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Risk managers prepare for the worst in areas prone to hurricanes


When it comes to hurricanes, risk managers and others say it's important to be ready for the worst regardless of what the prognosticators say.

Scott Clark, risk and benefits officer for Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Miami, said hurricane predictions are a "guide for us to use," but they do not change the district's preparedness no matter how many storms are forecast. "It only takes one of those to hit you and really set you back," Mr. Clark said.

"Whether they predict we should have no storms, or 20, as a public entity we have to protect the public and keep everything running as much as possible," said Ann Brown, Wilmington-based risk manager for New Hanover County, N.C. "So we're always prepared."

She noted that in 1996, the county experienced three hurricanes when none had hit the previous 10 years. That made the county "very aware, very alert to the issue," said Ms. Brown.

"We have our hurricane preparedness systems and plans in place regardless of what they say," said Chad Callaghan, vp-enterprise loss prevention at Bethesda, Md.-based Marriott International Inc. Hurricane predictions "may help us get people really focused on it, but it doesn't really impact us because we've learned from the past" that it is better to be prepared all the time.

In hurricane-prone areas, "our engineering approach is established to prepare for those," said Louis Gritzo, vp and manager of research at Johnston, R.I.-based Factory Mutual Insurance Co., which does business as FM Global. If it is not a bad hurricane year this year, it may be one next year, he said. "We know this is a natural phenomenon that will occur."

"Certainly from the risk manager's standpoint, the predictions come out pretty close to hurricane season, and the things that can be done to prevent losses generally have to be done well beforehand regardless of the details of the seasonal prediction," Mr. Gritzo said.