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May 1, 1998

3 Min Read
Hurricane Coverage

Hurricane Coverage

What Every Facility Owner Should Know

By David Wilhite

During the months of June through November in any given year, 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 businesses from harm?

Since coastal areas are vulnerable to these storms, facility owners located in thoseareas should enter each hurricane season prepared. Aside from such basic safety issues ashaving an evacuation plan in place and stockpiling emergency supplies, you should beabsolutely certain that you have appropriate insurance coverage in place to protect yourbusiness in case of disaster. Don't gamble on luck to protect you; the price you pay willbe much higher in the 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 several other steps you can take to prepareagainst disaster. If you have access to a camcorder, you can videotape the interior andexterior of your facility, describing each item as you record it (be sure to store thetape in a secure location away from your business). Alternately, you can prepare a list ofyour valuables with Polaroid photos. Either method can save a great deal of time andtrouble when 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 that they do not become flying missiles. Unplug electrical items and shutoff gas lines. Remember, hurricanes moving inland can cause severe flooding, which bringsadditional risks of fire and electrocution. Above all, play it safe. Monitor the progressof the storm through the National Weather Service and be prepared to evacuate the areaimmediately. Hurricane warnings may be issued only hours before a storm strikes, so planyour time accordingly. Avoid any last-minute rush that may leave you stranded if disasterthreatens, and stay calm.

After the storm passes, call your insurance company as soon as possible to report aclaim. Avoid the temptation to sightsee 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 is opened to the public.

Remember, a catastrophic loss can deliver a knockout punch that can devastate yourfinancial 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 5400, Scottsdale, AZ 85261-9957; phone (800) 844-2101; fax (602)970-6240; Web: www.vpico.com/universal.

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