The 2021 hurricane season is now in full effect. With up to 20 predicted named storms on the horizon, residents and business owners in hurricane-prone areas should be adequately prepared for a potential storm; however, business owners should be particularly wary of early increased storm activity.

What Business Owners Need to Know About Early Storm Activity

Tropical storm Andres – the first named storm of the 2021 hurricane season – has already passed. While Andres did not pose an imminent threat to coastal or inland communities, it signified an early beginning to this year’s hurricane season.

Despite Andres’s early formation, the 2021 hurricane season could allow for more breathing room, when compared to the 30 named storms that cropped up last year. Even with the potential for fewer named storms, business owners should take into account the various unusual qualities of this year’s season to be prepared should the worst happen.

Early predictions for the 2021 hurricane season have indicated there could be 20 named storms, nine hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. While a La Niña climate pattern formed in early spring, conditions have now shifted to a more neutral El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) pattern, which is anticipated to continue throughout the summer months. An ENSO pattern oscillates between the more volatile La Niña and the calmer El Niño patterns, along with neutral storm conditions. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), each full ENSO cycle can last from three to seven years. Despite being on the more neutral side, these cycles can produce more irregular weather patterns.

While this storm season may be less active than last year’s, it doesn’t mean it won’t be costly to those who are impacted by it. Business owners in areas like the Gulf of Mexico, which is home to highly active oil and gas operations, often see multiple tropical storms and hurricanes in one season. In many cases, oil and gas operators in the Gulf begin planning for hurricanes months in advance of the tropical storm season. In preparation, offshore drilling sites will utilize tabletop exercises and drills. These exercises lead participants through simulated disaster scenarios, which prompt them to examine their plans, policies, and procedures. These drills are necessary to ensure all employees are aware of the protocols and procedures that should be utilized should severe weather occur.

Businesses on the southeast coastline should also be prepared for potential hurricane activity. In previous hurricane seasons, major flooding events occurred across the Carolinas and Florida. This flooding caused disruptions to supply chains and created safety concerns in affected areas. In the northeast, while tropical systems tend to move through more quickly, which often makes wind damage a risk for electric utility infrastructure. East Coast hurricanes can, however, still be just as devastating. For instance, Hurricane Isabel made landfall in 2003 as a Category 2 storm near North Carolina. During the hurricane, Norfolk, Virginia dealt with significant storm surge, creating record high water levels – the highest seen in 100 years. The storm caused more than $500 million in damage and directly impacted the Chesapeake Bay Port and the U.S. Navy’s fleet and academy complex.

As we have seen with hurricanes like Harvey, Ike, Katrina, and others, it only takes one powerful hurricane to impact businesses and local economies. No business is immune from the potential aftermath of a storm and all should have damage mitigation plans.

Why Businesses Should Conduct a Preparedness Assessment Before a Hurricane

While hurricanes can pose many threats to businesses and commercial properties, they are also foreseeable events, which can be prepared for. With this in mind, business owners should ensure their operations and employees are prepped for an incoming hurricane by conducting a preparedness assessment.

Preparedness Assessments

Before a business develops a hurricane preparedness plan, it’s important business owners assess exactly who and what could be impacted. This includes employees, commercial properties, suppliers, and other important assets.

Employees should be considered first. Since estimates reveal nearly half of all employed adults now work from home following the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners must deal with new communications challenges and business continuity concerns if a hurricane is on the horizon. To avoid any confusion, business owners should keep an up-to-date employee contact list and use an emergency communication system to send out notifications.

A hurricane can also impact the suppliers businesses rely on for day-to-day operations. Even if a business is miles away from a hurricane-prone area, supply chain and travel disruptions can still cause logistical issues. Preparedness assessments should account for these potential interruptions.

Unfortunately, some businesses never fully recover after a hurricane damages the commercial property. This is because damage to a physical location also includes the loss of critical data and important information. Additionally, many businesses cannot withstand the financial pressures of extended downtime or costly repairs. Because of this, it is recommended that business owners regularly back up important data both on the premises and at a remote site. Any important physical assets and property should be moved to more secure locations well in advance of an incoming storm. Lastly, insurance policies should be reviewed thoroughly by business owners and legal counsel to find any gaps in coverage within property, wind, hailstorm, and flood policies.

Commercial Property Damage Attorneys

When a hurricane threatens a business and its property, business owners may assume they are protected in the event they sustain damage if they have a commercial insurance policy in place. Unfortunately, however, many insurance companies will choose to deny, delay, or underpay valid claims to turn a profit. At Raizner Law, our experienced team of attorneys is well versed in the bad faith tactics insurers use. If your commercial property has been impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane and your insurance provider has wrongfully denied your claim, contact us today to see how we can help.

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