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Facing the 2020 Hurricane Season During COVID-19

With experts forecasting an elevated storm season amid the coronavirus pandemic, families, businesses and communities face additional unique challenges this storm season.
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Families, businesses and communities threatened by hurricanes in 2020 face additional unique challenges this storm season—how to prepare for and recover from a natural disaster while continuing to fight COVID-19 and rebuilding the economy.

Experts are forecasting an elevated season amid the coronavirus pandemic. The global health crisis is going to have a major impact on at least two aspects of hurricane season—preparation and recovery. Too often people are consumed by the issues and news that are front and center and aren’t looking at potentially devastating issues on the horizon. While we must continue to work together to overcome the impacts of the ongoing pandemic, we must also take time to protect ourselves against the weather.

We need to be thoughtful about both preparation and recovery—the goal is to ensure homeowners protect themselves, their families and their investments without unintentionally exposing themselves to another hazard. To do so, insurance agents must help their clients think beyond the headlines and follow these three steps when preparing:

1) Find a flood insurance solution that works. Whether it is through the NFIP or a private flood insurer, or simply re-evaluating the coverage a client already has, it is important to find a policy that works for them.

Do not forget the lessons learned from Hurricane Harvey, where more than 80% of victims were uninsured. Start the conversation now so your clients do not become yet another reminder of the incredible challenge to recover from disaster, which will be particularly acute during a pandemic.

2) Have an evacuation plan in place. If your client’s home is flooded and uninhabitable, do they have a place to go? Are they comfortable going to a hotel right now? Are the hotels in their area open? Do they have a family member nearby who has socially distanced and is trustworthy who would allow long-term visitors?

Always hope for the best, but make sure to take time to plan for the worst.

3) Take extensive inventory of possessions now. Advise your clients to take advantage of more time spent at home to make their own file of photos and videos of their treasured possessions and home.

Have them walk around the interior and exterior of the house, as well as think about everything in their home that has value and snap a photo. Having this on hand in the event of a hurricane will help the claims process go much smoother. Advise your clients to maintain documents and records in a safe location.

Recovery following a natural disaster becomes more intense when it unfolds against the backdrop of a highly contagious viral outbreak. If you think back to hurricanes like Katrina and create a mental image, you see the community banding together to respond in close physical proximity. Similar images emerged from last year’s prolonged flooding along the Missouri River. In those and other events, assembly lines formed to fill and deploy sandbags—a task impossible to do six feet apart.

Responsiveness must be mindful and intentional amid a viral threat, as recklessness pays no dividends. Technology plays a critical role in recovery and potentially offers solutions to working through a devastating property loss while engaging in safe social practices.

Smart phones and basic technology can help homeowners achieve the recommended preparation steps and stay safe during a storm. For example, taking pictures and videos with date and time stamps could minimize the need for on-site inspections and physical proximity to claims adjusters.

The insurance industry is thinking through very tactical steps to ensure policies and procedures are in place to protect those who are on the frontlines when a hurricane hits. Drone technology offers the opportunity to take photos remotely, and computer models help better quantify risk and manage work forces.

Agents and clients need to have the conversation today to be prepared for tomorrow. The idea of “it won’t happen to me” is no longer valid—consider the 500-year flood in Michigan that recently occurred. It’s crucial that insurance agents are up to date on flood insurance options available today.

Take precautions to protect your client and your client’s lifestyle now. These challenges we face aren’t insurmountable if we push ourselves as an industry to be creative as we respond to real needs during uncertain times.

John Dickson is president and CEO of Aon Edge, a leading private flood insurance provider.