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How to Prepare and Protect Your Property for a Natural Disaster

Posted by Alex Godwin-Austen on Jun 13, 2022

Unfortunately, it’s not your imagination. Natural disasters are happening more frequently. And they’re causing a lot of property damage. In 2021, there were 20 events that cost almost $148 billion, the second highest in the number of events and third highest in cost to the NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. During this period, there were 724 deaths, the sixth highest.

You may live in an area that never has flooding. However, it could still very well have one of a handful of other disasters. The 20 events mentioned above included one drought event, two floodings, 11 severe storms, four tropical cyclones, one wildfire, and one winter storm. Just about no place is safe in North America at any time of the year. However, the worst times of the year are between August and December.

These events affected more than 14 million single- and multi-family homes as reported in the 2021 CoreLogic Climate Change Catastrophe Report. This is about one out of every 10 U.S. residential properties. Additionally, five of the top 10 most economically expensive disasters in the U.S. took place in 2021, states the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) ReliefWeb report 2021 Disasters in numbers.

No one can prevent natural disasters from happening. So, what does this mean for your property whether it’s multifamily residential, dealerships, retailers, office buildings, construction, or manufacturing?

You can prepare for a natural disaster and protect your property from the side effects to help minimize the damage.

Natural Disasters Affect Almost Every Property

You may think specific natural disasters will never happen to you. When you consider what the state of Texas went through, it shows anything is possible. You’d think a place like Texas would never have to worry about snowstorms. February 2021 proved otherwise. The state is not used to snowstorms. They’re not readily prepared like Canada and northern states that are ready for winter storms every year.

For the most part, everything in Texas came to a standstill. Truck drivers could not drive through Texas. The roads were far too dangerous. Retail stores, office buildings, construction sites, and warehouses stood empty. No one could safely commute to these properties. Not even security guards.

The snowmageddon of Texas wasn’t the only major natural disaster to strike in 2021. Hurricane Ida was a destructive Category 4 hurricane that was the second-most damaging hurricane to hit land. In this case, the state of Louisiana. A CW39 story reveals Hurricane Ida was the strongest hurricane recorded in Louisiana history.

Hurricanes like Ida, Harvey, and Katrina caused devastation to the degree that it took years to recover. Downed trees and flooded areas created barriers that prevented people from reaching their business properties. No one could check their property to assess the level of the damage. They could not check to ensure there was no vandalism or looting happening.

If there’s anything property owners and managers can learn from these emergencies, it’s that the unexpected can and will happen. It may come without a warning.

How Natural Disasters Affect Properties

Natural disasters tend to lead to vacant commercial properties, which can become a target for criminals and trespassers. Unguarded and unprotected, an unoccupied property can cost businesses far more than the cost of the mortgage or lease. That is because empty properties attract trespassers and vagrants. This can become a dangerous situation if there are a few employees in the building.

There’s no question that the pandemic has changed crime in terms of type and location. Some numbers climbed while others dropped. Referencing FBI data, the 2022 Crime Rates in U.S. Cities Report shows overall violent crime, murder and manslaughter, rape, and aggravated assault have all drastically climbed in 2020. Meanwhile, motor vehicle theft soared by almost 50% in 2020 as compared to 2010. This matters because vacant properties are an invitation to crime.

With businesses not having a full staff onsite, employees are more likely to have fewer eyes on their property, if any. It puts the business at risk for crime, vandalism, and other problems. With fewer employees or no one on the property, who will report problems? How do you close the gap with lack of security, staffing shortages, and protecting your business, especially during natural disasters and other emergencies?

What Can Properties Do to Prepare for a Natural Disaster?

A powerful solution that can help you prepare for a natural disaster, as well as the unexpected, is remote video surveillance. It helps close the gap to prevent many of these potential problems. The solution can be more effective than security guards because you there will be cameras rolling 24/7. Security guards can’t always make it to the property.

Video surveillance with remote monitoring can save you up to 60 percent on security expenses when compared to security guards. Security cameras can monitor the entire property all at once. Security guards can only see the area around them.

You can benefit from video surveillance in many ways. This is especially the case when choosing remote video surveillance that combines video analytics and trained monitoring operators. Whenever video analytics finds a match on one of its many programmed scenarios, it alerts the on-call monitoring operator who checks it out and responds.

Monitoring operators are not on your property. If you’re in Texas, the entire state was shut down. No one could go to work. That’s the advantage of having remote monitoring operators. They can easily be in a different state that’s not affected by the natural disaster that your business encounters. This adds another advantage over security guards. Operators aren’t likely to play a role in internal theft like security guards can.

Monitoring operators take action that’s appropriate for the situation. If there are trespassers, the operator could issue a warning through an on-site speaker. If the intruder doesn’t leave the property, the next action can be to call law enforcement.

In the case of flooding, the operator could call the point of contact to handle it ASAP. Obviously, no one may be able to access the property during the flooding, but at least you’ll be aware of what’s happening. Information is power. It can help protect you from potential vandalism and theft once the natural disaster passes.

When there’s no monitoring or surveillance, it can create a liability issue. Employees who need to enter the building may feel safer knowing the area is under surveillance.

How Remote Video Surveillance Helps in a Natural Disaster

Any time natural disaster strikes, business owners and property managers worry about the status of their businesses and assets. They may also be dealing with emergencies in their own homes.

During Hurricane Harvey, some properties didn’t have this problem. That is because they had remote video surveillance. Properly selected and installed security cameras withstood the natural disaster. The cameras continued working during the hurricane.

Property managers who had remote video surveillance on their property gained peace of mind knowing someone was monitoring their properties in real-time. They could get updates on the rain and flooding and how it affected the parking lots and areas around the property.

Another way remote video surveillance protects properties during and after natural disaster is by helping these companies enforce their disaster recovery plans right away. They did not have to wait for the side effects of the natural disaster to clear out. And that can take many days to happen depending on the natural disaster.

How Stealth Supports Clients During a Natural Disaster

In one case, Stealth Monitoring had a client whose property was in a hurricane zone. During and after the hurricane, Stealth Monitoring’s video surveillance team set up a war room. The team actively monitored the flood and provided support to clients through the entire process.

Of course, there were bumps in the road. One of the biggest challenges was communication. Whenever an emergency occurs, the communication infrastructure could fail or make it hard to reach people due to the high volumes of calls. Not only are there many people making calls at the same time but also the fewer available phone lines and many technical outages exacerbate the problem.

Thankfully, mobile phones made it possible for the monitoring team to communicate with the clients. Stealth’s control center had large overhead TV monitors to watch over the properties of affected clients. The TVs allowed the war room staff to have a constant view of what was happening on the property. The team watched for signs of looting, property damage, and other unusual activities.

During this natural disaster emergency in Houston, things managed to get worse. The city of Houston opened the reservoir in fear the rising water would put too much pressure on the dams. They thought a controlled release would help reduce the chance of flooding. Unfortunately, the opposite happened. The flooding put thousands of additional homes and businesses at risk.

To ensure rapid response, a point person on the Stealth team handled all phone and email communications from areas hit by natural disasters. The point person kept the client’s managers updated. Those managers would contact the clients to inform them of the status of their properties.

In addition to monitoring the property for potential problems, video security cameras can also help provide the following benefits:

  • Deter crime and damage
  • Reduce risk and liability
  • Track the number of people in the building
  • Save on insurance premiums

You never know what natural disaster will hit. No one saw the coming of the pandemic, Texas becoming completely frozen, or the hurricanes. Put eyes on your property around the clock with remote video surveillance.

To learn more about remote video surveillance and its ROI, check out this free guide on Remote Video Surveillance: More Than Just Catching Criminals.