Summer is known to be the season of fun in the sun – but it also brings the threat of dangerous storms. Summer weather can become extreme with thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornados, and the threat of flooding on top of it all. Don’t get caught unprepared in an emergency. Start by checking to make sure you have the right insurance to protect you from severe weather—including wind damage, fire caused by lightning, and water damage from flooding.
Review Your Insurance Plan
Make sure you have sufficient coverage to pay for the indirect costs of the disaster—the disruption to your business—as well as the cost of repair or rebuilding. Most policies do not cover flood or earthquake damage and you may need to buy separate insurance for these perils. Be sure you understand your policy deductibles and limits.
For a business, the costs of a disaster can extend beyond the physical damage to the premises, equipment, furniture and other business property.
There’s the potential loss of income while the premises are unusable. Your disaster recovery should include a detailed review of your insurance policies to ensure there are no gaps in coverage. This includes property insurance, business interruption insurance and extra expense insurance. Even if your basic policy covers expenses and loss of net business income, it may not cover income interruptions due to damage that occurs away from your premises—such as to your key customer or supplier or to your utility company. You can generally buy this additional coverage and add it to your existing policy.
Creating A Disaster Recovery Plan
No matter how small or large a business, a business impact analysis should be developed to identify what an operation must do to protect itself in the face of a natural disaster.
- Set up an emergency response plan and train employees how to carry it out. Make sure employees know who to notify about the disaster and what measures to take to ensure safety and limit property losses.
- Write out each step of the plan and assign responsibilities to employees in clear and simple language. Practice the procedures set out in the emergency response plan with regular, scheduled drills.
- Consider the things you may initially need during the emergency. Do you need a back-up source of power? Do you have a back-up communications system?
- Decide on a communications strategy to prevent loss of customers. Post notices outside your premises; contact clients by phone, email or regular mail; and place a notice in local newspapers.
- Protect employees and customers from injury on the premises. Consider the possible impact a disaster will have on your employees’ ability to return to work and how customers can return to your premises, or receive goods or services.
- Compile a list of important phone numbers and addresses. Make sure you can get in touch with key people after the disaster. The list should include local and state emergency management agencies, major clients, contractors, suppliers, realtors, financial institutions, insurance agents and insurance company claim representatives.
- Keep duplicate records. Back-up computerized data files regularly and store them off-premises. Keep copies of important records and documents in a safe deposit box and make sure they’re up to date.
- Protect your building. If you own the structure that houses your business, integrate disaster protection for the building as well as the contents into your plan. Consider the financial impact if your business shuts down as a result of a disaster. What would be the impact for a day, a week or an entire revenue period?
- Identify critical business activities and the resources needed to support them. If you cannot afford to shut down your operations, even temporarily, determine what you require to run the business at another location.
- Protect computer systems and data. Data storage firms offer off-site backups of computer data that can be updated regularly via high-speed modem or through the Internet.
When Bad Weather Hits Know How to Take Action
Nasty weather can put you in harm’s way. When bad weather is approaching, stay alert by monitoring radio advisories from the National Weather Service. As you get word of a storm’s progress, gather any necessary supplies to keep you safe, if time allows, or seek shelter. If you receive notice that a weather warning has been given for your area, immediately seek shelter, remain calm and alert other co-workers.
If you are working indoors during severe weather, go to the lowest level in an interior room and lie flat on the floor with your arms over your head. Avoid windows and exterior doors and walls. If you are outdoors, head to the nearest ditch, lie flat and cover your head with your arms. An underground area provides the best protection from a tornado. Avoid auditoriums, cafeterias and gymnasiums that have flat, wide-span roofs.
Before a Thunderstorm and Lightning
Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which is extremely dangerous. Though lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms. Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding.
To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:
- Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
- Postpone outdoor activities.
- Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
- Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
- Substantial buildings such as offices and schools offer good protection. If you are caught outside with no safe shelter anywhere nearby, the following actions may reduce your risk:
- Never shelter under an isolated tree, tower or utility pole. Lightning tends to strike the taller objects in an area.
- Immediately get off elevated areas such as hills, mountain ridges or peaks.
- Immediately get out and away from ponds, lakes and other bodies of water.
- Stay away from objects that conduct electricity, including wires and fences.
- Never lie flat on the ground.
- The best way to protect yourself against lightning injury or death is to monitor the weather and postpone or cancel outdoor activities when thunderstorms are in the forecast. Lightning can strike from 10 miles away, so if you can hear thunder, you are in danger of being struck by lightning.
Facts about Thunderstorms & Lightning
- About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe; these storms generally produce hail at least an inch or larger in diameter and have winds of 58 miles per hour or higher. They can also produce tornadoes.
- Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
- Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
- “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
- Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.
Preparing Your Business for Flooding
Floods can sometimes be predictable. It is impossible to completely flood-proof your property, but flood preparation can lower your business’ risk of damage and reduce business interruptions.
Begin your preparation by consulting your area’s flood risk map, which you can find at www.floodsmart.gov. Once you have assessed your risk, it is time to prepare your business. Buy and install products in advance that fortify your property against water. Consider the following precautions against flooding when building or remodeling:
- Purchase flood boards for your doors that you can install when flooding is imminent.
- Seal floors to prevent water seeping up through the ground.
- Fit non-return valves to drains and both inlet and outlet water pipes.
- Raise electrical sockets, fuse boxes and wiring at least 12 inches above the 100-year flood level in your area.
- You may also want to stockpile useful materials like plastic sheeting, plywood, sandbags, hammers and shovels in case you need to react quickly.
Most business owners are complacent about natural disasters until it happens to them. Don’t let a lack of insurance coverage or poor planning destroy your business. Contact us to learn more about disaster planning and to determine your best insurance coverage needs.