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Businesses in hurricane hazard zones can do a lot before and after a storm hits to alleviate any type of property damage.
Although it may seem like summer is coming to an end, the month of August brings its own perils and exposures before insurers can write off summer risks.
The Atlantic hurricane season, which rears its strongest head from mid-August to mid-October, is likely to deliver a catastrophic impact with some of its storms, as it has in previous years. However, with the impacts of climate change increasing year over year, it is even more likely that the frequency and severity of hurricane storms will create even more exposure for carriers to cover.
“If you had property in the coastal area, it was always subject to some type of storm damage,” said Tracey Kilcullen, vice president of the Graham Company.
“In the past, while the severity of those storms was strong, the property was strong enough to withstand them. What we’re seeing now is that those properties that were once able to withstand those storms are experiencing damage where they may never have had it before.”
Kilcullen also pointed to the fact that properties could also be affected by multiple storms in the same hurricane season, intensifying damage and hitting businesses before they can recover from previous storms.
“Be prepared, I think it has come more home to people who are in an area that is close [or in] a hurricane zone,” he said.
Preparation of a preparation plan
Preparation is key to mitigating the worst of hurricane risk, especially before a storm forms and has a famous name.
“We communicated with our customers about this [frequently]Kilcullen said. “You have to have your plan well in advance of the storm, you don’t want to be planning on the eve of the storm. [arrival.]”
Strong and legitimate communication is a key point in the preparations of a company. These communications include having a well-documented storm response that can be shared with teams, identifying the appropriate response teams, and ensuring all contact information is “regularly reviewed and updated,” according to Kilcullen.
In the most extreme circumstances, properties should also plan for emergency evacuation plans, should a storm produce conditions that result in danger to those living near commercial properties or in residential areas. Again, Kilcullen emphasized the importance of communication in these kinds of situations.
As a result
As crucial as a preparedness plan is before a storm, equal importance must be given to the strategy that will be implemented after the storm has passed.
Kilcullen said:[Businesses] You’re going to want to have a disaster recovery plan, so if there’s been a major shock or damage, what are you going to expect your response team to deal with?”
To begin with, Kilcullen noted that a good first initiative is to have companies identify key third-party providers, including contractors and restoration vendors. These relationships must be established well before any type of storm is expected to make landfall in order for the post-storm process to run as smoothly as possible.
For physical impact, Kilcullen also urged businesses to try to pre-negotiate rates/services or set up guaranteed service, “because everyone in the community is going to be looking for the same services.”
“You want to try to get your business to the top of that response list, to make sure you’re protected,” he said.
Additionally, businesses can protect themselves from further damage by enacting simpler measures, including boarding up doors and windows, securing any glass that may create an exposure for water infiltration, removing any signage, and covering landscaping.
Protecting the Intangible
While many may immediately think of the physical implications of a hurricane, businesses must also be mindful of protecting what cannot be seen with the naked eye.
The risk of cyber threats and attacks has intensified as many companies and businesses move to storing valuable data in digital formats.
“It’s not just about protecting [the] business, brick and mortar, but about the protection of important data and documents,” Kilcullen said.
He continued: “Make sure all of your IT systems are backed up and think about taking any critical documents and keeping them in [cloud-based] storage apps, so you can access them more easily if there is damage to your hardware.”
Lead by example
Throughout Kilcullen providing businesses with the knowledge to develop hurricane mitigation strategies, one theme was evident: communication.
As mentioned above, communication is vital for businesses faced with assessing and addressing hurricane damage. This communication should not only reside within the company’s internal operations, but also with its external partners.
On the one hand, maintaining a reasonable level of dialogue with your broker should be high on a company’s priority list.
“Long before the storm, [businesses should] understand what [their] insurance coverage [are,] and that the coverage in force accurately reflects the value of the property, the business and the business interruption,” Kilcullen said.
For those businesses in a hazard zone, they are likely to experience some form of hurricane damage throughout their operations. But with a clear and concrete strategy for before and after the hurricane, and stable lines of communication, companies are doing everything they can to see another day once the storm has passed. &