The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 each year
No matter what kind of business you have, you need to make sure that both your property and your business are protected during hurricane season. The COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has pushed hurricane season to the background for many, but you should still ensure that both your hurricane plan and storm insurance are ready for whatever Mother Nature might unleash.
Know how the pandemic affects your hurricane plan
Should your hurricane plan change due to the COVID-19 pandemic? The Federal Emergency Management Agency compiled a detailed guide for hurricane plans and preparedness in the era of COVID-19, including requirements for social distancing and face coverings among its staff in a disaster area.
One important item to know is that the agency will try to limit the number of personnel they deploy to disaster areas to minimize the risk of spreading the disease. It's more critical than ever for all residents, tenants, and business owners to be prepared for any potential weather event and its aftermath; assistance may be more limited than is normal.
Evacuations and shelter capacity may be affected by social distancing. Ask your local emergency management professionals how your community is affected by the requirements.
Check your storm insurance
You should never set your insurance on auto-renew. Make sure that your insurance agent and your association attorney review your policies every year.
Did you make improvements to the property that might require a higher coverage amount? Are there changes to lender requirements for your coverage? It's important to make sure your coverage is in order before a storm approaches.
In Florida, storm coverage is separate from other coverage. The state places a moratorium on purchasing coverage once a hurricane watch is issued by the National Hurricane Center – you cannot buy it at that time!
If you own a commercial property, advise your tenants to check on their insurance coverage before storm seasons. Condo associations and HOAs should advise their homeowners and tenants to make sure their coverages are up to date and that they have HO-6 insurance if appropriate.
If a storm hits, file your claims as quickly as possible. Document damage with photos and take any steps to prevent further property damage (board up broken windows, tarp roofs) before repairs can be made.
Work with your attorney so you know your obligations and to make sure that the insurance company honors your policy. It may take a while for your insurance claim to pay, especially if the storm was large, so be prepared to spend money on repairs while waiting for your insurance payout.
Have a hurricane plan ready
Create your hurricane plan well before you might need it. It's critical that everyone in your organization understands their roles before a storm is on the way.
If you've had to reduce your staff due to the pandemic, communicate any new expectations; the person who did the job last year might not be there anymore. Run mock drills so that all staff knows what's expected of them if a storm hits.
- Are your important computer files backed up to the cloud and to spare hard drives? Are critical documents scanned and uploaded to the cloud with extra hard copies stored in a safe deposit box and your attorney? Keep hard copies of important documents like your insurance policies and important contact information available in case of power and internet outages.
- Do you have contact information for all residents and tenants? In an HOA or condo association, print hard copies of the most current contact information for all residents, including phone numbers and unit numbers or street addresses. Note any residents who may need assistance exiting their homes or units, including the elderly or ill, so first responders can quickly assist those in greatest need. In a commercial property, check the contacts you have for all tenants, so you have multiple means to reach them.
- Are you in a mandatory evacuation zone? These zones are determined by each county's emergency management teams and may take effect at different points in a storm's life. Make sure everyone knows at what point that evacuation goes into effect and what resources will be available if they choose to defy the order. Some first responders are refusing to go into mandatory evacuation zones after a storm, and you need to communicate that to your residents and tenants.
- Do you have the supplies you need? FEMA has created a list of supplies to have on hand in your home or office in the event of a storm. Again, distribute this information to your residents and tenants so they are stocked and prepared as well. In the era of COVID-19, make sure that you have extra face coverings for staff and volunteers, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies on hand if possible.
Communicate your hurricane plan
The best plans are useless if no one knows about them. We talked about informing your staff about their roles and responsibilities in the event of a storm; do the same for your residents and commercial tenants.
Use every communication channel you have, including your website, newsletter, posted signs, text, automated phone calls, email, and announcements at board or tenant meetings. Residents and tenants need to know, in writing, vital information such as:
- When shutters can go up
- When shutters must be taken down
- If the property is in a mandatory evacuation zone
- How social distancing measures can affect evacuations by bus or mass transit
- What the management office will do and not do as a storm approaches
- Who is responsible for shutter installation and removal
- Where to get reliable updates as the storm approaches
- How hurricane shelter capacity is affected by social distancing requirements
If possible, have a local emergency management professional speak to your residents and tenants so they can get questions answered firsthand.
Create a hurricane plan today for peace of mind tomorrow
It's not too late to get your hurricane plan together and check your storm insurance. Your insurance agent or broker and your attorney can help. The experts at PeytonBolin are ready to help your association or business plan today for a less stressful tomorrow.
Contact our team today to learn about how we can serve you in the Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando areas.