By John F. McGuire
Who can we blame? Is that the normal comment made post the horrific disaster we witnessed in Texas and Florida? It is not who can we blame but, moreover, what can we learn and how may we better prepare. What did hurricane victims learn for the future? What should they have done differently? As tragic and overwhelming as these storms truly were, there is the need to embrace and understand that it will happen again and take steps ahead of time to minimize the personal devastation, loss of life property and worldly possessions.
Rebuilding activity post these hurricanes will escalate nationally with the increased demand for labor and building materials. Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area, and Irma destroyed homes and businesses across Florida, as well as damaged properties throughout the Southeast with high winds and flooding that reached all the way to the Carolinas. Category 5 hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
While damage from Irma alone is fully being assessed, Florida's Office of Insurance Regulation has reported claims totaling approximately $2 billion have been filed, including 12,000 claims by commercial property owners. Estimates of property damage in Texas, including those from Moody's, JP Morgan, Enki Research and Goldman Sachs, vary from $35 billion to $90 billion.
Amid this near phenomenal disaster, residents must now begin to take hold and ask themselves; "What more can we do"? The genuine sympathy factor is high at the present time.
Entertainers have held benefit events for the victims; football players and other sports celebrities have passionately commenced the same thing. Politicians jumped on the bandwagon to get billions of dollars for the Florida and Texas victims. As per usual, lawsuits seeking monetary solutions will always be in place, regardless of merit or potential resolution.
Overall flood damage to Houston's industrial and office properties wasn't as extensive as it could have been because of changes made to the city's bayous and drainage systems after tropical storm Allison in 2001. Developers noted new office development over the past 20 years has occurred along major transportation arteries, which tend to be located on higher ground.
Higher gas prices, store closings and flood damage costs are likely to dampen retail consumer spending in the near term, including e-commerce retail, which drives demand for warehouse and distribution space. Flood damage to homes should cause an uptick in sales of home improvement items and household goods, making up for some of the lost demand. Auto sales are also expected to increase dramatically, since nearly a million cars were destroyed by floodwaters in the Houston area alone.
Texas, Florida and now Puerto Rico, are places where we currently need billions of dollars to assist with the massive clean-up and eventual rebuilding of residential and commercial property. Going forward, once the rebuilding process and aftermath from these massive storms commences, it is fair to assume that in the future the horrific devastation will reoccur.
So, first and foremost, those who live in hurricane-prone parts of the country should have a thorough plan and follow it.
For instance, in the event of a hurricane, how about hurricane victims getting on Facebook and telling their story? Many have created outreach and touched the hearts and minds of thousands of good people who have generously donated money in a spirit of giving and helping those whose lives have turned upside down.
Consistency in telling one's story to a wide variety of audiences is essential. Memories are short; the reconstruction and transformation of communities and neighborhoods does not happen overnight. It takes a great deal of time. Connection to the devastation must continue and be present in the hearts and minds of those living outside these communities of complete or near obliteration.
Aside from telling their stories, there are other things those affected by hurricanes and flooding should do:
• Find out who is running the agencies assisting victims of natural disasters, learning all they can and registering their particular situation immediately.
• Connect with community groups to meet and discuss the overall destruction, create a plan together and prepare for the worst.
• Find out where pets will go (they don't understand what downed power lines are and overall electrical problems).
• Have an exit plan for evacuation of their home if necessary.
• Purchase generators, police-type whistles (to deter looters and alert neighbors), flashlights, batteries and other emergency devices.
• Have in advance a solar-powered tablet computer, laptop and/or smartphone, in the event a hurricane knocks out electric power.
• Have alternative routes planned in advance in case customary routes are impassible. The alternative routes should have places, like emergency supply outlet created and strategically located in large storage facilities, where residents displaced by hurricanes can find basic necessities they need to survive the natural disaster.\
• Know that, while insurance companies offer flood insurance, they do not may not cover what homeowners expected, in some cases claiming that the hurricane victims home was not built correctly.
• Find an insurer who will give them the basics and stand behind their protection claims.
The need to become resourceful is synonymous with overall survival. Hurricanes have been a longstanding threat to hurricane-prone geographical areas of our country.
"The will to survive is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to survive."
John F. "Mickey" McGuire is Senior Partner at Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire.