NEW YORK CITY-The popular maxim that “everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it” apparently applies to commercial owners and their disaster insurance policies. Among the biggest misconceptions owners have is that there’s nothing they can do to mitigate their catastrophic event premiums, said Zurich North America’s Mike Halvey in a webinar Wednesday.

Real estate practice leader for Zurich, Halvey was joined by four other experts from both the insurer and ownership sectors. Titled “Catastrophic Events: Asset Protection Is Not an Act of Nature,”the webinar charted best practices for identifying, minimizing and managing CAT exposure, whether the event is natural or man-made. John Salustri, editorial director for ALM’s Real Estate Media Group, moderated the hour-long discussion.

Providing first-hand insight into the value of managing this risk was Philip Procacci, CEO of Boca Raton, FL-based Procacci Development Corp. A commercial developer who operates in the most hurricane-prone region of the US, Procacci said he built his newest office properties to withstand 185-mph winds and other effects of a full-tilt Category 5 storm. The finished product not only favorably impacted Procacci’s insurance premiums–”we believe we’re getting some of the best prices in the market”–but also the properties’ occupancy rates.

Going above and beyond the minimum, as Procacci did, is a must in mitigating CAT premiums. It’s not enough just to build in accordance with code requirements, said Greg Lanshe, associate VP of property and risk engineering services at Zurich. Lanshe added that reinforcing the properties’ structural integrity may not add appreciably to building costs; conversely, he said, “good risk engineering practices can greatly improve the ability to recover from a catastrophe.”

Among those good practices are devising an emergency and disaster preparedness plan and communicating with both tenants and suppliers before disaster strikes and with insurance agents after it occurs, said Rick Morgan, Zurich SVP for property claims. Scott Cooper, SVP for client development at RMS, stressed the importance of providing insurers with as much relevant data about the properties as possible.

Regardless of whether global warming is increasing the frequency or intensity of disastrous weather, panelists agreed that greater population density ups the ante for CAT liability. The great Miami hurricane of 1926, for example, would cause $127 billion of insurable damage if it happened today, and a modern-day equivalent of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake would result in $80 billion worth of havoc. Replays of the event are available through Jan. 21, 2010 by clicking here: href=”