What to know when preparing for a disaster and what to do after disaster strikes – an insurance Agents Perspective
It’s no secret now that Abilene and the Big Country are not immune to disaster. As we found out abruptly last week with freezing temperatures, many without power and running water, our businesses are susceptible to the forces of nature. In the last three years alone, we have experienced hard freezes, subzero temperatures, tornadoes, hailstorms, wildfires, and rising flood water all in the Abilene and surrounding communities. For many of us, our businesses are like a second home and it is my goal to spend a little bit of time giving you some inside knowledge to help you protect your business from disasters in the future.
Let’s begin with our most recent event and talk briefly about protecting your business from freezing temperatures.
Keep your business warm
Much like our homes, many businesses may have external water sources and water pipes in the walls and ceilings. It is very important to bib your outdoor faucets and insulate any pipe that may not receive direct or radiant warmth. Outside of keeping your thermostat at a reasonable temperature (suggested at 67 degrees or above) it is a good idea to have your exposed plumbing inspected every few years to ensure it is free from leaks, corrosion and remains well insulated from freezing temperatures. It’s also important to address what you may need to do if your pipes break due to weather or other reasons as well. First and foremost, stop the leak. Cut off the water source by valve or your water main to your building. Your next step should be to take pictures of any damage and make a call to your insurance company or your insurance agent to address your next steps in making a claim.
Protect against wind and hailstorms
Another common event in the Key City is wind and hailstorms. Many businesses have suffered catastrophic losses due to wind and hail, in fact in North Texas it is one of the largest, most costly and most common losses that we see. Here are some tips to help prevent losses or minimize the risk of additional loss. Have your roof inspected on an annual basis for leaks, erosion and serviceability. Ensuring that your roof is in good working condition will help prevent rain from entering through the roof. It’s equally important to ensure your roof is architecturally sound so that it can hold up to that West Texas hail we are used to seeing. If you are hit by a storm that causes damage, once it is safe, do what you can to secure your building to prevent additional loss. This means you may need to board up windows or have a roofer make minor or immediate repairs while waiting for an insurance claim. It is ALWAYS my recommendation that when looking for a roofing contractor, use a local roofer that is from the area because they’ll be there to ensure the work is done properly. There is a great list of reputable roofers available on the Abilene Chamber of Commerce website. Once minor repairs are made, check in with your insurance agent to address next steps in order to get your business back to safely serving the public.
Rising water, though not a common occurrence can happen and has happened to many businesses in the Big Country over the last few years. The best way to protect against loss from rising water is to listen to local and national forecasts and act early in protecting your business. This could mean that filling sandbags and creating a barrier so that water does not enter your business. This also means taking precautions with your business property inside of your business. It’s always a good idea to get things off of the floor, stack things on desks, unplug electronics from the walls and if needed, shut off breakers to the business to avoid electrical shorting. Floods are not generally covered in a standard business owner policy so I highly recommend that you check in with your agent to find out how affordable a flood policy can be to protect you from rising water.
With all claims, one thing remains the same; every policy is different and it’s important to speak with your insurance agent on an annual basis to ensure you are aware of the coverages you have and that you understand the policy that you have, including the deductibles attached to your policy. I would also encourage you to not take unlicensed advice. Insurance agents are licensed to speak about coverages and policies and unlicensed advice and recommendations can actually hurt your claims process and your pocketbook in the long run. Your agent is one of your best resources for information and it is our job to help you manage the risks that may occur in your business.