IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Florida faces potential “double whammy” this hurricane season
In a recent opinion piece published by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce David Hart cautions that Florida could be facing a higher-than-average active hurricane season complicated by the economic downturn the state has experienced due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hart encourages state leaders to examine different options that will best position Florida to respond to a direct hit from a hurricane while also navigating the budgetary impacts of the pandemic.
One option is to strengthen the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund) by including pre-event bonding and transferring risk out of state. Hart also says there should be further discussions on strengthening building codes in all parts of Florida. And, at a minimum, residents and builders should be given clear guidance on easy steps they could take to build stronger structures.
Taking lessons learned from past hurricane seasons, and applying those in these unprecedented and uncertain times, will be critical for Florida to weather any major storm this year.
The full opinion piece is below.
Florida faces potential “double whammy” this hurricane season | Opinion
As Florida continues to re-open in a safe, smart and step-by-step approach, another potential challenge faces our state – hurricane season. Unfortunately, forecasters are predicting an active season, and in fact, this year marks the sixth consecutive year where a named storm has already appeared in the Atlantic before the season officially kicks off.
The impact of the coronavirus has touched every industry, region and household across our Florida in different ways, and we are all adjusting to a “new normal” to protect public health and relaunch Florida’s economy under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
We have faced an unprecedented threat to our economy and way of life with this global pandemic and we know it’s not over, yet. But with hurricane season now upon us, we also know we must prepare a bit differently than usual, and more diligently than ever before. As Floridians, we know it’s not if a hurricane will hit, but when. But how prepared is Florida to respond to a direct hit?
Thanks to strong leadership, forward thinking, and lessons learned from previous hurricane seasons, Florida remains in a strong position to respond both logistically and financially should a hurricane make landfall this year. However, due to COVID-19, we will be forced to shift how we respond to these storms, and preparations are underway.
For example, the Division of Emergency Management is examining how to set up hurricane shelters in a world that is “social distancing” and experiencing increased sanitation needs. And, the Governor and legislative leaders smartly put additional money in reserves during the 2020 session, and are already looking at other ways Florida’s budget might change to address the financial repercussions of the coronavirus.
Florida leaders should continue to explore options to strengthen the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund (CAT Fund) to prepare for worst-case scenarios during hurricane season. These options should include pre-event bonding and transferring risk out of state. While the CAT Fund is currently on strong financial footing, we’ve also seen how hurricanes in the past have impacted the fund and the state budget. We could be facing a potential double whammy of black swan-type events on the state budget with the pandemic followed by potential storm landfalls this summer and fall.
Continuing to make sure we are prepared, both financially and logistically, for catastrophic events is smart policy. Included in that strategy should be the reinvigoration of serious discussions on strengthening building codes in all parts of Florida. At a minimum, residents and builders should be given clear guidance on easy steps they could take to build stronger structures in vulnerable locations to make these places safer. This type of approach just makes sense.
In fact, a recent study commissioned by the Florida Building Commission outlines many building upgrades that could be taken by homeowners and others that build along our shorelines and other vulnerable areas. Stronger, more resilient structures will lead to less damage physically and financially, and ultimately lower insurance premium bills for Floridians.
We have learned so much from the experiences of difficult hurricane seasons. We must take those lessons to heart and take appropriate policy actions. Even during unforeseen and challenging times like now, we need to stay disciplined knowing storms are on the horizon.
David Hart is Executive Vice President of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached [email protected].
Stronger Safer Florida is a nonpartisan coalition comprised of businesses, consumer and environmental groups from throughout Florida. This diverse membership seeks to protect consumers before, during, and after catastrophic events impact Florida.