How to Prepare for
Hurricane Season 2021
As the last storms of the 2020 record setting hurricane season roll out, it’s not too soon to begin looking for lessons to help your customers prepare for 2021 hurricane season.
Last spring FEMA published pandemic guidance for the 2020 hurricane season so that emergency managers and public health officials can update their hurricane response plans accordingly, and we can expect these will be updated before the first storm of 2021 makes landfall.
But there’s no reason most property owners should wait for updates to start taking steps to adapt their own preparedness plans for another active hurricane season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s take a look at some of the key messages you can provide customers when they ask how to prepare for hurricane season 2021.
Before Next Hurricane Season, Update Plans to Shelter in Place
Because FEMA typically urges people to shelter in place during storms as long as it’s safe to do so, customers should take a close look at their preparedness plans and factor in COVID-19 wherever possible. Before next storm season:
- Make sure you have access to information from multiple weather alert systems. Property owners should subscribe to their local alert system as well as National Weather Service alerts. They can also use the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and NOAA Weather Radios. It’s a good idea to make sure Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are also activated on all smartphones in hurricane-prone areas: here are the instructions for iPhone and Android.
- Know the best place to shelter and practice going there. The best shelter from a hurricane is a FEMA safe room or an International Code Council (ICC) 500 storm shelter. According to FEMA, the next best option is “a small, interior, windowless room in a sturdy building on the lowest level that is not subject to flooding.”
- Gather supplies. In addition to typical hurricane preparedness supplies, residents should have items like soap, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and cloth face coverings so that they can continue to follow CDC guidance for COVID-19 safety.
When sheltering in place is no longer an option, it’s equally important to have all the supplies and documents you need on hand and ready for your evacuation. If your health insurance changes this winter during Open Enrollment or you update your flood insurance policy, be sure to update this information in your emergency documentation folder.
If you don’t know if you need flood insurance, reach out to one of our agents today.
Continue to Factor COVID-19 into Your Evacuation Plans for Next Hurricane Season
As always, your customers should know their evacuation zone and identify their best protection from high winds and flooding. But in 2021, they also need to identify their best protection from COVID-19.
FEMA’s pandemic guidance warns the public that “your best protection from the effects of a hurricane may differ from your best protection from disease.” For example, space in shelters may be limited due to the pandemic, so shelters may not be the safest choice.
So what should your customers do? Here’s what FEMA recommends:
- Shelter in place. Unless they live in a mandatory evacuation zone, they should have a plan to hunker down at home instead of going to a shelter, if it is safe to do so.
- Stay with family or friends. Customers who live in a mandatory evacuation zone or in a zone that becomes unsafe for sheltering in place will benefit from having a plan to stay with relatives or friends outside of at-risk areas.
- Only go to a shelter if there are no other options. Keep in touch with authorities about local shelters as all shelters may not be open as usual and availability may change, due to the pandemic or the progression of the storm.
- Have health and safety supplies ready to go. Customers that must go to a public shelter should bring a bag with cleaning products, hand sanitizer, and two cloth face coverings per person to mitigate the spread of the disease.
Want more info on evacuation zones in your area? Head to our agent training portal.
Prepare Your Customers for Whatever Comes Next
In 2020’s hurricane season, the intersection of COVID-19 and hurricane damage caused a shortage of available hotels, shelters, and temporary housing. We also saw regional strains on medical professionals in areas hit by storms due to an increased need for medical examinations and slower evacuation procedures due to social distancing requirements.
As James P. Kossin, a climate scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told the New York Times, we can expect to see hurricanes change in five major ways: hurricanes will continue to bring higher winds and more rain, as well as slower storms that are wider-ranging and more volatile.
All this means customers may need to take additional steps to protect themselves, even as local governments work hard to prevent shortages and disruptions. FEMA and the CDC recommend…
- Taking steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning with generators, as restoring power and water may take longer than usual.
- Continuing to follow social distancing protocol when checking in on friends, family, and neighbors, as well as during cleanup.
- Helping others who need someone to talk to and taking care of your own mental health during this unprecedented time with CDC guidance.
Remember, if customers need to file a claim, claims inspections and adjustments can be made remotely for everyone’s safety. Knowing this in advance may help assure customers that the investment in a flood insurance policy is worth their time and money.
Understand Your Hurricane Risk
Hurricanes can happen along any coast in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico, and customers who live 100 miles inland (or more) can still feel the effects. Everyone living in this range should start thinking about how to prepare for the 2021 hurricane season today, and as an agent, you’re well positioned to jump-start this process.
For more information on how to talk to your customers about hurricane risk, check out our hurricane and flood video series.