New Climate Report Warns of Greater Flood Risk for Coastal Self-Storage Operators

A new government report on climate change warns of rapidly rising seas in the coming years.

The report projects that sea levels along the U.S. coastline will rise on average 10 to 12 inches by 2050. Levels are expected to rise up to 14 inches along the East coast, and up to 18 inches along the Gulf coast. The projected rise in sea levels over the next 30 years is equivalent to the rise that took place over the last 100 years.

The rapid rise in sea levels will lead to more severe coastal flooding, with damaging floods occurring on average more than 10 times as often each year as they currently take place. Major destructive floods are expected to occur five times as often.

What does the new climate report mean for self-storage operators?

Facilities in coastal and other flood prone regions can expect greater risk of being impacted by flooding events in the coming years—even if historically it has not been a common issue. While there is little storage facilities can do to reverse the trend of rising seas, there are steps they can take to mitigate the risk that surging waters pose.

To assess their risk, self-storage operators should check the flood maps provided by FEMA. They can also check out the coastal Seal Level Rise Viewer from NOAA to see how their facility may be affected by the latest climate change report. 

Floodproofing Buildings

Self-storage operators should consider several floodproofing techniques when constructing new facilities. Such measures can help protect tenants’ belongings and avoid disruptions to business operations. For new facilities, site selection is the first line of defense—building on higher ground is a common sense decision. 

Other methods of floodproofing that can be applied to new and existing storage buildings are divided into wet floodproofing and dry floodproofing approaches. Wet floodproofing are measures that allow floodwaters to enter a building but redirect it to areas such as a subbasement. This intent is to minimize damage to storage units and critical systems like HVAC equipment.

Dry floodproofing measures aim to block floodwaters from entering buildings by sealing all openings including doors, windows and utility penetrations. This approach is typically more cost-prohibitive and may be impractical when it comes to sealing roll up doors used by the vast majority of storage operations.

For more on these and additional approaches on floodproofing such as flood walls and levees, FEMA offers a comprehensive guide for non-residential buildings with lots of useful information.

Flood Insurance

In light of the latest climate research, now is a great time for self-storage operators to reevaluate their need for flood insurance for their facilities and for their tenants. With the rapid rise in sea levels, facilities that previously did not identify a need for flood insurance may want to reconsider. Remember typical business insurance policies do not cover natural flooding events—coverage requires a separate flood insurance policy. Tenants should be reminded to obtain supplemental flood insurance where applicable as well.