Hurricane Season Promises Extensive Property Damages

The U.S. hurricane season is well on its way, with Tropical Storm Hanna battering the East Coast this past weekend, and Ike and Josephine becoming potential, significant threats. Hurricane Gustav, which hit the Gulf Coast last week, caused up to an estimated $10 billion in damages. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected that this year’s hurricane season, which began on June 1, to be near or above normal; however, there is a 65 percent chance of an above normal season versus a 25 percent chance of a near normal season. The outlook indicates a 60 to 70 percent chance of 12 to 16 names stormed, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. An average season has 11 named storms of which six are hurricanes; two of those are major hurricanes. Systems reach tropical storm status with sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour; they become hurricanes when winds reach 74 miles per hour and major hurricanes when winds reach 111 miles per hour. Damages from past major hurricanes, including 2005’s Katrina and 2004’s Ivan, should serve as lessons about the importance of preparation for property owners. “At this stage, I hope that property owners do have a potential emergency action plan,” said Jim Breitkreitz, vice president of property & boiler and machinery services for risk engineering firm Zurich Services Corp. “Even if nothing happens this year, it’s never too late for next year’s season.” Among his top suggestions for building owners: • If the owner has an emergency response team to stay on site and take care of critical services, make sure their safety is foremost. Have a safe place for them to ride out the storm, radios, flashlights, batteries, rubber gloves, sleeping bags and enough food and water for 72 hours.• Take a quick look at the roof and fix things that may be loose, especially perimeter flashing, which can be the weakest link of the roof. If the roof is flat, make sure drains are not clogged to prevent a collapse from heavy rains. If there are any other loose items, secure them as well as possible.• Make sure cabling is not laying around loose, as they can cause tremendous damage. “Wind can turn them into weapons,” he said.== • Secure any loose items on the property, such as signs, “so they don’t become missiles,” he said. And make sure to look beyond the property’s boundaries and into neighboring properties, as anything loose on those properties can cause significant damage to others.• Cover high-value stock inside of buildings, such as computer systems and machinery, with tarps in case of roof leaks.== • Shut off any non-essential power and natural gas sources. “Many fires that occur during storms are from (natural gas leaks),” he said. “And the fire department may not be in the position to respond.” Mitigation is also extremely important. Gayle Bainbridge, executive vice president of Global Risk L.L.C. suggests taking the time to go over a property and make sure that it ready to withstand a hurricane, such as replacing doors or adding shutters. And securing adequate insurance limits is a must. “There were people who opted out of wind storm insurance (before 2005’s storms) and were instead self-insured,” she said. In return, they were not sufficiently protected from all the damage that occurred. “Make sure you have the right coverage for your property, as well as business option insurance.” For more tips on preparing for and handling the aftermath of hurricanes, visit Zurich’s Hurricane Information Center at: http://www.zurichna.com/zus/zurichus.nsf/webcontent?readform&id=ID_BREK-5ZRFHG