Between June and November, the chances of a hurricane developing are at their highest. Heavy rains and catastrophic winds throughout can cause severe damage at your self-storage site, even if you aren’t in a coastal area. The best way to minimize damage is to be prepared.
Create a Plan
If you operate a self-storage facility, it’s important to create a disaster plan. The goal is to safeguard your business by protecting employees, customers and property. The time to develop this plan is before a disaster strikes, so everyone knows and understands their responsibilities.
Let’s face it: During any emergency, you’re forced to operate differently. It’s critical to have procedures in place to avoid mistakes, ensuring people are safe and property is secured. Being prepared also enables you to resume normal facility operation as quickly as possible once the hurricane has passed.
Your plan should contain an emergency-contact list that includes facility owners, managers and employees; local police and fire departments; your company attorney and insurance agent; and emergency repair and restoration companies. In the event of a disaster, you’ll also need to communicate with your tenants about what is happening and any arrangements you’re making to preserve their property.
Get the Right Coverage
Property damage from a hurricane or other catastrophic event can be a financial burden on your self-storage business. To ameliorate the impact, it’s important to have the right insurance coverage in place.
There are policies specifically tailored for our industry. Now is a good time to review your coverages with your insurance advisor and make sure you have a comprehensive package including hurricane, flood and business-income coverage to protect your facility in the event of a loss.
Prep the Property
Here are some things to do at your self-storage site before a hurricane strikes:
- Seal any gaps in doors, windows and pipes.
- Add a protective layer, such as shutters, over windows and hurricane doors.
- Secure roofing and replace any worn or missing shingles.
- Secure outside objects so they can’t go airborne.
- Place important documents in a safe, dry place.
- Take pictures of your facility, including all interior and exterior areas. You may need them in the event of an insurance claim.
- Put your insurance information in a safe but easily accessible place, including policy numbers, claims-reporting guidelines and your agent’s contact information.
- Gather emergency equipment such as water, nonperishable foods, flashlights, batteries, and a first-aid kit. If the coronavirus is still a threat, include face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and soap.
- Establish a staff and tenant communication plan.
During and after the event, you’ll want to proceed with care. Your facility and the surrounding area may be damaged, and conditions may be unsafe. People may be scared and confused. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Listen for current emergency information and special instructions from authorities.
- If an evacuation is ordered, leave.
- Turn off utilities and propane tanks when necessary.
- Use LED lights instead of candles to avoid fire.
- Do not touch any electrical equipment.
- Avoid wading in flood water.
- Document any damage and contact your insurance agent.
- Report insurance claims as soon as possible.
- Keep receipts from purchases or services used post loss, which may be requested by the insurance carrier for reimbursement.
A hurricane is no joke, as anyone who has lived through events like Katrina (2005), Sandy (2012), Matthew (2016) and Harvey (2017) will tell you. It can threaten human life and certainly wreak havoc on your self-storage property. To best protect your staff and customers, and minimize damage to your business, it’s best to have a plan, be prepared and follow the guidelines above.
Brian Bogdanoff is a vice president with Insurance Office of America (IOA), which provide self-storage insurance (property and casualty, and tenant protection). Headquartered in Longwood, Fla., IOA operates in more than 60 locations throughout the U.S. and London. For more information on disaster plans and comprehensive self-storage business insurance, contact 800.243.6899, ext. 43130, or firstname.lastname@example.org.