Don’t Underestimate the Hurricane Season

Don't Underestimate the Hurricane Season

Several years have passed since we were hit by the infamous force known as Superstorm Sandy. As difficult as it may be to believe, some homeowners and business owners in the New York Tri-State Area, and more specifically on Long Island, are still trying to recover from her wrath. Some are even submitting their flood insurance claims to FEMA for review.

And although Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science predicted a well below-average tropical Atlantic season in 2015, it only takes one hurricane or tropical storm making landfall to significantly damage your property or business.

Could there actually be another storm like Sandy in our lifetime?

According to a study published by Tufts University, maybe. The study points out that rising sea levels may cause smaller storms to produce significant flooding in the future.

Tufts University Geologist Andrew Kemp’s research shows that “Seawaters off New York’s coast have risen 16 inches since 1778, the year of New York City’s first major recorded storm.” This significant increase could cause less powerful storms to produce pretty devastating flooding damage.

Preparation is key

Sandy provided us with a painful learning experience and exposed our vulnerabilities in various areas of our lives. It notably taught us the importance of being prepared for the worst. Here are some important preparation tips to make sure you’re ready for the worst-case scenario.

Hurricane preparation tips for your property

Before the hurricane

  • Inspect the trees and shrubbery surrounding the property. Consider removing those that look unhealthy or cut the limbs of trees that loom over your property (or your neighbor’s).
  • Verify that roof coverings, gutters, downspouts and drains are in good condition.
  • If there are any signs, shutters or decorative additions on your property, make sure that they are properly secured.
  • Repair weak or damaged door latches and hinges.
  • Build an Emergency Kit and develop an Emergency Evacuation Plan and Contact List.

During hurricane warning

  • Cover all of your property’s windows. Permanent storm shutters offer the best protection for windows. A second option is to board up windows with 5/8” plywood.
  • Install straps to securely fasten your roof to the frame structure. This will reduce roof damage.
  • Clear loose and clogged rain gutters and downspouts.
  • Bring in all outdoor furniture, decorations and garbage cans.
  • If you own a boat, determine how and where to secure it.
  • Consider purchasing a generator in case you lose power.
  • Store important documents in a watertight container.
  • Turn the refrigerator to its coldest setting in case the power goes off. Use a cooler to keep from opening the doors on the freezer or refrigerator.

Hurricane preparation tips for your business

  • Prepare a business disaster plan and communicate your plan with your employees. OSHA suggests that some of the key elements of an effective plan are:
    • Conditions that will activate the plan
    • Chain of command
    • Emergency functions and who will perform them
    • Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
    • Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors
    • Equipment for personnel
  • Compile contact information for employees, key customers, important vendors and suppliers, and insurance companies. Make sure this information is easily accessible.
  • Identify vital records and create backup copies. You can also consider moving all vital records to the cloud.
  • Consider purchasing a generator if your business needs to remain operational during a storm.
  • Identify an alternate location where key staff can keep working, and ensure that your staff has the necessary equipment, files, and resources to do so.
  • Review your business disaster plan annually.

The most important tip of all for your property and your business

Review your insurance policy and speak to your insurance agent about your vulnerabilities. This is especially important when considering Flood Insurance. Flood zones and property requirements change often, so it’s important to periodically check your flood zone status.

A Bit More on Flood Insurance

It’s important to keep in mind that a flood does not have to be as a result of a storm. FEMA defines a flood as:

  • A general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of 2 or more acres of normally dry land area or of 2 or more properties (at least 1 of which is the policyholder’s property) from:
    • Overflow of inland or tidal waters; or
    • Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source; or
    • Mudflow; or
  • Collapse or subsidence of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels that result in a flood as defined above.

Standard homeowners and business insurance policies do not cover flood damage. And as we know from our experience with Superstorm Sandy, flooding can be a traumatic experience – especially when you are displaced from your home or business.

Avoid the nightmare.

Talk to an experienced insurance agency about obtaining flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program to protect your home, condo or business from rising waters – even if you’re not in a flood zone.