannot survive on their own and if by some remote chance they do, you may not be able to find them when you return.

  1. Resources to assist with your pet emergency plan:
    1. Federal Emergency Management Agency - ready.gov/animals
    2. Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando at 407.351.7722 or at petallianceorlando.org
  2. Know a safe place to take your pet. Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters; only service animals are allowed.
  3. When Orange County opens up emergency shelters, there is always one shelter that is pet friendly. To find the location of the pet-friendly shelter before an storm, call Orange County’s 3-1-1 for locations. 

Being prepared for a disaster is vital to your family, your neighborhood and your City. The City of Orlando appreciates your efforts with promoting emergency preparedness. Your ability to recover from an emergency tomorrow may depend on the planning and preparation you do today. Act now. Be prepared!

9. Stay Informed, Connected and Involved