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Lessons from Hurricane Katrina

Last week marked the 9th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, a strom that was among the deadliest in U.S. history. More than 1,800 people died in the storm, while wind, water, and flood damage was widespread. In New Orleans, the damage was profound as the levee system failed in the wake of the hurricane, flooding the city.

The entire Gulf of Mexico region suffered immediate and long-term impact from the storm. It is estimated that more than 600,000 people left the region as a result of Katrina. Industries including oil, fishing, and forestry suffered greatly, and efforts to rebuild the region are arguably still underway today.

A national discussion about flood preparedness

The failure of the levee system in New Orleans has sparked a national discussion on flood protection, and storms since Katrina have shown how vulnerable American cities are when it comes to hurricane winds, rain, and storm surge. Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, stunning some residents and homeowners who are just now getting the go-ahead and funding to begin rebuilding their damaged homes and businesses.

It’s not just coastal cities that have to worry when a tropical storm hits. The amount of rain produced by huge storm events can trigger flooding and flash flooding inland, too. This map from the National Hurricane Center shows rainfall levels during Hurricane Frances in September, 2004, revealing vulnerability of regions as far inland as western North Carolina and Southeastern Ohio.

Being prepared

September is National Preparedness Month. Perhaps your kids are coming home with information on what to do in case of a tornado, flood, or hurricane in your town. It’s a good moment to take some time to think about your safety at home and work.

The National Weather Service sponsors a whole series of web pages on disaster preparedness with some very practical information on what to do in case of an emergency. Does your family have an emergency plan? Does your workplace have an emergency evacuation plan? Take some time to read on the topic, and take some action – get the family together and make a new plan or review your existing one.  At the office, volunteer for the safety council, and if your company doesn’t have one, start one. Your local emergency management service office (or fire department) should be able to help you get started.

Consider your vulnerabilities

September is also a good time to re-asses your property and investments to see if they’re in need of updating. Are there any new vulnerabilities in the region to consider? There are some coastal areas that are reassessing their risk of flood based on elevated ocean levels. Norfolk, Virginia, is a town that’s sinking as sea levels rise around it.

Also check any property you own against zoning or building codes to make sure your structure is up-to-date. As storms intensify and cause more damage, regulations that govern buildings are changing, too.

If you don’t have hurricane or wind coverage, you may find that you’re out of luck – it could be difficult or almost impossible to purchase hurricane and wind insurance where you live. If that’s the case, you may want to consider alternative methods for managing the risk you face. Contact us if you’d like to explore options in enterprise risk captives.