Coronavirus Could Complicate Hurricane Response, Warns Catastrophe Modeler

By Kimberly Tallon | June 1, 2020

“Hurricanes and COVID-19 are not a good mix,” says catastrophe modeling firm Karen Clark & Co., warning in a report that the pandemic will make what forecasters already predict to be an above-average hurricane season even more difficult.

KCC highlighted, in particular, the negative impact social distancing will have on preparation, evacuation, claims adjusting and reconstruction during the 2020 hurricane season, which begins June 1.

Social distancing measures could hamper the normal hurricane preparation of homeowners and small business owners, KCC says, leaving those properties less protected against wind and storm surge. Due to travel restrictions and fear of infection, people may be unable or unwilling to take steps to mitigate damage to their properties, especially if it’s a second home.

Pandemic-Hit Re/insurers Expect a Costly Hurricane Season

Property rates at June 1 renewal date are expected to go up by as much as 50%.

According to KCC, evacuations will be particularly complicated this year as the inland hotels or shelters set up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local governments can quickly become overcrowded, making them ideal grounds for transmission of the virus. More shelters will be needed to enable proper social distancing, and emergency planners will need to decide whether to establish separate shelters for those confirmed or even suspected to be infected with COVID-19.

KCC suggests that, under the circumstances, it may make sense to allow residents who are not in the most vulnerable areas to shelter in place—which could also reduce losses from additional living expenses.

Among the report’s other highlights:

  • Social distancing will also complicate claims adjusting this year, as will the need for personal protection equipment (PPE), more expensive lodging and other restrictions specific to COVID-19. Insurers will need to make use of technology for event tracking and claims applications so they can remotely settle claims when possible.
  • Repairs to damaged buildings are likely to cost more due to increased expenses and longer repair and reconstruction times. Material supply shortages and PPE will increase contractor costs, and social distancing will limit the number of workers on construction sites at one time. However, the pool of skilled professionals available for post-hurricane rebuilding efforts will be larger, KCC notes.

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