Risk Managers with a Disaster Plan Best Prepared for Irene Onslaught
BY STEVE TUCKEY, who has written on insurance issues for a decade for several national media outlets.
Hurricane Irene's splashy entrance in the Atlantic reminded business owners that they should take basic steps to protect their employees and property, along with company data and continuity of operations.
Most importantly, they need to have a formal plan to follow, said Barton Douglas, an area vice president with Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services.
"A master disaster plan should include an emergency plan for employees that keeps lines of communications open, deals with special employee needs in times of crisis, provides for storage of emergency supplies and determines an evacuation plan,'' he said.
It should also determine which employees will stay during a disaster and when others should leave, Douglas said.
Mark Konchan, vice president of loss control for the Philadelphia Insurance Companies, said business owners must first avoid lulling themselves into a false sense of security with steps such as establishment of a storm emergency team to board up windows at the first sight of the advancing storm.
They also need to review all inside storage arrangements to relocate susceptible items to safe areas, and ensure all gas supplies and electrical equipment are shut off.
Elizabeth Stelzer, a spokeswoman for the Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance Company, said computer data with customer listings and account information backed up on either disks or compact discs should be stored in a safe, remote location. And important documents such as insurance policies and the like should be stored in a safe-deposit box or another location safe from fire and water.
"As a business owner, you might also want to speak to your accountant to make sure you can document your current sales and income levels and inventory values,'' she said. "And it is not a bad idea to inventory contents with photographs or video.''
Business owners should develop a means to determine key employees, vendors and customers, and how to reach them in the event of a catastrophe. "A continuity plan detailing how the business will resume operations should include things such as a back-up location, alternate suppliers and access to generators,'' she said.
Having a keen understanding of your insurance policies, such as whether they cover not only property, but businesses interruption, losses could make the difference how quickly operations can resume after a storm and at what level, she said. Business interruption (or income) insurance can provide the net income the company would have incurred during the period of disruption.
Loretta Waters, vice president of the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute, said statistics have shown that 30 percent of U.S. small businesses have been shut down for at least 24 hours in the past three years because of natural catastrophes.
Business interruption (or income) insurance provides the net income the company would have incurred during the period of restoration.
For those owners of facilities that may end up as shelters during the disaster Marsh recommends, among other things, they assess their liability coverage to see if the business is protected for this purpose, and consider event-specific insurance to protect against the possibility the contracting party may be unwilling or unable to provide it.
August 26, 2011
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