Avoiding Storm Damage: How to Prepare Your Property

February 23, 2022 - 8 minutes read
Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

In recent times, there has been a rise in the number of storm damage claims. Here are some timely updated tips on how you can reduce your risks

The peak storm season in Australia officially occurs from November to April. But that depends on where you live, and the reality is that storms can happen at any time of the year. In the southern states for example you are more likely to see thunderstorms during the winter months.

What causes thunderstorms?

The weather bureau says you need three ingredients for thunderstorms to occur: warm moist air at the surface, a mechanism that forces the warm air upwards (such as an approaching front), and atmospheric instability.

While the combination of all three results in thunderstorms, most are fortunately fairly short-lived due to the weakening effect of cool downward gusts that occur with rainfall.

For a severe thunderstorm to occur you need a fourth ingredient: wind shear. Wind shear separates the warm updraft and the cool downdraft from each other, and so there is a lack of a weakening effect. The result is storms that can last for many hours, with the potential to do a lot of damage!

The most dangerous type is the supercell thunderstorm – which can last 4-8 times longer than the regular variety.

As well as heavy rainfall and flash flooding, the fallout from thunderstorms can include large hailstones (2-10cm), damaging wind gusts (over 90kmh), landslides, lightning, and tornadoes.

Impact of storms and floods

Victoria’s State Emergency Service (VICSES) says they respond to around 20,000 calls for storm damage assistance each year. Much of the damage to buildings and cars according to VICSES is due to fallen tree branches, loose items turning into projectiles in strong winds (such as furniture and loose roof tiles), and flooding from blocked drains.

Storms and floods can result in property damage and losses as well as physical injuries and even deaths. These events can also lead to interruption to businesses and not-for-profits – sometimes putting organisations out of operation for many months!

Storm preparation

Preparing your property can reduce your risk of damage due to severe storms and the need for insurance claims.  However, this requires not only acting when wild weather is approaching but also throughout the year. The following checklists should help you with this.

Year-round maintenance

Property protection:

Keeping your property continuously maintained can greatly reduce the risk of damage due to storms when they occur. This includes:

  • Annual roof inspections, and ongoing roof maintenance. How your building responds to severe storms and winds depends a lot on the state of its roof. Not only that, if you fail to maintain your roof it could possibly lead to a storm damage claim being denied.
  • Grounds and garden maintenance. Includes regular pruning, removal of dead or hanging branches, and maintenance of large and old trees.
  • Cleaning your gutters, downpipes, and drains to prevent them from becoming waterlogged or blocked.
  • Identifying and repairing any weak areas in your building that could be vulnerable to storm damage.
  • Installing a lightning rod and surge protection devices to protect against damage from lightning.

Business protection:

With storms and flooding having the potential to cause injuries and interruptions you also need to protect your operations.

Here are some top considerations:

  • A storm and flood plan – this should cover safe evacuation procedures, shutting off utilities, emergency kits containing water and perishable food, First Aid procedures, emergency contacts (see links and contacts below).
  • Business continuity plan – such as planning for employees and jobs, securing alternative temporary premises, contacting suppliers and customers, protection of data and vital records.
  • Updated contents record – an up-to-date inventory of your contents helps you track missing or damaged items. This can also help to speed up any insurance claims for losses. See under ‘helpful links’ (below) for assistance with this.
  • Drills and training – e.g. First Aid training and regular disaster scenario drills.
  • Maintaining insurance cover – it’s important to keep your insurance up-to-date and to understand what events it covers you for and how to lodge a claim.

When storms are approaching

The weather bureau and state emergency apps will issue warnings when thunderstorms are approaching your region, so it’s important to keep up with weather and emergency reports and to heed any official advice.

When severe stormy weather is coming your way, you can prepare your property in the following ways:

  • Move vehicles undercover. VICSES also recommends moving cars away from trees to avoid vehicle damage from fallen branches.
  • Secure or remove items that could become missiles in strong winds, such as outdoor furniture, bins, and fallen branches.
  • Prepare for outages by backing up all your data and charging up laptops, phones and rechargeable torches.
  • Make sure to have your emergency kit stocked and ready just in case.
  • Put sandbags in place if you are concerned about flooding.
  • Decide what the ‘trigger’ will be to enact your flood and storm plan.

Post-storm measures and recovery

What you do after a major event also determines how well your organisation recovers from it. This includes:

  • Checking your property for damage, water damage in particular.
  • Cleaning up debris caused by the storm.
  • Removing water from inside the building and drying out floor coverings (when safe to do so).
  • Organising repair work for any damages.
  • Enacting your continuity plan.
  • Lodging insurance claims if necessary (see ‘contacts’ below).

Helpful links and contacts

Property maintenance:

Emergency and recovery planning:

Updating your content records:

Contacts:

  • SES emergency help in storms and floods: 132 500
  • Ambulance or police: 000
  • CCI (for lodging claims): call us on 03 9488 8841, or follow the instructions on our claims web page

Need more information?

To discuss your insurance policy or for additional guidance on church risk management, give us a call on 03 9488 8800 or send an email to Meera at mlivingston@cofcinsurance.org.au

Written by Tess Oliver

 

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