As normal life is put on pause to combat the coronavirus crisis, one threat will not be staying at home: hurricanes.
A hurricane overlapping with a pandemic will present unique challenges on top of the preexisting potential for catastrophe—and agents should be prompting clients to prepare now.
“As insurance agents, we serve a very important role,” says Lisa Lindsay, executive director, Private Risk Management Association. “Many people’s lives have been upended, and we have the ability to help them think through things that maybe aren’t top of mind right now.”
“It's not just calling your client with a to-do list,” Lindsay continues. “Approach this in a thoughtful, caring, digestible way—maybe a series of three or four conversations. Proactively help your clients think through this now so that if we end up having an active hurricane season in conjunction with this continued disruption of this pandemic, your clients will fare better.”
Although it’s always crucial to prepare for a hurricane season in advance, key abilities may no longer be an option, making it essential to think through plans carefully.
“For instance, your plan may call for you to have storm shutters put on your house by a specific service provider and that service provider may not be equipped to provide the same service level that they were previously,” Lindsay says. “If you're relying on other people to execute your plan, will they be ready and available?”
“We may be faced with some supply chain shutdowns, slowdowns or issues,” she says. “If you see on a newscast there’s a tropical storm, and you think ‘Let me keep an eye on it. If it moves to a Category 1, I’ll jump on Amazon and order some non-perishable supplies,’ that may not be a realistic approach for this particular hurricane season.”
Here are three key areas independent agents can help clients think through to prepare for hurricane season:
1) Personal safety. If clients shelter in place, “what do they need to make sure they have on hand?” Lindsay says. “They need to think about what they’re doing to be safe in that environment, whether it’s storm shutters or making sure their backup generator has had routine maintenance.”
“If there is an evacuation order, where will they go?” she asks. “Where will they be allowed to go? They may not have the answer to those questions now, but they should be thinking about it.”
It’s essential to be clear on communication. Lindsay points out clients should think through how they can access the news and important weather updates via a battery-operated device.
“How will clients stay in touch with family?” she says. “Who’s responsible for the disaster kit? Who’s going to be in charge of pets?”
2) Property protection. Once personal safety is addressed, the plan should also protect property. “Who is going to be responsible for installing storm shutters?” Lindsay says. “Who's responsible for testing sump pumps and making sure there's sufficient battery backup?”
“Some clients have valuable art collections that they’re typically able to wait until a warning has been issued to call a service to pick up and store—that may not be realistic now,” Lindsay points out. “Some people may need to preemptively remove some property out of harm’s way while they have the resources available.”
3) Insurance policies. Agents “should be helping clients understand their coverage,” Lindsay says. “Does their homeowners policy have a wind deductible? When does it go into effect?”
Additionally, agents should make sure clients understand the requirements of their policy. “Some policies may say you must have your storm shutters up and in place before the hurricane hits, and if you don’t the policy won’t perform the way you think it’ll perform,” she explains.
If clients do suffer a loss, “who do they need to call? What are their responsibilities under the policy to prevent further damage? Agents should be talking to their clients about these all the time, but these are super important as we move into hurricane season.”
Clients should also have an updated inventory list. “There’s a lot of great apps you can download on your smartphone to use to walk around your house, take pictures and create an inventory,” Lindsay says. “It’s also an opportunity to uncover that perhaps the client should have a valuable articles policy to cover some of the memorabilia or artwork before a hurricane or other catastrophic event.”
“Agents and clients should also have a conversation around what type of coverage they don’t have that they may need,” Lindsay continues. “Flood insurance is one. We are still a culture of consumers that don’t believe flood insurance is a necessity, especially if your mortgage doesn’t require it. Yet a high percentage of flooding events happen in non-high-risk flood areas.”
AnneMarie McPherson is IA news editor.