Re: Emergency powers?
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 2012 06:36:43 -0800 (PST)
On 1 Feb 2012, at 8:40 AM, Catya Belfer wrote:

> How do you handle emergency powers in your communities?  Who has the
> authority to make what decisions in a time-critical/emergency situation?

It's part of our Decision-Making Authority and Accountability Policy.

> 4. Emergency Decisions:
> Emergency decisions are those where the health, safety, or security of 
> residents or facilities will be endangered or damaged if action is not taken 
> quickly. Emergency decisions should be made by as many team and/or board 
> members as can be effectively included in the decision. If expenditure of 
> amounts in excess of the budget is needed, a board member (preferably the 
> treasurer and/or president) should be included in the decision.
> The decision and its implications should be communicated to the membership as 
> soon as possible.

In practice, I think everyone would also agree that if you think it is an 
emergency, it is. It may not be but usually the greater danger is not acting 

One problem with limiting emergency decisions to the Board, Trustees, etc., or 
requiring them to be part of the decision is that the emergencies we have had 
were related to the facilities — serious water — and action had be taken 
quickly. Usually there are several people on site so a Board member can be 
found but not always. With cell phones it is a bit easier. 

Board members often have not a clue about the elevator pit or pumps or the 
sprinkler system, for example, so asking them is either getting a rubber stamp 
or causing a delay in action.

Even in financial emergencies — like when the city showed up to shut of our 
water because there was no inspection certificate for the storm sewer on file — 
quick action is necessary. The person who happened to be standing there when he 
appeared without notice was able to write a $2,000 check because he was the 
treasurer and another signatory lived next door, and happened to be home. A 
chance occurrence.

Things to remember: Someone has to notice when:

1. All five people authorized to sign checks are in Europe for 2 weeks to three 
years or have moved out.

2. Various licenses and permits and inspections are due if the person who has 
always done it changes teams. After paying a couple of big fines, these dates 
are now entered on our community calendar.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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