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Preparing Practitioners for the Next Disasters

In the United States of America, the number of natural disasters has gradually increased. Most of the costliest disasters have resulted from hurricanes and terrorist attacks. Other major casualties have resulted from earthquakes, monsoons, tsunamis, and wildfires. The damage to business and property from these events substantially affects the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans who look to their attorneys to protect them from the collateral effects of these disasters that occur on an irreparable scale. Inherent within the operation and management of a business and building comes the risk of unexpected and unpreventable outside elements. Nevertheless, informed businesses and building owners can save their businesses or properties from the financial and physical ruin attendant on any catastrophic disaster and also be better prepared to protect themselves in lease negotiations, as well as understand the scope of available insurance liability coverages and equally important but less-known insurance strategies.

It Takes More than an Informed Building Owner to Save the Nation on a Larger Scale

Not discussed extensively in this article are some observations that need to be given serious consideration by policy makers. First, the worst disasters occur where the existing structures are not built with the ability to withstand a major storm or other disaster.  This is why some towns and cities can recover faster than others. The manner and way the real estate is built, combined with the sewage systems, roads, and overall urban structure and planning, separate the impact of the damage. One concrete example stems from information collected after Hurricane Irma in Florida. Almost 80 percent of the homes subjected to and able to sustain Irma’s highest winds were built after the adoption of Florida’s new building code (which was put in place after Floridians had experienced Hurricane Andrew’s wrath).[1] On the other hand, take, for example, Ocracoke, an Outer Banks island village located twenty-six miles off of the mainland coast of North Carolina. This island, which averages out at five feet above sea level, was overwhelmed by the wrath and ferocity of Hurricane Dorian’s previously unheard of seven-foot storm surge.[2] The omnipresent lack of protective infrastructure and flood-preventative measures throughout the sun-kissed, beautiful community of Ocracoke left this otherwise small, natural disaster susceptible island drowning and desolate in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian.[3]

Second, people and businesses are rebuilding or building in areas that are most likely going to be targets again.  Some of this rebuilding has been done well by taking the worst-case scenario and putting homes and businesses high enough in the sky so they will hopefully be able to survive the next Hurricane. Other rebuilding efforts, for example, those depending on highly vulnerable broken levees, should probably be condemned to avoid putting the real estate and its residents in peril.  Governments need to make difficult decisions on when to stop challenging mother nature right up to the point where technology becomes incapable of protecting against the worst floods and natural disasters.

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