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After seven consecutive seasons of above-average hurricane activity, multifamily housing providers with communities in coastal areas are likely to get more of a break this year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 2023 Atlantic hurricane season outlook estimates a 40% chance of a near-normal season, with between 12 and 17 total named storms forming and five to nine storms potentially intensifying into hurricanes. Of those, NOAA expects just one to four to evolve into a major hurricane of at least a Category 3.

Despite a more positive storm forecast, multifamily firms should by no means ease up on their preparedness efforts—especially given the volatility in today’s insurance markets. Sharp increases in insurance premiums need to factor into firms’ preparedness plans.

There are a variety of resources to help firms. Below are a few steps to help you take stock of your risks and mitigate potential damage.

1. Getting Started

New to emergency preparedness? The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has you covered. The agency’s Hurricane Preparedness Community portal is great for grasping the basics. Key terms, quick facts, and links to more in-depth preparedness topics are all included.

It’s never too late for your firm to develop a formal emergency preparedness plan. If you are starting this process, FEMA’s National Disaster Recovery Framework can be a critical resource. This framework outlines structures, roles, and responsibilities that can be partially or fully implemented in anticipation of a hurricane season.

2. Navigating the Insurance Market

Familiarizing yourself with your firm’s insurance coverage across your portfolio should be top of your preparation list. Take stock of your policy limits, deductibles, and limitations, which sometimes include hurricane, wind, and water damages.

Skyrocketing insurance costs have hit rental housing providers hard in recent years. In fact, NMHC’s recently released 2023 State of Multifamily Risk Survey and Report showed that firms’ property insurance costs jumped 26% on average in the last year alone.

A spate of severe weather events, coupled with higher replacement costs and a lack of reliable data, have contributed to the surge in insurance costs and forced some insurance providers to exit the market. It’s more critical than ever to consider how increased premiums or reductions in coverage could affect your portfolio and, consequently, your preparedness plan. Establishing a relationship with a capable broker and developing an active claims management system can help you navigate this challenge.

3. Identifying Vulnerabilities

Housing providers should perform comprehensive assessments of your buildings to identify potential vulnerabilities. Pay close attention to roofs, windows, doors, and other structural components that may require reinforcement or maintenance in the event of a storm. Make a plan for clearing surrounding areas of loose objects that could become projectiles during high winds, and prep for basic resident outreach to ensure certain damage mitigation tasks like moving cars from surface parking and bringing in outdoor or patio furniture are completed.

4. Calling for Backup

Power outages are common during severe storms. Your residents may be without basic utilities for prolonged periods during and after a hurricane. To ease the challenges, work with on-site maintenance staff to ensure backup power systems such as generators are well-maintained and in good working order. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers a detailed outline on preparing a disaster supply kit. This can be an essential resource for residents when preparing for outages.

Similar to establishing a relationship with an insurance broker, it’s also important to establish relationships and communication plans with utility providers. Work with these providers on what you can expect after a storm, and understand the restoration process of essential services.

5. Engaging Your Residents

Resident safety is the top priority in emergency preparedness. While a disaster supply kit is a great resource, residents will need additional information in the event of a major storm.

Use all communication channels possible to circulate evacuation plans for your region; link to the local disaster or emergency management agency; and include personal safety tips, packing checklists, and instructions for minimizing damage to their apartment unit. Encourage resident to making a written plan with contacts outside the impacted area.

As you work through your firm’s preparedness plan, you should also encourage residents to take out flood insurance policies. Residents may not know that traditional renter’s insurance policies do not cover the value of their possessions in the aftermath of flooding. Policies are available through the National Flood Insurance Program at relatively affordable rates and can offer coverage up to $100,000.

6. Bringing in the Reinforcements

Extreme weather events are only intensifying and increasing in occurrence. Focusing on resiliency is paramount. A great way to prepare is to invest in fortification measures for your building envelope against hurricane-force winds. This can include installing impact-resistant windows, reinforcing doors, and improving structural connections. These enhancements can help mitigate potential damage from wind-driven debris. FEMA offers guidance on this process in its Preparedness Community portal.

With the expectation of a more normalized level of severe storm activity this hurricane season, it’s a great time to establish, review, and update all facets of your emergency preparedness plan. There are strategies to mitigate challenges and risks for firms of all sizes, locations, and of varying resources.