With the deadly Oklahoma tornados still top of mind — some meteorologists now say the storm had far more power than the atomic bomb the United States released on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II — you might want to contemplate another day or so of related business angles.
Even if you’re far from the storm, you have readers and viewers who are trying to put themselves in the place of Oklahomans and others who have suffered natural disasters lately, or who may be worried about what volatile weather may bring their way as spring and summer 2013 play out. Which leads to many viable tornado-related stories regardless of your location, including:
Work. In an era already sensitive about jobs and jobs loss, a storm like Monday’s tornado cuts both ways: It will probably disrupt the livelihood of people in the ravaged area, but it also will create jobs for cleanup workers and others far and wide. No matter where you are, you probably can find someone who’s getting an opportunity due to the storm damage. Here’s last December’s New York Times look at how day laborers were getting Hurricane Sandy cleanup work, for example; watch for ads by staffing firms like Labor Ready.
Also, I caught this little item on the U.S. Department of Labor site; it was posted last fall in response to Hurricane Sandy and would be worth checking to see if it will apply for tornado victims or others as well: National Emergency Grants that pay for temporary jobs to restore local infrastructure.
Here’s the fuller description of the National Emergency Grants from Benefits.gov — it looks like they are administered through local workforce investment boards. Here’s a list of 2012 grants by state; you might want to follow up on the awards in your state to see where the money was directed, what type of work was performed, whether it led to full-time employment or other long-term benefit, and how these awards might benefit your area in future disasters.
Audiences might be wondering what would happen to their income if their home or workplace were destroyed by a storm; here’s some info from the Society for Human Resource Management about employers’ obligations should employees be prevented from working due to a disaster. You could check with large area employers to see if their policies include any worker protection in addition to that mandated by law.
Insurance. Personal finance expert Ilyce Glink of CBS Moneywatch is out with a column about preparedness; she notes that most standard homeowners policies do cover tornado damage, which may be perplexing to consumers aware that flooding and other weather issues are not covered in ordinary policies. This might be a good time for a primer on what is and is not covered under renters’ and homeowners’ policies, focusing on damage from weather events like lightening, hail, drought, rain,wind, falling trees or other objects, and so on. A large clip-and-save graphic might be more useful for readers than prose. Tap insurance brokers, your state’s insurance commissioner, the American Insurance Association and even lawyers who specialize in real estate, casualty and property matters for a list of caveats, dos and don’ts for homeowners who want to review their property protection.
Obviously if your area is home to insurance companies, you’ll want to take a look at how natural disasters affect their bottom lines. Here’s a blog post from the Hartford Courant noting that in 2012, natural events cost U.S. insurers some $58 billion, the second most-expensive year for that category. This Washington Post story details five years of tornado impact on insurers, and here’s a Zacks industry analysis that indicates the recent economic and real estate recovery has allowed premium price hikes; you might talk with analysts about what consumer can expert regarding premiums in the coming couple of years.
Also, last fall a reinsurer — the companies that insure insurance companies against large losses — called Munich Reinsurance was out with a report that blamed $47 billion in U.S. insurance losses on thunderstorms and, by extension, climate change. The report was controversial and I’m not suggesting you rely on it – nor on this rebuttal from the German publication Spiegel – but reading both will give you a glimpse into industry concerns about weather events that may prompt interview questions for local executives.
Mortgages. Again, readers and viewers may be wondering “Do I have to repay my mortgage if my house disappears?” and other worst-case scenario questions. The consulting firm HSH published a Q&A on this topic a couple of years ago, you can use it as a template and follow up with major mortgage services, credit unions and area banks to localize. Note their may be relief for those who suffer job loss due to a disaster even if their house is OK.
Miscellaneous. Numerous government agencies, like the EPA, offer primers on preparedness, and of course for-profit companies are responding to the market as well. FoodInsurance.com offers a $519 Tornado Preparedness Kit (or “bug-out bag”) containing items like walkie-talkies, a headlamp and food for two weeks. (As a personal finance piece, you might run something on how to create a bug-out bag on a budget.) And here’s a document-storage company, ARAG, that leapt onto the bandwagon Tuesday with a release touting its storage solutions and a free downloadable disaster preparedness guide for consumers. Can you find any other examples of firms touting products or remedies for people fearful of the disruption of a storm?