June 1st Is The First Day Of Hurricane Season: Is Your Association Prepared?

As I mentioned last Friday in Hurricane Expert Revises Prediction, experts are predicting one “hell of a year” for hurricanes. While the Atlantic has not picked up yet, we have already seen the effects of Tropical Storm Agatha, which killed over 100 people in Central America and caused a large amount of property damage. This should be a wakeup call to complacent associations and should encourage those who have not begun preparing for a potential storm to do so.

The most important thing that an association can do before a hurricane forms is to have a plan in place in case of an emergency. Often, associations are not prepared to handle the effects of a hurricane and do not get a game plan together until the storm is barreling towards them.

Don’t wait until it is too late; there are many precautions that you can take now which may minimize damages and help limit the amount of time it takes to get back up and running.

First, check with your agent to make sure that your insurance policy is in effect and that you have made all necessary payments. If there is a problem, make handling it your first priority. Check both the windstorm and flood insurance policies, as flood is typically an excluded coverage under normal commercial insurance policies. There is no time to procrastinate; if your association is not properly covered, board members and managers may be subject to liability if a loss occurs.

Next, begin formulating a plan for dealing with an oncoming hurricane. Speak with maintenance and other workers about steps that need to be taken before a storm arrives. Trees and bushes should be trimmed to reduce the possibility of damage from debris hitting the building. If you have satellite phones or other means of communication when phone systems are down, make sure that they are charged and distributed to the necessary individuals so that you can make contact during and immediately after a storm. Also, check any damage prevention devices, such as hurricane shutters, to make sure they are in working order

Have a discussion with employees regarding their specific jobs if a hurricane threatens. One important precaution is to make sure that potential projectiles are brought inside or tied down. Pool chairs, trashcans, signs, etc., can turn into missiles during a hurricane and could lead to property damage and injury if not properly stored or tied down.

Make sure that financial records and important data are stored in a safe place or backed up on an offsite server. After a loss, insurers will likely require much of this information in the investigation of the claim. Having this material backed up and safe can help the claims process go more smoothly and can help an association quickly get back on its feet.

Speak to vendors and contractors that you have a relationship with and make them aware that you will be contacting them immediately after a loss. Many times, hurricanes cause such widespread damage that contractors and water remediation companies are booked for weeks or even months. Contacting them early can help ensure that you get the help you need to mitigate damages and make repairs as quickly as possible and avoid delays.

Finally, create an emergency phone list for all relevant employees. If you can contact them as soon as it is safe and have them back to work cleaning up after a storm, you will get the work done more quickly. The extra expense you incur in paying these individuals may be recoverable under your association insurance policy.

Having a plan in place can make a world of difference after a loss. These preemptive steps can help ensure that your building promptly repaired and operational after a loss.

Hurricane Expert Revises Prediction: "Looks Like a Hell of a Year"

While most people don’t pay close attention to the hurricane forecasts each year, in my business, one would be foolish not to. Yes, the forecasts for the past few years have suggested that the Atlantic hurricane seasons would be very active. And yes, these reports have turned out to be incorrect. So why do I take the time to check these predictions? The answer is simple, it helps me advise clients on the risks associated with hurricanes and helps me to motivate people to check their coverage.

Dr. William Gray, head of Colorado State University’s well known Tropical Meteorology Project, recently announced that the team would be revising its predictions for 2010. While he did not comment on the exact number of storms that would be predicted for the year, he offered a hint: "The numbers are going to go up quite high….this looks like a hell of a year."

Far be it for me to speculate on the number of hurricanes that may form, but from his comments, it appears that the 8 hurricanes (4 major) predicted in the Project's April Forecast Schedule is out the window. When considering that a “major hurricane” has winds in excess of 111 miles per hour, the thought of a large number of such storms should concern everyone in coastal areas.

It has been almost five years since Hurricane Wilma severely damaged Florida, and has been even longer since Hurricanes Frances, Jeanne, and Charley. While in the grand scheme of things five years is only a brief moment, many in this part of the country have become complacent. As I stated in a previous post, Recent Earthquake Activity Causes Many to Wonder About Coverage, “[i]t is important for associations to have a good relationship with their insurance agent so that an open and frequent dialogue occurs.” Unfortunately, many times during these “off years” this dialogue breaks down. Policies are left unchecked, and new boards members are not familiar with insurance issues.

With Hurricane season just around the corner, now is the time to ensure that you have the appropriate coverage and that you understand what to do in case of a loss. This will help make sure you are fully protected in the event a hurricane damages your property, and prepare you for what to do in such an event.

I want to help begin this process with you. Over the next few weeks I will be writing about some of the common mistakes associations make in purchasing coverage and in complying with post-loss duties. While I certainly could not cover every issue, I hope this will provide a general overview of what you can do to protect yourself and your association.