Hurricane Katrina…Ten Years Later

August marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the costliest storm in U.S. history, which left behind over 41 billion dollars in property damage. While the hurricane itself has found its way into history books, the aftermath continues to haunt the city of New Orleans and various parts of gulf region.

Hurricane Katrina made landfall along the gulf coast on August 29th 2005, taking the lives of nearly 2,000 people and devastating over 90,000 square miles. Nearly 80 % of the city of New Orleans was left submerged when the levees and flood walls failed.

A decade later, the region is still recovering from damages left behind, and discovering new damage such as sinkholes due to infrastructure issues as a result of Katrina. These ongoing issues will likely take years and millions of dollars to repair. Hurricane Katrina forever changed the way we think about and manage catastrophe risks. Here are three valuable tips to consider in the event of any natural disaster:

1. Develop a Comprehensive Plan- Always have an emergency plan in place, and rehearse it at least once a year so everyone is prepared when disaster strikes. This plan should address policies and procedures for employee safety, business continuity, emergency functions and who will perform them, a complete inventory of your business and contingency plans in the face of damage to facilities. Digital copies of important documents- such as HR and insurance documents, etc. should be part of your plan.

Establish a communications policy between you and your employees. After Katrina, telephone networks failed due to high call volumes. Consider acquiring an emergency communication system.

2. Review Your Policy- You shouldn’t wait until disaster is at your door. It is imperative that policy holders understand their policy and what it covers. Typically once a storm warning is issued, or as soon as disaster has struck, insurance companies doors are closed to new business.

3. Submit a Claim to Your Insurance Carrier- After Hurricane Katrina business owners had a difficult time documenting and preparing their business interruption claim for their Insurance Carriers.

We asked Mike Pilla, President and CEO of Technical Risk Underwriters (TRU), part of Ryan Specialty Group’s RSG Underwriting Managers, for his thoughts on submitting claims to your Insurance Carriers.

“One thing that is important to remember is keeping a copy of financial information backed-up in a secure environment.” said Pilla.

Please note that insurance policies do not define what documents are needed in order to present a BI claim. Most policies do include endorsements that provide the insurer with the ability to audit and inspect the insured’s “books and records”. The best thing to do is meet with your insurance adjuster early in the claim process. The Insurance Company adjuster or accountant can identify the documents that they would like to review to support your claim.

Most policies provide some coverage for claims preparation cost. You should hire your own professional and independent accountant to help you prepare the claim and anticipate questions from the insurer.

3. Secure and Protect Your Assets- Ensure all facilities are secure in the event of an emergency, including the exterior of the facility if that is a part of your responsibilities. Be sure to place all valuable equipment and materials in a safe and secure location. Inspect building utility systems to prevent unauthorized access. Train all employees on how to operate building systems so they can shut down systems and/or implement shelter in place if necessary.

Natural disasters can take a devastating toll, but being prepared can lighten the burden. The question is not if another natural disaster of the same magnitude of Hurricane Katrina will strike again, but rather when and where…

To read more about Hurricane Katrina, and recovery efforts over the past 10 years, please visit this gallery of then-vs-now photographs provided by CNN.

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