With events such as earthquakes in 2020 and Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the last five years have changed our lives and shown us that preparation and planning are vital to protect a business.
Now in the peak of hurricane season, which ends on November 30, it is important to make sure your business is prepared to face any possible emergency. You should have a continuity plan that includes procedures to deal with emergencies and to help mitigate possible damages. This way, your business can continue operating without impacting its finances.
“Business owners should be aware that being insured is a must. Previously, insurance was considered a luxury, but after Hurricane Maria it became a necessity because we saw how important it is to be well insured,” said Evelyn Rosa Morel, Esq., Vice President of Commercial Property and Casualty Insurance at Popular Risk Services.
Every business is unique, which is why a continuity plan is specific to each company. However, there are some guidelines you should consider when preparing your business for any unexpected event.
1. Make an inventory of all the belongings
A business inventory allows you to account for belongings in case you need to file an insurance claim. Take photos and videos to easily identify property damage.
When handling a claim, insurers pay particular attention to the state of the premises before the catastrophic event. Having photo evidence allows you to demonstrate the “before” and “after” of the inventory, the circumstances, and the facilities.
2. Conduct regular inspections of the commercial property
Be sure to take the appropriate safety measures and make the necessary repairs so that the property will withstand any unexpected event or occurrence. “For example, if you have signage, it must be anchored. If it isn’t, you should remove it because it could turn into a projectile capable of injuring another merchant or person,” said José Figueroa Padín, Insurance Producer at Popular Risk Services.
Also, keep drainage systems and roofs clear, and trim any trees near your facilities.
3. Prepare the business site for an impending event
- Cover your business’s windows and doors with shutters or wood panels. Also, check windows and doors’ frames to ensure they are attached to the structure.
- Remove objects that can be lifted by the wind and become projectiles. “If you have communication antennas on the roof, you must move them in the event of a hurricane,” Figueroa Padín added.
- Bring elevators to the top level and turn off the system. Check the machine room and make sure it is well protected against possible water leaks or other damages.
- Water tanks should be full, and their lids or covers must be sealed.
- Protect electronic equipment by covering them with a plastic bag and do not leave them on the ground to prevent water damage.
4. Protect company documents
You must protect company documents by keeping duplicates of your business and customer records. In addition, keep these duplicates in physical format or the cloud, in case your business is destroyed. Some documents to protect include financial information, licenses and certificates, tax receipts, insurance policies, and your database of employees, customers, and suppliers.
5. Electric generator maintenance
Be sure to check that you have all the necessary supplies to operate the generator after an event. This includes fuel, filters, and lubricants. Store fuel in a well-ventilated place. Also, make sure you have the phone number of the company that services and maintains the equipment. Review the electric generator’s operating procedure with the personnel who will oversee it in case of an emergency.
6. Protect areas under construction
Experts at Popular Risk Services also advise putting away construction materials within business facilities to avoid danger during a catastrophic event, as they can turn into wind-driven projectiles.
7. Make contractual agreements for after-emergency services
Consider having agreements in place for equipment and structure repair, debris removal, refrigerated trailer rental for perishable goods, transportation, equipment rental, vehicle rental, hotel, or utilities. This allows you to ensure early business continuity after an event, given that you will have services to assist you in the process. Also, consider making preliminary arrangements to lease alternate sites.
Agreements should be made in advance, suggested Figueroa Padín, since “everyone starts raising prices due to high demand.”
8. Check if your property is in a flood zone
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has an updated map on its website msc.fema.gov. Check this information and make sure you have a flood insurance policy, as property insurance policies generally do not cover this type of damage.
9. Keep your policies up to date
Realizing that your business was not adequately insured after having suffered a loss can be financially devastating. Check with your insurance agent if your policies are up to date and have the necessary coverage.
Every business must have an insurance program that has:
- Commercial Property insurance to protect the business site structure, contents, inventory, and equipment;
- Public liability to protect your business against extrajudicial and judicial claims arising from damages caused to third parties;
- Business interruption that allows your company to continue operating, and
- Commercial auto policy which provides coverage for commercial vehicles and any damages caused to third parties when in use, such as an accident when delivering merchandise.
Figueroa Padín recommended an annual review of your policies, adding that any changes within the business should be reported so they can be included as part of your insurance policies. You must also update your property value.
“It is important to keep in mind that not having a continuity plan nor insurance protection can affect not only your business but also your finances and reputation,” Rosa Morel pointed out.
“From the moment an unexpected event occurs, we are here for you,” Rosa Morel concluded.
Contact your Popular One team to help protect your assets and prepare your business for the unexpected.