Recovering From Natural Disaster: Self-Storage Operators and Customers Bounce Back Quicker With Tenant Insurance
Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.
By:
Posted on: 01/18/2011



 

By Jonathon Vogel

As the New Orleans Saints made their thrilling Super Bowl run in 2010, the rest of America caught a glimpse of the people of Louisiana. They found an inspiring, resilient lot. Their upbeat, can-do attitude helped them bounce back from the worst of circumstances—2005’s Hurricane Katrina—and showed how to look ahead to a better tomorrow.

After Katrina devastated New Orleans and much of the state, destroying homes and leaving entire neighborhoods unlivable, many residents turned to self-storage facilities to keep their property safe. Residents of Metairie, La., just west of New Orleans, stored belongings saved from Katrina’s killer flood.

But Mother Nature added insult to injury in May 2009 as a tornado ripped through Metairie.  Metro Self Storage was in the middle of the swath of devastation, and the storm’s winds and rains destroyed more than a 100 units belonging to people who had already endured too much heartache.

Tenants who had elected to take the storage facility’s offer of tenant insurance protected themselves against loss and didn’t have to worry about replacing their possessions. Unlike other victims of the disaster who had to wait for their insurance companies to respond—or simply make do with even less than they had after Katrina—customers with tenant insurance were visited on site by a disaster-response team. Agents were right there with them, writing settlement checks on the spot, helping those in need just after the skies had cleared.

Because an insurance team was on site within hours of the storm, Metro management didn’t have to worry about claims and coverage issues, but instead could focus on all the other worries surrounding the disaster—the health and safety of staff, tenants and customers, the arduous effort of recovery, the essential job of cooperating with police and other first-responders, the hopeful work of looking ahead and rebuilding.

“The site was a nightmare,” said Brian D. Blankenship, executive vice president of Metro Storage LLC. “But the insurance response team was great. They met with our customers, and settled most claims right there. It was also one less worry for my team.”

One less worry―when disaster strikes, that’s all anyone really wants, whether you own a vast storage facility or rent a tiny unit that serves as an extra attic. That’s what an insurance partner provides. If you’re considering a tenant-insurance program, make sure your provider is committed to being there and supporting you, no matter where or when you need it.

A Plan in Place and Claims Filing

Of course, Mother Nature isn’t the only cause of disasters and worries, as the people of Louisiana know from experience. Another storage facility in Baton Rouge lost more than half of its 800 units to a massive fire in 2009. Thankfully, it had a well-supported insurance program in place for its tenants. More than 200 claims were settled over the Labor Day weekend.

Those who have experienced catastrophes say that even though it’s impossible to prevent such unexpected events, if there is a plan in place when the fire alarm gets triggered or the hurricane siren sounds, you are much more likely to recover quickly from disasters, minimize financial loss, and retain tenant good will. The best way to guarantee a smooth claim is to communicate what is expected from all the involved parties.

No one likes to hassle with a claim, but if your tenants follow these simple steps, it will make the process go a lot smoother for everyone. Share these steps with your customers:

1. Notify the manager of the storage facility, particularly if there is damage to the building.

2. Report break-ins to local police. Get the police report.

3. Make a list of what is damaged. Take pictures if you can. Be sure to include as much detail as you can, such as: make, model, year purchased, etc.

4. Secure your property, and protect it from sustaining further damage.

5. Contact the claims department of your tenant-insurance company.

The goal is to make claims processing as effortless as possible for tenants—and as secure, accurate and reliable as possible for owner-operators. When you have experienced insurance agents assessing needs, evaluating claims and cutting checks, it makes all the difference in the world for the self-storage owner and for tenants—especially those like the people of Louisiana, who have been through more than their share of bad times. Again and again, they have shown us how to overcome the worst and somehow turn it into something, well, super.

Jonathon Vogel is a senior account executive at Bader Co., a provider of insurance solutions for self-storage businesses and a fully licensed provider of tenant insurance. Vogel has a background in insurance and account management, having worked with commercial property management companies in building and grounds maintenance. For more information and a free “Now That You’re Insured” booklet, visit www.baderco.com .