Hi Yo Silver!

Hi Yo Silver!

Being a person that wants to serve and protect your own interests, you get yourself elected to the board. At the first board meeting, the president gives you a pep talk about not giving instructions to contractors or discussing board issues with other members unless you preface comments with “the board policy/decision is…”. You bristle at this. Who does this guy think he is? This is America, Home of the Free and Land of the Lone Ranger. Why shouldn’t you be able to say what you want, when you want and to whoever you want?

As a director on the board, you wear two hats: one as an elected official and another as a member of the HOA. While you are clearly entitled to your personal opinion, you need to be careful how and when you express your opinion as a board member. Once elected to serve the interests of the HOA, you need to view things through corporate glasses. This can be difficult when the issues are contentious.

The homeowner association form of government is a representative democracy…a few are elected to represent the many. A fundamental concept of democracy is rule by the majority. Thus, decisions of the board do not require consensus, just that most agree. This may leave some directors in the minority opinion and in even direct opposition with the rest.

When it comes to being a minority position director, there are several approaches, one good and one bad. An HOA board needs diverse points of view to make good decisions. If few have an opinion, usually the loudest voice will prevail and effectively the board will run by a dictator. Dictators don’t work well within the democratic context. Having dissenting opinions expands the perspective and dissenters can often have a major impact on shaping key parts of the final decision. A Lone Ranger dissenter may not carry the day but can still impact the outcome.

On the other hand, a dissenter can choose to express opposition by churning the board’s decision through the HOA grist mill, spinning the facts and creating ill will. It compromises the ability of the board to do its job and causes bad feelings among neighbors. That’s bad for everyone.

That said, there are times when a board or board officer is acting irresponsibly or even criminally. Whistle blowing is certainly appropriate when there is self dealing going on. If the matter is irresponsibility or neglecting HOA business, a vigilant director can be effective by promoting candidates that are more suitable or encourage ineffective directors to step down. But bad mouthing the current regime to neighbors over the back fence is usually self-defeating. It makes the Long Ranger look small minded, he will be ostracized or minimized by the remaining directors and lose ability to impact decisions.

A Lone Ranger director can also compromise the HOA’s interests by interfering with day to day management. One of the most frustrating things a contractor goes through is trying to respond to many “chiefs”. In a professionally managed HOA, the manager is usually authorized to direct contractors. But when a Lone Ranger director steps in to micro-manage a project, the contractor will often try to respond to both the manager and Lone Ranger. But it takes more time and effort and reduces the chances of a successful outcome.

Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s sidekick and mentor. With his wise manner, he would balance the Ranger’s hero compulsivity. Between the two and creative thinking, they always figured out a way to save the day.

In the final analysis, while dissent is a fundamental part of the democratic process and can produce good outcomes, consistently being a Long Ranger erodes the ability for the board to work as a team. Tonto understood the concept of teamwork and often gave the Ranger a different point of view by providing additional information and options. Encourage opposing points of view but strive to forge an outcome that works for the majority. Hi yo Silver!

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Model Remodeling

Model Remodeling

Owning your own home is an American dream. In urban settings, homeowner associations have become a dominant form of new construction, often representing over two thirds of new homes. While HOA homeowners have many rights and privileges, they often concede certain freedoms usually enjoyed in more traditional home ownership. One particular area of concession involves remodeling.

To control uniformity, look and feel, many HOAs have material, color and design standards which must be adhered to. In common wall and multi- story HOAs, structural integrity demands that changes made in one unit do not undermine or compromise the remaining units. For these reasons, it is important for the homeowner association to keep the owners informed and reminded of material standards and remodeling guidelines to avoid inadvertent violations.

Here are a number of requirements and guidelines which can be included in a Remodeling Policy as appropriate:

1. For smaller projects (mostly aesthetic, no structural or utility work involved), submit to the board for written approval prior to commencement of work a description of the work to be performed, who will do it and the anticipated schedule.

2. For involved projects (includes structural, utility work) owner must submit architectural plans, copies of permits and contractor agreements to the board for written approval prior to commencing work. If warranted, the board may seek the review and approval of an architect or engineer with related costs to be paid by owner.

3. If view is a consideration in project, require disclosure of proposed structure height and whether removal of trees is contemplated for better view.

4. All power tool operation must be accomplished either in the unit or off property unless authorized by the board in writing and provided there is no unreasonable objection from the neighbors.

5. Contractors are permitted to work only from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Monday through Saturdays. No work on Sundays.

6. All demolition and construction material shall be disposed of off property, not in HOA dumpsters.

7. Contractor shall clean up affected common area daily.

8. Owner will provide adequate parking for contractor. Contractor may not use guest parking or block fire lanes.

9. Common utility (electrical, water, gas, etc.) interruption must be approved and coordinated by the board.

10. If landscaping renovation is proposed and the HOA has landscape standards, a comprehensive plan should be submitted showing proposed changes.

11. Establish specific standards (brand, model, color) for paint color, roofing material, storm doors, screen doors, awnings and other common add-ons.

Since the desire to remodel can happen anytime as the spirit moves the remodeler, the board needs to be proactive in keeping owners informed of expectations. Publish the Remodeling Policy on the HOA website and reference it in all newsletters and periodic email updates. Since remodeling will happen, make sure you do all possible to direct a model outcome.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

HOA Managers: A Rare Breed

HOA Managers: A Rare Breed

 

In residential, commercial and industrial rental management, there is a revocable agreement that allows the property owner a fair amount of control over the tenant. If the tenant doesn’t live up to the agreement, the owner can terminate the agreement (and vice versa). This is not the case in HOAs which are controlled by the board, governing documents, HOA statutes and property rights.

HOA managers are called on to do everything that a rental property manager is supposed to do plus be an expert at diplomacy, mediation and human psychology. They are often called on to work a full day and then attend night meetings. It is demanding work and those that are good at it are a rare breed indeed.

HOA management companies typically work by contract for a monthly fee. But how is that amount computed? It generally is based on the estimated time it takes to accomplish the tasks outlined in the Management Agreement. There is often an extra hourly charge for tasks not deemed to be routine.

So what goes into the management fee? There are fixed costs like rent, phones, copier, insurance, computers and internet. Labor charges are based on the estimated time it will take to accomplish the prescribed work. Total fixed and labor costs plus profit margin equal the monthly management fee. It is common to divide this number by the total number of units/lots to derive the charge “per door”. Size matters. Smaller HOAs pay more and larger ones pay less per door.

Typically, an HOA management company will assign a manager, a bookkeeper, a maintenance supervisor and possibly an administrative assistant to the account. All will handle multiple HOAs. The average manager may handle 10-15 accounts.

The salary levels of the staff can have a major impact on the management fees. If an HOA wants experienced professionals, there is a price to pay. This is one of the most challenging forms of management there is and a jack-of-all-trades just won’t do. A qualified HOA manager attends seminars, has professional designations and credentials and focuses exclusively on HOA management. The HOA will benefit from this training and experience so expect to pay accordingly.

Managers spend a great deal of their time preparing for and following up on board meetings. For a typical board meeting, the manager gathers information and prepares a management report, reviews the financial statement, attaches relevant correspondence, puts board packets together and emails or mails them to individual directors.

Most board meetings are held on weekday evenings at the HOA so the manager is required to work after hours and travel, both of which costs the HOA money since it’s built into the contract. After the meeting, the manager usually has a laundry list to follow up on that occupies most the following week. A manager can easily spend many hours on board meeting related business.

What can you do to reduce management costs? Keep board meetings to two hours maximum and consider daytime meetings. Move the

board meeting to the management office and hold them during normal business hours. Reduce monthly to quarterly meetings. With an approved budget, proper policies in place and a management planning calendar, the manager should be able to handle most issues with only occasional input from the president. Letting the manager manage without micro-management from the board may be the single biggest cost saver.

Another cost saving involves manager administration of insurance claims and damage reconstruction. Insurance matters can take many hours of a manager’s time. If the management agreement specifically states that insurance claim work is an extra cost to the HOA, the management company can bill the insurance claim for the time it takes to administrate a claim and renovation work. A similar principle involves time spent on collections or legal action against an owner. This management time should be billed to the delinquent owner.

How about the manager providing sale disclosure statements to owners who are selling their homes and buyers’ lenders? The management company should bill owners and buyers separately and not have the homeowner association bear the cost.

These are but a few ways that management costs can be trimmed. Be sensitive to your manager’s time and don’t pile on unnecessary tasks that ultimately will raise the cost. While it’s important to get what you pay for it’s equally important to pay extra for extra services. The best approach is to forge a partnership with the management company and adjust as time and work loaddemands.

HOA managers are a breed apart and waiting to serve. Put them to work for your homeowner association and get back to living that carefree lifestyle advertised in the brochure.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter. 

Southern Community Services’ Charleston, S.C. Office Announces New Hires And New Community Management Clients In Lowcountry

Southern Community Services’ Charleston, S.C. Office Announces New Hires and New Community Management Clients in Lowcountry

July 26, 2017 (Charleston, S.C.) – Southern Community Services (SCS), one of only six AAMC-accredited homeowner association management firms in South Carolina, recently announced several new hires and community management clients in the Charleston, S.C., area. Staff and community details can be viewed online on the SCS website at http://www.trustscs.com.

SCS manages close to 180 communities across the Carolinas and is staffed with accredited professionals who work to maintain efficient communities ranging in size from small neighborhoods to large, master-planned developments like Lake Carolina in the Midlands, the Reserve at Lake Keowee in the Upstate and Park West, Dunes West and I’On in the Charleston area. SCS has grown its portfolio steadily since its founding in 2000 by principals Chuck Munn and Larry Ridlehoover; the firm now employs 45 accredited professionals across North and South Carolina.

New SCS Communities in the Charleston, S.C. Market

McKewn Plantation North, a large neighborhood of single family homes located in Summerville, South Carolina, is joining the SCS community. It will have an exceptional amenities complex, to be completed in 2018. Close to downtown Summerville, with easy access to I-26, McKewn Plantation North connects residents and visitors to downtown Charleston, local beaches and the surrounding tri-county area.

Another new SCS client is Snee Farm, an 890-home neighborhood conveniently located close to the beach, with large lot sizes, county parks and retail stores near the heart of downtown Charleston. A private country club with a full-service restaurant and bar, tennis courts, multiple pools and numerous social events can be found in the Snee Farm community.

Also new to the SCS family is The Bridges at Seven Lakes, a new-construction, waterfront community by DR Horton located in Huger, S.C., expected to have 150 homes with resort-style amenities and a 60-acre lake, including a kayak storage area and access to Berkeley County Schools.

Inside of Park West in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., new SCS clients include Salterbeck at Park West, Wheatstone at Park West, Avian at Park West, and Center Park South. Wassamaw Plantation, a 97-home community in Monck’s Corner, S.C., rounds out the new arrivals to the SCS portfolio.

Returning to the SCS family is Berkleigh at Park West in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., a 75-home community with a common area island tucked nicely in the center, surrounded by three ponds throughout the neighborhood.

“Southern Community Services is excited about the opportunity to expand the communities it serves,” said Ken Tamsin, CEO of SCS. “Charleston, S.C., is one of the most rapidly-growing markets in the country and affords us the opportunity to compete at the highest level.”

Information on community management services and 24-7 online services for homeowners can be accessed online via the SCS website at http://www.trustscs.com.

New SCS Staff in the Charleston, S.C. Region

In the Mount Pleasant area, Mark Fitzpatrick is the new on-site manager of The Battery at Park West. Fitzpatrick is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He has been professionally managing community associations for four years, specializes in overall community enhancement with a focus on protecting residents’ investment in their homes and is a Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA). Fitzpatrick’s goal at The Battery at Park West is to raise it to the status of a premiere condo community in Mt. Pleasant by working closely with the SCS board of directors.

John Eysen is the new administrator at Lower Dunes West in Mount Pleasant. Eyson was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, has a degree in business administration from the University of South Carolina and currently lives in the Tri-County area where he enjoys working for SCS.

Chris Barclay is a new Park West community association manager. Chris Barclay was born and raised in New Jersey, graduated from Cornell University in 2000 and has a business background in data and business analytics. After moving to Mt. Pleasant in 2015 and becoming active on his HOA board, Barclay was interested in joining the SCS team.

Jesse Johnson is a new community association manager. Jesse Johnson was born and raised in Augusta, Georgia, holds degrees in fine arts and business management from Charleston Southern University and is currently preparing to receive the Project Management Professional (PMP) certificate later this year. He has lived in Charleston for 15 years with his wife and daughter.

Emily Simpson is a new community manager at the Bridges at Seven Lakes in the Berkeley County school district. Emily Simpson has lived in Charleston for seven years; prior to settling in the South, she lived in Philadelphia, Virginia and spent 12 years living overseas. In the Charleston area, she worked at the Kiawah Island Community association before becoming an SCS team member.

At SCS’ Lowcountry headquarters on Rivers Ave., Sue Shunk is a new community association manager. Sue Shunk recently relocated to the Charleston area from Northern Virginia, where she worked in community management and is a Certified Manager of Community Associations. She enjoys the exciting offerings of life in HOA management, as each day yields new experiences, and looks forward to working on the SCS team.

“Our organization is successful because we have a remarkable team,” adds Tamsin. “Our staff are motivated to be the best in the industry, and we reinforce this with training and accreditation to ensure that our clients receive the most effective, efficient community management services available in the Carolinas.”

Learn more about SCS and view staff bios at http://www.trustscs.com.

About Southern Community Services

Founded in 2000, Southern Community Services (SCS) specializes in the management of homeowner associations across the Carolinas, with a longstanding reputation as the leader in its industry. Staffed with accredited professionals who work diligently to accommodate the unique needs of each community, SCS provides turnkey solutions, state-of-the-art technology and decades of association management experience to boards, with senior-level involvement in every aspect of the business. Learn more about SCS at www.trustscs.com.

 Media Contact: Meg Parker, Flock and Rally, 704-942-0742, meg@flockandrally.com

 

Southern Community Services Announces New Hires And New Community Management Clients In Columbia, SC

Southern Community Services Announces New Hires and New Community Management Clients in Columbia, SC

July 26, 2017 (Columbia, S.C.) – Southern Community Services (SCS), one of only six AAMC-accredited homeowner association management firms in South Carolina, recently announced several new hires and community management clients in Columbia, S.C. Staff and community details can be viewed online on the SCS website at http://www.trustscs.com.

SCS manages close to 180 communities across the Carolinas and is staffed with accredited professionals who work to maintain efficient communities ranging in size from small neighborhoods to large, master-planned developments like Lake Carolina, Wildewood and Cobblestone Park in the Midlands, the Reserve at Lake Keowee in the Upstate and Park West in the Charleston area. SCS has grown its portfolio steadily since its founding in 2000 by principals Chuck Munn and Larry Ridlehoover; the firm now employs 45 accredited professionals across North and South Carolina.

New SCS Communities in the Columbia, S.C. Area

Regatta Forest, a 75-lot community located in Irmo, S.C., joins the SCS family, along with Coatbridge, Windermere and Governor’s Hill.

Coatbridge is located in Blythewood, South Carolina and serves the award-winning Richland School District Two.

A gated community of 320 mostly custom-built homes, Windermere is interspersed with golf course easements and private neighborhood roads.

Governor’s Hill is located in the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina with 29 single-family lots situated on Gadsden and Laurel Streets, close to the Governor’s Mansion.

“Southern Community Services is excited about the opportunity to expand the communities it serves,” said Ken Tamsin, CEO of SCS. “The Columbia, S.C., market offers not only new construction communities, but also well established, distinguished clients as well.”

New SCS Hires in Columbia, S.C.

Stephanie “Stevie” Johnson is a new community association manager at SCS’ Midlands regional headquarters on Rice Bent Way, and Teresa Rignon joins the Lake Carolina team as an administrative assistant. Teresa has been in the customer service industry for over 20 years, was most recently with United Way and lives in Columbia, South Carolina, while serving on her HOA board.

“Our staff are the lifeblood of our organization,” notes Tamsin. “Our team has a drive to be the best, and we support their training and accreditation to ensure that our customers receive the most efficient, industry-leading community management services available in the Carolinas.”

Learn more about SCS and view staff bios at http://www.trustscs.com.

About Southern Community Services

Founded in 2000, Southern Community Services (SCS) specializes in the management of homeowner associations across the Carolinas, with a longstanding reputation as the leader in its industry. Staffed with accredited professionals who work diligently to accommodate the unique needs of each community, SCS provides turnkey solutions, state-of-the-art technology and decades of association management experience to boards, with senior-level involvement in every aspect of the business. Learn more about SCS at www.trustscs.com.

Media Contact: Meg Parker, Flock and Rally, 704-942-0742, meg@flockandrally.com

 

Southern Community Services Welcomes New Management To Park West

Southern Community Services Welcomes New Management to Park West

Kim Hurd, Emily Simpson bring vision, experience to new roles at Mount Pleasant community

Sept. 18, 2017 (Charleston, S.C.) – Southern Community Services (SCS), one of only six AAMC-accredited community association management firms in South Carolina, has named Kim Hurd general manager and Emily Simpson assistant general manager of Park West, a 1,700-acre master-planned community in Mount Pleasant.

“Both Kim and Emily are extremely talented and have an impressive amount of experience between them,” said Ken Tamsin, CEO of SCS. “We are greatly looking forward to seeing what they bring to the Park West community.”

General Manager Kim Hurd has been with Southern Community Services since 2015 as the community manager for Hamlin Plantation. She came to SCS with 25 years of experience in property and office management.

“I am very excited for the opportunity to be GM of Park West,” said Hurd. “The neighborhood is near and dear to me because that’s where I live. I was involved so many years ago working for the developer, and now for SCS as the manager. Park West is a wonderful community, and I am looking forward to working with the advisory board and the homeowners.”

Emily Simpson is currently a portfolio manager in the SCS North Charleston office. Simpson came to SCS two years ago with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management from College of Charleston and experience in managing communities. Specifically, she has overseen maintenance and safety projects, maintained common areas, and worked with boards and communities on governance and other issues.

“I am thankful for the opportunity to continue to grow within SCS and become the assistant general manager of Park West,” said Simpson. “I began working at SCS two years ago as a front desk receptionist, and rapidly became a portfolio manager.  I am excited for this next step in my career to continue to expand my knowledge. I am looking forward to working with Kim Hurd and learning more about the Park West community.”

Park West focuses on preserving the natural environment, fostering a family-friendly lifestyle and making a meaningful difference in residents’ lives. This vision has been the controlling factor in the creation of each element of the Park West community.

SCS manages the HOA boards of nearly 180 communities across the Carolinas, from multi-tiered master-planned communities to small, single family neighborhoods. Learn more about SCS and view staff bios at http://www.trustscs.com.

About Southern Community Services

Founded in 2000, Southern Community Services (SCS) specializes in the management of homeowner associations across the Carolinas, with a longstanding reputation as the leader in its industry. Staffed with accredited professionals who work diligently to accommodate the unique needs of each community, SCS provides turnkey solutions, state-of-the-art technology and decades of association management experience to boards, with senior-level involvement in every aspect of the business. Learn more about SCS at www.trustscs.com.

 Media Contact: Meg Parker, Flock and Rally, 704-942-0742, meg@flockandrally.com

 

Snipers & Terrorists

Snipers & Terrorists

Out of the blue, an irate homeowner launches a smear campaign aimed directly at the board. It’s relentless and focused. The motivation may be some personal grievance, hatred of a board policy, disagreement on how the board does business in general or loathing for the whole HOA concept. Rather than seeking redress in an orderly and open way, however, often it takes the form of poison pen letters, back alley rumor mills or a terrorist-like assault at a board meeting.

Board meeting terrorism is designed to hold the board hostage to relentless rants and demands. This form of HOA terrorism is designed to directly challenge board authority and to disrupt the orderly process. As with any terrorist attack, the board’s initial reaction is usually disbelief. But, the cold reality of the assault soon becomes clear and the need to act urgent.

How should the board deal with this kind of attack? When presented a list of demands, should the items be discussed point by point? Should they be recorded in the minutes? What should be done?

Rule #1: Never negotiate with terrorists. The board is not obligated to discuss anything off the agenda. And it’s unreasonable to expect informed answers to firing line questions. The response should be, “Thanks for making your points. We’ll review them and give you a response in writing or consider them at the next board meeting.”

Rule #2: Don’t record a list of demands.

Minutes are intended to discuss in broad terms the business accomplished by the board. Specific motions should have enough detail to describe them and the outcome of the vote. It is not a forum for soap boxing, editorializing or where items are entered into “evidence”. It’s enough

for the minutes to state, “Mr. Sniper asked that the board consider issues relating to (general description).”

Rule #3: Control the Owner Forum. To encourage owner input, an Owner Forum before the meeting should give each speaker owner up to, say, 5 minutes to speak, so the board can get on with its business. Letting someone hold the board hostage should never be allowed and it’s up to the president to control such actions. An abusive person should not be allowed to continue for any length of time.

Rule #4: When attacked, respond quickly and firmly. When the attack becomes apparent, it’s the president’s job to interrupt and, if necessary, ask the attacker to leave the meeting. If the attacker refuses to comply, the president should adjourn the meeting and advise that such conduct will not be allowed at future meetings.

HOA terrorist attacks are designed to fan the flames of emotion and to promote rash response. The board needs to walk the high road and refuse to “dance”. While this isn’t easy when the attack is intense, the directors outnumber the attacker and with a unified response, should be able to defeat the challenge and even help point the terrorist toward a better way.

Used with permission from Richard Thompson of www.Regenesis.net. From Regenesis Aug. 2017 newsletter.

Misconceptions Of Community Associations

Misconceptions of Community Associations

“Community association” is a generic term that encompasses many names used around the world to describe common-interest housing. A few examples include:

  • Common-interest community (CIC) is used by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
  • Common-interest realty association (CIRA) is the term preferred by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
  • Common-interest development (CID) is used by the California Department of Real Estate.
  • Condominium association refers to units like apartments, townhouses or other private units that are part of a single structure or group of structures.
  • Homeowners association (HOA) is often synonymous with “common-interest community” and usually describes a community of single-family homes.
  • Property owners association (POA) can refer to a residential community or a group of offices or other non-residential property.
  • “Strata title” is a term used in Australia, New Zealand, and British Columbia that describes individually owning part of a property, such as an apartment, and sharing ownership in the property’s common or public areas.
  • In France and some parts of Quebec, condominiums are called “copropriété divisée” (divided co-property).
  • The traditional term in Spanish-speaking countries for a common-interest community is “propiedad horizontal.”
  • Condominio” is the term used in Italy.

Regardless of the name, most community associations in the U.S. are incorporated and subject to state statutes that govern nonprofit corporations. Remember, membership in an association is not voluntary; you become a member when you purchased a home in the Carolina community.

Expected Upkeep Enforced By The Community Association Management Firm

Expected Upkeep Enforced by the Community Association Management Firm

The staff or volunteers you see occasionally walking around your community with clipboards or tablets, are the association’s covenants enforcement officers. They’re inspecting the property to ensure that everything is working properly, that conditions are safe and that nothing is reducing property values or your quality of life in your Carolina community.

In short, they’re making sure policies and rules are being followed—from pet behavior, parking and unkempt lawns to improper exterior modifications and more. They field complaints from fellow homeowners and, if necessary, remind you (or your neighbor) when a rule has been overlooked.

The officers report their findings to the Carolina Home Association board with photos and detailed notes. Most violations are easily resolved without board action. If not, the next step is a hearing before the board—we want to hear your side of the story. Those who continue to ignore rules may be fined, or worse. The most serious cases may end up in court, though we try very hard never to get to that point.

The association’s covenants enforcement officers perform a vital function; please treat them with courtesy and respect. If you have any questions about the rules, the officers should be able to explain them. The association manager and board members also are happy to listen and respond to your concerns.

When you purchased your home in our common-interest community in the Carolinas, you became contractually bound to abide by the covenants that protect the association. Please review them and ensure you are in compliance. You can find them on our website.

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Warm weather usually means fun in Carolina sun, but summer heat also can bring severe weather. Threatening thunderstorms often loom large on summer afternoons so it’s important to be prepared for downpours and accompanying lightning, which can strike outdoors or indoors. Consider the following suggestions when planning both outdoor and indoor events this summer to reduce the risk of a lightning strike.

  • Watch the weather. Pay attention to your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If there’s a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling or moving events indoors. If that’s not possible, have an emergency plan in place in case a severe storm rolls in and designate a sufficient nearby structure as an emergency shelter.
  • Stay inside. If severe thunderstorms are imminent, go indoors and wait until they pass. Safe, enclosed shelters include homes, schools, offices, shopping malls and vehicles with hard tops and closed windows. Open structures and spaces do not provide adequate protection.
  • Duck and crouch. If you’re caught outside during a severe storm, it’s important to crouch low on the ground, tuck your head and cover your ears to help protect yourself from harm. Do not lie down; lightning strikes can produce extremely strong electrical currents that run along the top of the ground, and laying horizontally increases electrocution risk.
  • Turn off faucets. During a thunderstorm, lightning can sometimes be conducted through the plumbing. Avoid any type of contact with running water, including bathing, showering, and washing your hands, dishes, or clothes.
  • Turn off electronics. All electrical appliances—televisions, computers, laptops, gaming systems, stoves, and more—that are plugged into an electrical outlet could carry a current from a lightning strike. Surge protectors will reduce the risk of damaging electronics.

Stay away from windows. Not only is lightning a threat, but high winds and hail create flying debris that could be harmful during a thunderstorm. Close all windows and doors and keep away from them.