Is Your Commercial Property Prepared For A Billion-Dollar Hurricane?

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1st. The Tropical Weather and Climate Research team at Colorado State University published its first extended-range forecast for the 2022 season in April. This early forecast suggests that hurricane activity will be above average this season with predictions of 19 named storms including 9 hurricanes with 4 classified as major hurricanes (Category 3-5). In addition, this forecast estimates the probability of a major hurricane landfall on the entire U.S. coastline as 71 percent, the U.S. East Coast (including the Florida peninsula) as 47 percent, and the Gulf Coast as 46 percent. As a comparison, the averages for the last century are 52 percent for the entire U.S. coastline, 31 percent for the U.S. East Coast, and 30 percent for the Gulf Coast.

Hurricanes, as with other weather events, cannot be prevented. However, there are important steps that property owners can take to be prepared for severe weather and help mitigate the risk of catastrophic damage that may result. Analysis of weather-related insurance claims going back to the 1980s indicates that severe weather events with losses over $1 billion continue to rise each decade with hurricane damage accounting for the largest percentage of insured property losses.

Business and property owners in coastal areas are encouraged to act now to prepare for severe weather. The first step is to create an emergency preparedness plan, a basic requirement for all businesses regardless of location. Once the plan has been developed, it is important to communicate it to managers and staff.

  • Training – Provide ongoing training for staff to familiarize them with the plan’s key elements and procedures including shelter-in-place provisions and post-storm safety considerations.
  • Emergency Contacts and Documentation – Assemble a list of important contact information and keep it in a secure location away from the business premises and stored on a manager’s cell phone. It’s a good idea for managers to keep a copy of the list on their person when severe weather is imminent. Contacts should include insurance carrier names, addresses, phone numbers, and policy numbers for each of your insurance policies as well as contact numbers for employees, local police, medical facilities, utilities, and other emergency contacts.
  • Insurance – Property owners and their insurance agents should work together to ensure that storm- and disaster-related exposures are addressed by the policy. Review building values, deductibles, and business interruption coverage. The time to address potential financial exposures is before a claim, not in the wake of a catastrophic loss.
  • Maintenance – Perform maintenance tasks that can help minimize property damage in the event of severe weather such as trimming trees, scheduling roof inspections, and removing loose debris that could become a dangerous missile in high winds.
  • Vendor Supply Chain – Identify vendors and contractors in the local area and work with them to secure priority response in the aftermath of a catastrophic event. This step has increased in importance due to supply-chain issues and the resultant rising cost of materials and labor.
  • Customer Contact Information – Keep an electronic record of relevant customer contact data such as email addresses and telephone numbers in order to provide pre- and post-storm communications about accessibility the property.

A detailed hurricane action plan prepared by Liberty Mutual Insurance, one of MiniCo’s carriers, is available for download at http://www.minico.com/hurricaneplan. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers resources for business owners at http://www.ready.gov/business. Don’t be caught off guard by a hurricane or severe weather. Protect your employees, customers, and business investment by taking steps now to be prepared for a future emergency.

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters (2022). https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/billions/, DOI: 10.25921/stkw-7w73

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