The 2020 hurricane season was one for the books. From ferocious storms ravaging the Gulf Coast to heavy rains inundating the Florida Panhandle, the Atlantic Ocean saw an unprecedented amount of activity this year.
The Weather Channel reported that this season, 22 of the 25 Atlantic Ocean storms listed through October 5 had their earliest formation date, based on their letter identification. Arthur, Bertha and Dolly (storms A, B and D) were the only storms represented in the list of names that did not have a record early date of creation. Additionally, in September 2020 – typically the busiest month of the hurricane season – three storms in the Atlantic Ocean formed in one day (September 18), something that has not occurred since 1893.
Even storms that were not as strong as predicted caused significant damage when they made landfall. For example, Hurricane Sally, which is expected to bring record amounts of rain to Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, sustained a six-foot storm surge in Pensacola, the third highest level in history.
Looking to 2021, there are many lessons to be learned from this year's hurricane season. Here are the key considerations insurance agents and real estate agents should share with their Florida clients and other hurricane-prone homeowners when preparing for future storms.
Navigating storm damage in a post-pandemic world
This hurricane season has raised COVID-19 the bar, affecting everything from how homeowners prepared to how they repaired damage.
In some early cases, pandemic-related supply chain disruptions meant homeowners had to scramble to purchase backup generators or storm-proof their properties. Even in the face of these obstacles, many insurance companies worked tirelessly to ensure that COVID-19 wouldn't make the hurricane season more challenging for their customers, especially when it came to the claims process.
Fortunately, many carriers can now be on site and in person to help assess damage from the most recent hurricanes. However, earlier in the hurricane season, many communities were still under strict lockdown orders due to COVID-19, and certain airlines, such as Chubb, expanded their digital services to offer remote post-hurricane inspections. These alternative services were especially useful for clients who preferred a virtual experience in light of social distance guidelines.
Using satellite imagery, drone technology, virtual services and other digital assets, these insurers were able to estimate damage efficiently without working on site. In some cases, these virtual inspections also allowed carriers to start the retrofit process even before local authorities could access the site – so homeowners could potentially start the repair process earlier and help prevent additional damage.
These virtual insurance inspection options are here to stay, and agents and brokers should encourage Florida-based and other hurricane-prone clients to seek out a carrier that has successfully introduced a seamless virtual claims option. Even when social distance is a thing of the past, working with a carrier who has these digital tools in their arsenal can help reduce adjustment delays and speed up the repair process.
Plan today to help customers prepare for tomorrow
Aside from the pandemic, there are many factors that agents and real estate agents should discuss with their Florida homeowner's clients when it comes to preparing for future storms. As they ponder this year's storm season, agents and brokers should help their clients identify any gaps in their home protection strategy.
If customers have experienced wind or water damage in recent months, what can they do to prevent additional incidents? Even if customers were lucky enough to escape relatively unscathed this season, what mitigation tactics can they employ to make their homes less vulnerable in the future? For example, many customers can take advantage of a gas-powered backup generator that can power devices in the event of extended outages.
In addition, to help prevent future damage, agents and brokers should remind clients to implement appropriate storm resistance best practices, such as:
- Installing impact resistant storm shutters on windows, doors and skylights
- Seal seams and joints of roof decks with deck tape to prevent water ingress • Building entrance doors made of solid wood or hollow metal with a minimum of three hinges and a deadbolt fully engaged in the door frame
- Installing a roof covering that can tolerate high winds, as well as building code-approved hurricane tires that connect the roof to the tops of the walls
- Use a garage door that is impact resistant or reinforced to withstand high winds
- While some of these may seem like minor changes, they can have a significant impact on property protection. Even if not required by code drafting, these investments can be worth it, continued from page 4, and cost homeowners far less than repairing storm damage.
Outlook for 2021
As customers continue to grapple with the pandemic, hurricane safety can easily take the backseat. The reality is, the next storm season isn't as far away as it seems. Now is the time for insurance agents and brokers to help their clients learn from the 2020 weather events and make decisions that will ensure they are protected from storm damage for years to come.
When it comes to hurricanes, it's never too late to improve someone's mitigation strategy, and it's never too early to start preparing.
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