This year has been hard enough for businesses, but now it’s time to prepare for another challenge

The year will probably not get easier as we welcome hurricane season. Experts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) predict an above-normal hurricane season, with 13-19 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes (cat 3 or above).

Most people give a lot of thought to protecting their homes at this time of year. However, you can’t neglect your business. Commercial insurance is the first big step in protecting your business during hurricane season. We offer six more tips that will help you prepare.

 

Why you need to prepare

Hurricanes can wreak havoc on commercial buildings. You might experience damage from high winds, broken windows, flying objects, damaged roofs, and flooding. Note that your business can experience a lot of damage even from a “minor” tropical storm.

In fact, hurricanes and tropical storms are the second leading cause of catastrophic loss over the last 20 years. They account for 38.2% of losses. Three of the five costliest storms (Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey) happened within the last three years.

You never know when a hurricane will unleash its destructive force in your area, so you need to prepare.

1. Assess your risks

Think of this step as part of your risk management protocols. Take stock of your business and determine which areas are at most risk if you experience a storm. Assess your potential loss of function from direct or indirect damage.

Risks may include:

  • Flooding
  • Wind damage
  • Roof damage
  • Structural damage
  • Loss of power
  • Loss of network/data
  • Loss of equipment/furnishings

Determine which areas are most critical for your business to function and then create a priority list that protects them.

NOTE: Your risks might also include third-party suppliers/vendors who experience damage. What will you do if your supplier/vendor cannot deliver critical services, materials, or goods?

2. Prepare an emergency response plan

Some people refer to this as a Disaster Recovery Plan or Business Continuity Plan. This will outline how your business will respond and recover from the disaster. It will also include details for relocating your business if needed.

You also want to establish a chain of command and determine who will be responsible for what, from communications to securing your property and assets.

  • Who will communicate with employees before and after a storm?
  • How will you communicate with employees?
  • What will you do in case of a power loss?
  • Who will contact building owners or managers about property damage?
  • Who will contact IT personnel if you lose your network or data?
  • What is the protocol after the storm passes?
  • Where will you go if your office is damaged or deemed unsafe?

FEMA has put together a comprehensive Hurricane Toolkit for Businesses that can help you create a plan.

3. Make sure your employees are aware of the plan

Employees need to know about your emergency response plan and ensure they receive proper training about what to do before, during, and after a storm. Determine their roles in securing the office, especially with respect to computers, copiers, or other office equipment.

Remember, hurricanes and even tropical storms can cause widespread power outages for several days, so communicating after a storm may be difficult. Roads may be flooded or blocked due to downed trees or power lines, as well, making driving dangerous.

4. Backup your network and data

Your disaster plan should include how you will secure and recover critical IT systems and servers and preserve and/or recover data and files. For instance, using a cloud network will allow you to store critical data remotely while ensuring your employees have access to the network no matter where they are.

NOTE: Be sure to test your backup systems to ensure they are working properly.

5. Store important information off-site

It’s a good idea to store some critical office information off-site. Along with computer data, keep a list of insurance policies, contact numbers and employee emails, key customer/client information, vendors or supplier information, and supplies and merchandise.

It might help to take an inventory of your office, so you have a record in case there is damage or loss of property. Take pictures if that helps. You can use that information if you have to file a claim.

6. Plan for after the storm

Once a storm has passed, you’ll need to take steps to assess possible damage and initiate recovery and repairs.

The Insurance Information Institute recommends taking the following steps:

  • Secure your building
  • Inspect the property for damage
  • Make temporary repairs
  • Relocate salvageable equipment and property
  • Clean up the property
  • Keep all receipts related to repairs or recovery
  • Determine if you can safely work in your office or if you need to relocate
  • Communicate with employees, customers/clients, vendors, and suppliers
  • Contact your insurance agent or insurer
  • File insurance claims for damage/loss of property and business interruption if necessary

Protect your business this hurricane season

Take steps now to create a disaster recovery plan, so you are prepared to stay in business should a storm threaten your area. Be sure to also review your insurance policies to ensure you have enough coverage to make repairs or replace lost/damaged property, systems, or equipment.

We can also help you obtain coverage for other commercial insurance needs, including:

  • Commercial auto
  • General and professional liability
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Loss of income
  • Employment practices
  • Commercial umbrella

If you have questions about your insurance coverage or you’re interested in a quote, contact us today.