Another Active Hurricane Season is Coming, Are Your Clients Ready or Not?

Since 1984, Colorado State University (CSU) has released its initial predictions for the upcoming season, which is fast approaching and spans June 1st to November 30th. Their reputable forecast is expecting a total of 14 named storms, of which 7 are expected to become hurricanes (and 3 are expected to be major hurricanes), which is slightly above the long-term average. That’s also 14 reasons to prepare your clients now before a storm strikes.

With hurricane winds blasting at 74 mph or higher, they form undetected over warm ocean waters and strike on land in an instant, pushing walls of ocean water ashore. One thing every American Modern® agent should be skilled at is managing surprises before they turn into catastrophes.

So, why are hurricanes such a huge menace anyway?

Your customers may think hurricanes do not affect them because they are not in coastal areas, but Hurricane related storms can reach far inland.  For example, a storm that impacts the gulf coast can continue northward to the mid-west or northeast states. Take Hurricane Ike in 2008, which caused significant damage in Ohio after making landfall on the TX/LA state line. As hurricanes move inland they can spawn tornadic activity and flooding. So, do not allow your clients to let their guard down just because they may not reside in a coastal state. Continue to monitor weather reports and take the necessary precautions to protect their family and property.

Knowing a hurricane’s structure is something we want all of our agents to understand. The eye is the “hole” at the center of the storm. In the eye, winds are light and skies are partly cloudy, or even clear. Contrary to how the phrase “eye of the storm might sound,” it’s typically pretty calm in this area. The eyewall is a ring of thunderstorms swirling around the eye, where winds are strongest and rain is heaviest. It can be the most destructive area of a hurricane. Finally, the rain bands are spiral bands of clouds, rain, and thunderstorms that extend out from a hurricane’s eyewall, and can stretch for hundreds of miles, sometimes containing tornadoes. And if that analysis doesn’t make the gravity of these storms real, just last year, in 2017, hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria reminded us of Mother Nature’s destructive force and the need for proper storm planning.

The alphabetical naming of storms alone indicates how active hurricane season is. Since more than one hurricane may exist at the same time, names make it easier to keep track of and talk about these storms. They escalate very quickly too, starting as a tropical disturbance and growing into a tropical depression (an area of rotating thunderstorms with winds of 38 mph or less). Then, a tropical depression becomes a tropical storm once its winds reach 39 mph. And a tropical storm becomes a hurricane if its winds reach 74 mph. Helping our customers become equipped before the active hurricane season is what sets American Modern® agents apart from competitors.

What are the damage risks?

Let’s be honest, hurricanes are no joke. We saw the severity of Hurricane Sandy through every news channel, including social media. It was the deadliest and most destructive hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Inflicting nearly $70 billion in damage[1], it was the second-costliest hurricane on record in the United States. It was only surpassed by hurricanes Harvey and Maria in 2017. Sandy was a Category 3 storm, with its peak intensity occurring when it made landfall in Cuba. While it was a Category 2 hurricane off the coast of the Northeastern United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 24 states, including the entire eastern seaboard from Florida to Maine and west across the Appalachian Mountains to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York. When its storm surge hit New York City on October 29, it flooded streets, tunnels and subway lines and cut power in and around the city. Damage in the United States alone amounted to $65 billion[2].

Culprits that cause the most damage risks:

  • Water pushed ashore by storm surges cause the most damage of any of the hurricane hazards.
  • Winds topping 200 mph also leave a path of destruction to buildings.
  • Even lower category storms can cause dangerous flooding.
  • Inland flooding can cause damages to homes and businesses that are far away from the coast.
  • Tornados commonly form quickly once a storm hits the shore.
  • Rip currents and rough seas are a huge issue both before and after hurricanes.

 

What tips can prepare our clients for these severe events?

Knowing where to go and what to take when a hurricane warning is issued is key. Make sure your clients have an evacuation plan and plenty hurricane supplies. Remind them to not wait for the flood waters to rise to evacuate.  By that time emergency assistance may not be available.

Useful evacuation tips:

  • Make sure you find a boarding facility in a safe zone for your family pets.
  • Identify more than one route in case you encounter roadblocks. (This includes having a safety raft on hand, fully inflated, and ready to go.)
  • Share the plan with your loved ones.
  • Have your bags packed and be ready to leave.
  • Stay tuned to the local weather news.
  • Laptop computers and mobile devices should be completely charged with the ability to recharge if away from home. Account numbers, usernames, and passwords should be at ready access.

 

Hurricane Supplies:

  • Pack a week’s worth of food and water: canned food, several gallons of safe drinking water, and don’t forget a can opener.
  • Ensure that you have a month’s worth of medication and first aid supplies.
  • Have extra batteries, a flashlight, radios, and a hand crank charger for your phone.
  • Fill up on a full tank of gas and get a few extra plastic gas cans for good measure because the pumps may be closed or empty.
  • Have cash on hand in case ATMs flood or power goes out.
  • Pack a week’s worth of pet food
  • If you do not need to evacuate, having a whole house generator is smart in the event of widespread power outages that can sometime last several days. Unless your generator is equipped for natural gas, make sure to stockpile enough fuel to operate the generator for 3-5 days.

 

What can American Modern agents do for their customers before storms hit?

First of all, make sure their clients’ insurance policies are up to date and provide the level of coverage necessary in the event of a major event.  Secondly, they can protect their homes by employing wind fortified construction techniques or retrofitting their homes with wind-resistant features such as hurricane strapping, wind resistant windows and doors, window and door shutters, and emergency generators.  Regarding flooding, first, make sure your home is not situated in a flood-prone area.  Most flooding occurs outside of FEMA designated flood zones.  If the home is in a flood-prone area, be prepared with sandbags, and blocks that can be used to elevate floor level furnishings.

Flooding is the leading damage of hurricanes and severe tropical storms, so informing your clients about a hurricane’s most serious damage risks is your number one obligation.

  • Walk your clients through what is covered and what is not in their insurance plans to ensure they understand the ins and outs of their policy.
  • Make sure in addition to home insurance, your clients have flood insurance too. There is usually a 30-day waiting period for this specialty insurance to become active, so make sure your customers have it as soon as possible.
  • Homes and cars must be prepared for storms in accordance with insurance policies. For instance, if your flood insurance requires you to sandbag and board up your home in order to make a claim, this must be done before the storm.
  • Make sure your clients take their policies with them in a watertight container if they evacuate. Copies of paper documents can be maintained off-site, such as in a place of work or back safety deposit box.
  • Hurricane winds are severe and strong. They can break branches and uproot trees. Trimming branches before a storm hits is a safe bet.
  • For recreational vehicles and watercraft, make sure they are stored in a safe and secure location or moved out of the hurricane’s path if possible, Move your cars to clearer areas or parking garages.
  • Secure or store loose items like outdoor furniture, trash bins, etc. This prevents them from blowing around causing extra damage to houses and vehicles.
  • Purchase materials for boarding up windows or sandbagging your home in advance. These supplies are in high demand and sell-out quickly when storms become urgent.
  • Doors and windows are weak points on homes, so secure them with boards, and duct tape windows in an asterisk pattern in case they shatter to prevent flying debris. Also, close all interior doors to reduce damage risks.
  • In any case of evacuation, shut off the water and power supply to your house or apartment.

Just because we have 26 letters in the alphabet, doesn’t mean hurricanes stop at “Z.” They just continue to quietly form offshore until striking land with long-term consequence. American Modern agents can help their customers be ready in the face of unexpected events, and hurricanes are no exception. Again, with forecasts for this year’s season slightly above average, according to reports by Colorado State University (CSU), it is important to make sure your clients are not only familiar and prepared for the risks and damages associated with hurricanes, but also appropriately insured against the effects of these disastrous storms. After last year’s devastating hurricane season, courtesy of the storms Harvey, Irma, and Maria, we are hoping for quieter storms in the tropics this year. But if it gets boisterous, American Modern customers will have the plans in place to weather any storm, thanks to you!

It’s all about being prepared and being there for your customer.  And knowing that American Modern is prepared as well.  At American Modern, we call it ‘Keeping the promise’.  We can’t prevent hurricanes and can’t prevent damage to someone’s property.  But we can make sure we are prepared and practiced in our hurricane response plan, and we are there to service the needs of our shared customers in the unfortunate event that they must file a claim.  Our goal is to have the best-trained adjusters in the industry and to provide fast, fair, and accurate claim service.  It’s what we do.

[1] Eric Zerkel. “Superstorm Sandy Anniversary: Remembering Hurricane Sandy Two Years Later”. The Weather Company. (October 29, 2014).

[1] “Costliest U.S. tropical cyclones tables updated.” (Report) National Hurricane Center. January 26, 2018.

For information only. Not applicable to all situations.

 Coverage is subject to policy terms, conditions, limitations, exclusions, underwriting review, and approval, and may not be available for all risks or in all states. Rates and discounts vary, are determined by many factors and are subject to change. Policies are written by one of the licensed insurers of American Modern Insurance Group, Inc., including American Modern Home Insurance Company d/b/a in CA American Modern Insurance Company (Lic. No 2222-8).

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Melanie Winstead
Melanie Winstead
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