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Analyzing Global and National Disaster Trends

Using 2020 Global and National Disaster Trends to Prepare Your Business for 2021

In 2020, natural disasters of every type affected lives around the globe. We saw wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and, of course, a global pandemic that changed the way many people live. 

As we move further into 2021, it’s important to look at the global and national disaster trends from 2020 and use that data to plan how we will address similar challenges in the coming year. It is never too early to consider creating or revisiting your disaster preparedness and recovery plan and knowing historical data can help understand what you can expect. 

Here are some of the disasters we faced around the world this past year and how you can plan for the future.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic

We would be remiss not to at least mention the most prevalent disaster defining 2020 – the SARS-COVID-19 virus. We all know the tragic data from across the globe regarding infections and deaths caused by the virus. Reputable sources such as Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center places the number of deaths from the virus in early December 2020 at 1.5 million worldwide and more than 280,000 in the U.S. alone. The economic loss to individuals, businesses, and communities is anticipated to be around $28 trillion for 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projections.

As businesses began to recover and rebound from the social and economic effects of COVID-19, protocols for cleaning, sanitization, disinfecting, and ensuring safe environments became imperative. We saw an increase in businesses using professional cleaning services to maintain a clean and socially respectable space for their employees and customers as they reopened and on a continuous basis thereafter. Though vaccines have arrived in the U.S., we expect this demand for professional cleaning services to continue into early 2021 to keep employees and customers safe.

  • Unprecedented wildfires

Deadly wildfires had a devastating impact in several countries in 2020. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, a national support center for wildfires in the U.S., 52,834 fires burned more than 9.5 million acres. California experienced some of its worst fires since 1932.

For businesses, the ability to recover from a wildfire requires careful planning, site clean-up and management, and an assessment of business risk as barriers to successfully relaunching. Recovery is not easy and takes time, effort and money. Business downtime for recovery can put a significant strain on the economy. In fact, a report by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission in September 2020 predicts a looming financial crisis due to the devastating impact of wildfires raging in the Western U.S. if the nation does not take steps to address climate change and protect businesses in 2021. 

  • An exceptionally active hurricane season

The 2020 hurricane season goes down as one of the deadliest in history. A record 30 named Atlantic hurricanes occurred this year, each with top winds at or exceeding 39 mph. Of those 30, 13 storms had winds of 74 mph or greater and six major hurricanes reached wind speeds of 111 mph or more. 

Although reports are still coming in, especially from the most recent hurricane that hit, Iota, total damage from hurricanes and tropical storms this year is estimated at between $35 billion and $45 billion. Data analytics firm CoreLogic estimated insured losses to homes and businesses, particularly in Louisiana, from Hurricanes Laura and Sally to $18-$22 billion alone. Note that this estimate was made in August, and hurricane season didn’t officially end until November!

  • Tornadoes across the U.S.

Preliminary numbers prepared by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported 1,205 tornadoes in the U.S. in 2020. The month of April had the highest number of tornadoes (351). The State of Mississippi had the highest number of total tornadoes in 2020 with a recorded 112. A total of 78 Americans lost their lives this year due to tornado activity. 

Economic losses from tornadoes this year have not been fully calculated. We do know, however, that one particularly nasty storm system taking place from April 8-April 12 in the Southeastern, Midwest and Mid-Atlantic U.S. states caused $3 billion in losses in less than one week. 

Preparing for 2021

Unfortunately, after an unpredictable 2020, we cannot say that 2021 will be any easier in terms of natural disasters. Several sources including the National Hurricane Service and several major universities predict 33 hurricanes for 2021. This would surpass the record 30 hurricanes which occurred in 2020. 

This prediction combined with our knowledge of other natural disasters that occured last year means businesses will need to undertake preparedness preparations prior to the end of 2020. Preparedness is the best way to position your business to best deal with the physical and economic impact of hurricanes, wildfires, disease and tornadoes. We suggest starting with the following:

  • Insurance review

Review your current commercial property and casualty insurance policies. This review should determine the adequacy of your coverages, the appropriateness of adding any needed policy provisions or riders which address losses due to severe weather or pandemic disease. This includes your fire and casualty loss policies, any provisions addressing flooding, tornadoes, storm damage and loss of business income resulting from the effects of severe weather and any resulting business interruption.

  • Business risk assessment

As a business, you must thoroughly assess any and all risks which impact your ability to do business. Is your facility located in a flood zone or area susceptible to loss from flooding brought on by a hurricane or severe tropical storm? What is the potential for loss of income resulting from the devastating damage brought by a tornado or wildfire? Can you continue to conduct business activity and meet the demands of your customers or clients during an outbreak of a deadly virus or disease? These questions must be asked and assessed relative to the type of business you are in and the severity of their impact on your operations. Then, plans must be made to combat and prepare for these risks.

  • Disaster plan

Create a new (or update an existing) disaster plan for your business. Disaster planning can take place alongside important strategic and financial planning for the organization. A disaster plan lets you set forth an approach for dealing with the long-term or lingering effects of a severe weather event or disease and serves as your roadmap to recovery should something happen. 

  • Disaster recovery partner selection

Are you comfortable fully assessing your own risks or making your own disaster plan? Once a disaster has occurred, what resource do you have available to you to help deal with cleanup and the aftermath of devastation? This is where having an experienced disaster recovery provider can help. An experienced disaster service company comes in and helps you plan accordingly, then recover, restore and return to your business.

ServiceMaster DSI: Your partner in planning for 2021

ServiceMaster DSI is an industry-leading disaster restoration company. For more than 50 years, ServiceMaster has helped businesses recover after a disaster has occurred. Part of the SRM network of companies, ServiceMaster assists businesses in natural disaster recovery, whether it’s a tornado, hurricane, or wildfire. We are on the scene and can quickly mobilize on the ground to help you weather the storm. ServiceMaster also provides services before disaster strikes which are preemptive. These include planning, storm tracking and the allocation of resources necessary to deal with whatever nature throws at your business.

The year 2021 is here, the opportunity to begin the process of risk assessment and disaster recovery planning. Preparing a disaster recovery plan is one of the proactive steps you can take to deal with loss before it occurs.

ServiceMaster DSI is the world’s first pre-disaster partner committed to getting your business ready for disaster preparedness year-round. Click here to learn more about our services, the first of their kind.