Season of preparedness starts early; notes from the Hurricane Conference
Hundreds of people were thinking about bad weather this week at the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando. This annual event is a forum for education and training in hurricane preparedness.
Here are a few quick notes based on topics discussed at the general session:
- About 70 percent of Florida buildings were constructed before Hurricane Andrew hit, which proved the necessity of developing strong building codes. This means 70 percent of the structures in Florida do not have the resiliency needed to withstand high winds.
- One speaker said we fool ourselves thinking that Florida’s now-exemplary building codes will help buildings survive when there is such a huge gap in new vs. old building codes. The code affects just the 3 percent of new construction added to the building inventory each year.
- Coastlines have not been “scrubbed” by storms in decades. Conversations about whether to rebuild or retreat should be held now in communities, not in the midst of disaster recovery.
- Bryan Koon, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, said, “Focus on the impacts of hurricanes, not the category.” In other words, a Category 1 storm can have weaker winds and a huge storm surge impact. Superstorm Sandy proved that.
- The intensity of storms may not be increasing, but the exposure is. Too many people live where the storms want to go.
- Chris Landsea, of the NOAA’s National Hurricane Center in Miami, said it’s too soon to say if the active period for hurricane activity is over. We’re still in a peak cycle, at least for the short term.
- Average annual insured losses from natural disasters in the U.S. are about $58 billion. If money is invested to harden homes, losses – and the arduous process of recovery and rebuilding – could be reduced.
Those are just a few highlights, and I’ll share more in the coming weeks. It’s probably safe to say that most of the attendees at the Hurricane Conference are above average when it comes to preparedness. They work in emergency management, law enforcement, the military or are government employees who focus on safety. The Insurance Information Institute was there, too, offering insurance workshops on topics ranging from flood coverage to understanding what’s in your policy. The first step to preparedness is education, and all progress begins with a first step.