There are a lot of steps you can and should take in order to prepare your place of residence as best you can in the face of a looming hurricane, or even well before hurricane season arrives. You can bring belongings inside, prepare adequate survival kits, fortify your home as best you’re able, and make sure your home insurance plan is up to date so it provides all the damage coverage you might need. You also want to make sure you’re prepared to shelter in place for as long as it’s needed and safe to do so.
But if you’re the owner of a brick-and-mortar business that’s also located in an area of Florida where hurricanes are prevalent, you might be wondering what precautions you should take to protect that structure as well. While some of those preparations are similar to what you would do for your home, others might be preparations you haven’t considered, but absolutely should.
Protect Your Physical Property
Much as you would with your home, you should make sure you do everything you can to physically prepare your business’s building to withstand a hurricane. If you keep any items outside your business walls, such as tables and chairs, decorations, or freestanding or free-hanging signage, you should either bring them into your building or make sure they are securely tied down, as wind gusts can pick up loose items and cause severe damage.
It’s also wise to install hurricane shutters on your windows if you’re able to, or if your building allows it. If you can’t install shutters, nailing plywood into your window frames is the next best thing to do in order to protect wind and debris from shattering glass. Also take precautions against possible flooding by preemptively applying coats and sealants where necessary, inspecting your plumbing for any leaks or damage, and laying sandbags underneath doors during the actual hurricane.
Because it’s possible that you and your employees may end up having to shelter in place inside your business for safety reasons (for example, if the roads are too dangerous to navigate), you also want to make sure you’re adequately prepared for that stay. Prepare survival kits similar to what you would keep in your home, consisting of items like water, nonperishable food, a radio, extra batteries, and changes of clothes. During your stay, keep away from the window and doors, and refrain from using any appliances you might have on the premises. If you experience flooding or other damage, it may be best to turn off all utilities entirely. Learn more about hurricane preparedness in our free eBook.
Finally, you should always have a plan of action that you and your employees agree to take should you be in your place of business when a hurricane arrives. Designate an escape route, divvy up responsibilities, and create a set of ground rules for behavior and supplies. You may also benefit from practicing your emergency plan with drills throughout the year.
Protect Your Business Assets
Just as you would take stock of the items in your home that are of value and would need to be replaced or compensated for if they are destroyed by a hurricane, you want to do the same for your place of business. The difference in this case, however, is that there are additional items associated with your business that you should take extra steps to make sure are also protected.
First, take stock of the physical items in your building that are of value to your business. This can include things like computers, other electronics, special machinery, inventory items, and office supplies. It’s important to keep accurate logs of all these items and their values so that your insurance company knows what needs to be covered in your policy. If the hurricane is severe and on a predictable path that’s leading right for your business, consider moving your valuable stock of inventory out of your building and away to a safer location if feasible. The upfront expense of doing so could be well worth avoiding the grievance of having to try and replace that stock after it’s been destroyed.
Beyond physical items, it’s also important to protect those things that help your business operate successfully. Make sure all the electronic data related to your business—like order or purchase records, customer and employee information, contracts, and any proprietary information—is backed up to a safe location. Physical external drives kept in a separate location can suffice, but using a reliable and secure data cloud storage service is often better. Physical paper copies of such records can be useful, but only if you can ensure they are kept in a safe and accessible place, where they won’t become lost or possibly destroyed by flood water or electrical fire damage.
Finally, don’t attempt to continue trying to operate your business during a hurricane if it isn’t safe to do so. It isn’t worth risking the wellbeing of yourself, your employees, or your customers to complete an order or make a few extra dollars. Your customers will understand why their order has been delayed, and your employees will thank you for making their safety your number-one priority.
Purchase Adequate Insurance Coverage
Once again, just as it’s important for your home to have the right insurance plan before a hurricane arrives, your brick-and-mortar business should also have the same adequate coverage. And it’s extremely important to make sure this plan is in place well before the arrival of hurricane season.
If you own the building where you do business, be sure to review your policy and make sure you understand how far your coverage extends. At the very least, you want coverage for physical property damage, internal property loss, and perhaps even an addendum that says it will provide monetary assistance to your business while you work to get it back on its feet and making money again. Also be sure to include both flood damage and wind damage in your plan specifically, as most plans don’t come with comprehensive “hurricane damage” that will account for these specific causes of damage.
If your business has grown since you last reviewed your plan, take into consideration how much monetary coverage you realistically need at this time, and update your plan accordingly. Higher monthly premiums are always worth the offset they provide when it comes to the highly expensive process of repairing a building or replacing lost valuables.
Finally, after safely surviving a hurricane that has passed through your area, make sure you act fast by filing a claim with your insurance provider as soon as possible. You can even declare emergency status for your business to receive additional recovery relief beyond what your insurance might provide, if applicable. There are many businesses and homes in your area that will be filing claims at the same time as you, so the longer you wait to file, the longer you will wait to receive the help you need.
And if your insurance provider is making the process of getting the compensation for repairs that you deserve difficult, The Whisler Law Firm is here to help. The property damage claim process is nothing more than a business deal to them, meaning they may try and provide as little coverage as they think they can get away with. If you believe they might be breaching the policy you have in place, call our office at 833-529-5677 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation with our team. We’ll review your policy, learn about what you’re going through, and advise you on the next best steps to take for your business and livelihood.