June 1 signaled the beginning of the 2022 hurricane season, and it extends to late fall. More worrisome, experts say this year is shaping up to be potentially intense. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has predicted above-average activity, making this year's summer-to-fall stretch the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.
The numbers from NOAA suggest a 65% likelihood of an above-normal season, a 25% likelihood of a near-normal season, and a 10% likelihood of a below-normal season. That said, consumers in the P&C market will be looking to protect their homes and businesses in the event some of these storms make a direct hit.
The following are some of the safety tips that insurance agents and P&C insurers can share in a newsletter, email or blog with their clients and prospects to help them prepare for the 2022 Hurricane Season.
By the Numbers
Hurricanes can be catastrophic, some more than others. Hurricane Katrina, which barreled across the Southern U.S. in 2005, remains one of the deadliest and most costly in U.S. history, resulting in more than 1,800 deaths and approximately $161 billion in cumulative damages. The Category 5 storm devastated New Orleans, as well as other parts of Louisiana and Mississippi. At its pique, Katrina caused 33 tornadoes, winds of 175 mph, and 30-foot storm surges in the hardest-hit areas. More than 90,000 square miles stretching from Florida to Texas were affected.
Hurricane Harvey slammed into the coast of Texas on August 25, 2017 as a Category 4 storm and managed to make landfall three times in six days, leaving catastrophic damage in its wake. The storm killed at least 88 people and damaged or destroyed more than 200,000 homes across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky. Leaving behind more than $125 billion in damages, Harvey is considered the second most deadly hurricane in American history after Katrina
Not long after Harvey, Hurricane Irma arrived on Sept. 10, 2017, this time in Florida, where it first struck in the Keys as a Category 4, then pummeled more than 90% of the state. The massive storm caused the evacuation of more than 6 million people in Florida, and also wreaked havoc in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina with destructive storm surges and winds that raged, by some estimates, as high as 177 mph. Considered the fifth costliest storm to hit the mainland, Irma caused more than $50 billion in damages.
Florida took another hit in 2018, when Hurricane Michael made landfall near Panama City in what was first believed to be a Category 4 and later upgraded to a Category 5 by the National Hurricane Center. The strongest hurricane on record to hit the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Michael roared across the Southeast, causing more than $25 billion in damage along the way.
Have Your Disaster Kit Ready to Go
In the event of a hurricane, a basic disaster supply kit can be a lifesaver. Be prepared to shelter in place for at least a day or two and keep your kit in an accessible place. Pack items as efficiently as possible in case you need to be mobile, and replenish expired or aging items as needed. Basic items to pack in your kit include:
- 3-5 days' worth of non-perishable food items for everyone in your household
- A hand-held can opener and mess kit supplies (paper plates, plastic utensils, napkins)
- A portable camping stove and sterno fuel
- 1 gallon of water per person for 3-5 days
- Pet food and water
- A flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit for proper treatment of wounds, bandages
- Extra supplies of over-the-counter and prescribed meds
- Personal sanitation items, such as baby wipes, toilet paper, etc.
- An emergency cell phone with extra batteries
- Extra cash, bank cards, and identification documents
- An extra set of car keys
- Battery-powered weather radio
- Local maps
- Dust masks in case of contaminated air
- Clean change of clothing and shoes for 3-5 days
- Shelter-in-place supplies, including plastic sheeting, duct tape, fire extinguisher, garbage bags, blankets, sleeping bags, etc.
Consider Installing Hurricane Shutters
A hurricane shutter is a metal or wood panel that closes off access to an opening to the outside. The purpose of shutters is to lower wind speeds so they do not exceed the maximum capacity of barriers and cause damage.
Permanent storm shutters over windows and doors can offer maximum protection. Another cost-effective preventive measure includes installing sliding bolts at the top and bottom of double-entry doors. while also making temporary plywood coverings for windows and doors.
Inventory Personal Possessions
It’s a good idea to inventory personal possessions in the home at least once a year to be sure you have an accurate list of valuables and other items. In the event of a hurricane, inventory of their possessions immediately after a hurricane to determine what’s missing and what’s intact.
Batten Down the Hatches
Hurricane season is a great time to think about anchoring outbuildings like outdoor storage facilities or garden sheds. If you want to tackle the job yourself, a quick Google should yield several articles and how-to videos to help secure these structures.
It’s also a good idea to get a professional roof inspection, so you can find and repair any existing damage that leaves you vulnerable. Even a lower-category hurricane can cause extensive roof damage, including:
- Water damage and leaks from torrential rains
- Missing shingle dislodged by high winds
- Structural damage from storm debris, such as falling trees
And don’t forget to clean clogged gutters before the threat of storms is imminent. Taking action now can help mitigate extensive damage later on.
Inventory Personal Possessions
During hurricane season, trees overhanging your roof can be particularly dangerous. Branches should be trimmed, especially those near the home and power lines. Doing so now can help keep flying limbs during a hurricane to a minimum, and make clean-up afterwards easier to handle.
Dust Off those Policies
Hurricanes typically occur between June and October in the Atlantic coastal regions. Now is a great time to remind insurance customers to re-familiarize themselves with the specifics of their insurance policies to be sure they’re fully covered in case of a worst-case scenario.
For example, a roof damaged by high winds should be replaced as soon as possible to prevent further property damage, or residual flooding may make the home temporarily uninhabitable. Worse yet, a total wipeout could occur, and the entire home and all its contents may need to be replaced. Work with your customers to make sure their existing p&c policies are sufficient to keep them covered in the event of a major hurricane.