Protect Yourself From Tornado Disaster

Amy Brown Comments
Posted in Articles, Insurance
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Many self-storage owners ask, "If my facility is well-built and secure, what could possibly happen? Why do I need insurance?" As we enter the stormy months of summer, one reason that comes to mind is tornadoes.

Scientists are still trying to understand the phenomenon of tornadoes. Where do these spinning winds originate? What powers them? How can we protect ourselves and our property from the damage they create? Tornadoes are produced inside powerful thunderstorms. The conditions that produce a "tornadic thunderstorm" exist when moist, warm air gets trapped beneath a stable layer of cold, dry air. The United States experiences approximately 100,000 thunderstorms that cause about 1,000 tornadoes each year. Storms have already started twisting through our country this year.

Tornados can strike at any time of day, but are more frequent in the afternoon and evening. These storms range in width from less than 150 feet to more than a mile and can last from a few minutes to an hour. They travel along the ground at speeds up to 60mph, killing an average of 42 people a year.

Tornadoes occur throughout the world, but are most intense and devastating in the United States. The states hit frequently by tornadoes and, therefore, considered part of "tornado alley" are Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas. One tornado recently touched down in Texas, damaging a self-storage facility. It ripped three roofs off the facility, damaged the security system and demolished the fencing in its wake. The manager at the facility had little time to prepare and was lucky this tornado hit quickly and kept on running.

Protecting Your Facility

It is important to protect yourself and your property. First, understand the difference between a tornado watch and a tornado warning. The National Weather Service issues a tornado "watch" when weather conditions make tornadoes more likely to occur. It is important to tune into your radio or television and listen for further announcements. A "warning" is issued when a tornado has been sighted visually or on radar. The danger is serious, and it is essential to find shelter, turn on a battery- operated radio and wait for instructions.

Know what to do if a tornado hits. The watchword in tornado safety is "down." If you are at home, keep low by going to the basement if you have one. If you don't have a basement, look for an interior room, such as a closet or bathroom. If you are at your facility, hide under a sturdy piece of furniture and protect your head and neck with your arms.

The previously mentioned Texas facility has five buildings. Three were damaged by the tornado, with a section of roof blown off one and portions of it impacting the roof of the building next door. Another building's roof was completely blown off. Parts of that roof impacted a fence, causing considerable damage to outdoor light fixtures and security systems.

The manager was astute and, once the storm passed, immediately started assessing the damage. He called the claim into his insurance company, called a construction company to come out as soon as possible for temporary covering and started taking photos and making a list of what to do.

In the event of tornado loss, do whatever is prudent and necessary to protect your facility from further damage. This is called "mitigating loss." Keep track of all expenses including the hours you worked. The insurance company will normally reimburse you. Run a list of current tenants and contact them if any are affected by the damage. If possible, offer to have their goods moved to another unit if one is available. Contact your vendors: construction, roofing, gate maintenance, security systems, etc. Get estimates and write everything down. The insurance company will be working with you to get your facility repaired as soon as possible. Good records make a difference.

This facility was lucky because the manager paid immediate attention to details. During the first four days after the loss, he worked with contractors to protect the facility, move tenants and mitigate loss. The cost for the emergency effort was less than $9,000 and fully reimbursed by the insurance company. The facility was well occupied, but open units made it possible for tenants to relocate their belongings. The contractors were able to work quickly, getting this facility in order without too much disruption. This facility is state-of-the-art; however, there is no doubt the owner was relieved he had an insurance policy to protect his assets and get his business back on its feet.

Universal Insurance Facilities Ltd. offers a comprehensive package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needs of the self-storage industry. For more information, or to get a quick, no-obligation quote, write P.O. Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 85067-0079; call 800.844.2101; fax 480.970.6240; e-mail uif@vpico.com; visit www.vpico.com/universal.

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