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Breezing Through Hurricane Season

July 1, 2000

3 Min Read
Breezing Through Hurricane Season

Breezing Through Hurricane Season

By David Wilhite

In any given year, during the months of June through November, an average of threehurricanes will strike the United States. In 1995, hurricanes accounted for more than 100deaths and caused billions of dollars in damages. National Weather Service experts are inagreement that science will never provide a full solution to hurricane safety. Thequestion is, how can self-storage facility owners operating on America's vulnerablecoastlines protect themselves and their business operations from harm?

Since coastal areas are vulnerable to storms, facility owners located in those areasshould enter each hurricane season prepared. Aside from such basic safety issues as havingan evacuation plan in place and stockpiling emergency supplies, you should be absolutelycertain you have appropriate insurance coverage in place to protect your business in caseof disaster. Don't gamble on luck to protect you--the price you pay will be much higher inthe long run.

Your first step is to secure adequate insurance coverage. In addition to protectingyour business from hurricane- and wind-induced damage, a complete insurance package shouldalso include loss-of-business-income coverage and extra-expense coverage to protect yourfinances in the event of a loss. (Smart shoppers, take note: Your best bet is to purchaseproperty coverage on a special form basis, which also protects against hail, smoke,explosion and other perils, unless the policy specifically excludes them).

Once your coverage is in place, there are a several other steps you can take to prepareagainst disaster. If you own a camcorder, you can videotape the interior and exterior ofyour facility, describing each item as you record it. Be sure to store the tape in asecure location away from your premises. Alternately, you can prepare a list of yourvaluables with Polaroid photos. Either method can save a great deal of time and troublewhen making a claim.

Once a hurricane watch has been issued, precautions should be taken immediately toprotect your facility. Board up windows or secure them with storm shutters, and brace allexterior doors shut. Secure any loose objects surrounding the area, such as trash cans,signs, etc., so they do not become flying missiles. Unplug electrical items and shut offgas lines. Remember: Hurricanes moving inland can cause severe flooding, which bringsattendant risks of fire and electrocution.

Above all, play it safe. Monitor the progress of the storm through National WeatherService advisories and be prepared to evacuate the area immediately. Hurricane warningsmay be issued only hours before a storm strikes, so plan your time accordingly. Avoid anylast-minute rush that may leave you stranded if disaster threatens, and stay calm.

After the storm passes, call your insurance company as soon as possible to report aclaim. Avoid the temptation to sight-see affected areas--you may be mistaken for a looter.Carry valid identification, along with proof of residency and your business license. Drivecarefully through debris-strewn areas, and watch for fallen power lines, especially inareas with standing water. Enter your business with caution. Don't use matches in case ofgas leaks, and don't use electricity until your business has been checked out by theproper authorities. Remember, if the area in which your facility is located is heavilyaffected, it could take two to four weeks (or longer) before local roads are cleared andthe area opened to the public. A catastrophic loss can deliver a knockout punch that candevastate your financial future. Don't put yourself at risk.

David Wilhite is the marketing manager of Universal Insurance Facilities Inc.Universal offers a complete package of coverages specifically designed to meet the needsof the self-storage industry, including loss of income, employee dishonesty, comprehensivebusiness liability, hazardous-contents removal and customer storage. For more information,contact Universal at Box 40079, Phoenix, AZ 850067-0079; phone (800) 844-2110; fax (480)970-6240; www.vpico.com/universal.

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