Hurricane damage can’t always be prevented or eliminated, but with some careful forethought, it can be mitigated long before a storm arrives. There are some obvious preventative measures that can be conducted that require out of pocket expense like inspecting/repairing/upgrading the roof cover and perimeter flashing or installing hurricane shutters, but for the purposes of this article we will focus on the activities that businesses can perform that require no more investment than time and energy. These are broken into Pre-Hurricane, Warning, During, and After-Hurricane phases.
In most cases, hurricane planning activities should be implemented prior to Hurricane Season which begins June 1st and continues through October 31st. However, there are plenty of measures you can take immediately before, during, and after a hurricane to reduce loss.
How Does Hurricane Damage Occur?
Hurricanes are rated by category; 1 through 5 depending on the documented wind speed. Widespread damage begins when a hurricane reaches the upper limit of a Category 2, around 110 mph. At this speed, the wind is sufficient enough to literally suck the roof cover from all or part of the building. In addition, high winds have the ability to turn most windblown debris into missiles, thereby breaking windows and doors. These openings then allow more wind to enter the building which creates additional upward forces on the roof. If a roof hasn’t been sucked off the building from the primary forces, once there are openings in the building, these secondary forces are sure to help blow the roof off the building. Once the roof is all or partially removed, and additional secondary holes have been punched in a building, the interior and contents are much more likely to be damaged or destroyed by rain that typically accompanies a hurricane.
Pre-Hurricane Preventive Measures
Once a hurricane is on its way, resources start to become scarce and much more expensive. Highlighted below are activities businesses can perform prior to hurricane season so that they can resume operations as quickly as possible after the storm.
- Create or customize a checklist of activities that can be used during all phases of the storm.
- Appoint an individual to monitor weather forecasts and track impending hurricanes.
- Qualify and pre-commit contractors and suppliers for post-hurricane repairs. (Use firms not likely to be affected by the same hurricane.)
- Consult with emergency management authorities to identify evacuation routes.
- Stock supplies and prepare needed equipment (rations, generators, radios, flashlights w/ batteries, medical supplies, and lumber/tools/hardware).
- Relocate valuable on-floor equipment/storage to protect from water damage.
As the Hurricane Approaches (Warning Phase)
- CASH is king! Obtain and keep accessible as much as possible as banks may not be open following the storm.
- Brace lightweight doors from the inside to minimize the chance of them blowing in.
- Fill fuel tanks, generators, vehicles, etc.
- Protect or move valuable papers and important documents to a safe location.
- Close valves on gas lines and if possible disconnect the electric supply at the service entrance.
- Clean the roof drains, gutters, and downspouts.
- Initiate orderly shutdown of equipment sensitive to sudden loss of power.
- Evacuate personnel.
During the Hurricane
- Personnel remaining should check for roof leaks, broken windows and piping, fires, and initiate emergency responses as needed.
- If power failure does occur, disconnect circuits so they cannot be reenergized without checking for damage.
After the Hurricane
- Survey the damage and establish priorities.
- Board up openings.
- Check circuits and equipment before restoring power.
- Follow your pre-established salvage reconstruction and recovery plan using key employees and outside contractors.
Damage from hurricanes may be inevitable, but with some careful pre-planning and diligent execution of strategic activities, you can significantly reduce the cost associated with a hurricane. Costs can escalate significantly once you consider property/wind insurance deductibles, lost production time, and supply chain disruptions. A risk manager or insurance agent can help you identify and prioritize the most critical exposures for your particular business.
Though the Atlantic hurricane season starts each year on June 1st, emergency planning should generally be a year-round priority; especially if you own a business in Florida. Seven of the ten costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have impacted Florida, six of them occurring within just two years (2004 and 2005). Florida has been fortunate in recent years, but hurricane season is no time to become complacent about being prepared for a storm.
Statistics from the U.S. Small Business Administration show that many businesses are not prepared to respond to a natural disaster. One in four businesses that close because of a disaster coming, never reopen. Small businesses are particularly at risk because typically they have one location – the one that is damaged or destroyed. So, what should business owners located in hurricane-prone areas do to make sure they are ready for a potential storm? The Insurance Information Institute recommends that we be proactive by implementing the following steps:
Developing a Business Continuity Plan: When developing a Business Continuity Plan, share the plan with employees, assign responsibilities, and offer training so your workforce can collaborate in the recovery of the business. Conduct regular drills to assess and improve response.
Maintain Key Information Offsite: To get your business up and operating after a disaster, you’ll need to be able to access critical business information. In addition to backing up computer data, keep an offsite list of your insurance policies, banking information and phone numbers of employees, key customers, vendors and suppliers, your insurance professional and others. If you have a back-up site make sure it’s sufficiently far away so as not to be affected by the same risks that threaten the primary location.
Take a Business Inventory: Creating a business inventory includes listing all business equipment, supplies and merchandise—and don’t forget to include commercial vehicles.
Review Your Insurance Coverage: The time to review your insurance policy is before disaster strikes and you have to file a claim. It is important that your business have both the right amount and type of insurance for its needs and risk profile. Our insurance professionals at Gulfshore Insurance can assist you by providing you with a complete “checkup” of your insurance exposures and guidance on risk and insurance matters. We help build the right insurance and risk management programs to fully protect your assets.
Did you know that certain requirements may apply if you have wind mitigation opening protection credits on your insurance policy? You must close and secure shutters or other opening protection devices when a Hurricane Watch or Warning has been issued from the National Weather Service.
Chubb and Citizens Property Insurance Corp. include an “opening protection requirement” in their policy contract which requires hurricane protection devices must be closed and secured during a hurricane watch or warning issued by the National Weather Service’s Hurricane Center.
Failure to comply with this requirement may result in a reduced loss payment if a claim is submitted for damages due to windstorm or hail during a Hurricane Watch or Warning.
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Tags: Hurricane, Insurance, Reduced Loss Payments, Secure Shutters, Wind Mitigation
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