For South Florida businesses, now is the time to prepare for the hurricane season. While buying a portable generator or extra flashlights might be a good idea, it’s vital for every business owner or professional to have a disaster plan in place that includes knowing how to assess damage, understanding how to properly file an insurance claim, and making the required repairs needed to get back to work as quickly as possible.
While these three items may seem simple, they can be rather complex. Doing any one of them wrong can vastly diminish the value of your claim, causing your business to receive far less than what will be needed to recover. The bottom line is that when a storm occurs, it is every bit as important to know what not to do as it is to know what to do.
Here are nine recommendations, based on more than two decades of storm-tested experience in helping clients resolve their claims.
• Make copies of key documents, including your property and casualty (P&C) and business interruption policies. Store those documents in two waterproof bags – one at the business and another at an off-site location.
• Print copies of your tax returns for the past four years, along with recent monthly P&L statements. You will need these documents to file a business interruption claim, and a hard copy is essential if your computers are down or the power is out.
• Keep an updated account of your inventory, and print that out as well. Be sure to include all your office supplies, such as computers, desks, chairs and paper, since you can recover those losses.
• If you rent space, put a copy of your lease in a safe place along with the other documents. Some lease agreements require you to have business personal property (BPB) coverage in order to recover those losses.
• Take photos or a video of your entire workspace, including your inventory and office supplies. This is a fast and easy form of backup documentation that can be very helpful when filing a claim.
• Collect emergency contact information for all employees and agents, and print out at least two copies. After all, you can’t go back to business without your staff.
• Work with your managers to prepare a contingency plan for a storm, fire, flood or other emergency. Can you keep your business going if you can’t get back into your building? Who will be in charge of getting the network back up? Who will try to contact your major clients? Who will handle the insurance claim? Assigning responsibilities in advance can help you stay focused in the chaotic period after a hurricane.
• If you own the property, hire a licensed inspector or contractor to examine the roof, interior and other structural components in advance of a storm. After all, you don’t want the insurer to deny a claim by saying your building had pre-existing damage.
• Finally, prepare a list of preferred contractors you can call on if repairs are necessary. Don’t wait for the insurance company to find someone – engage a trusted contractor who will provide a fair evaluation of damages. Even if you are a tenant, you may need a contractor to clean up and repair your interior space.
• Remember that when you file a claim the adjuster your insurance company sends to estimate the damage works for your insurance company. Conversely, a public adjuster works for you to make sure everything is done properly to ensure full, fair compensation to cover your loss.
Following these recommendations will certainly assist in your storm season preparation. However, if in doubt, contact a public adjuster, a licensed professional who will help minimize missteps, guide you through and help accelerate the claim process, and maximize your outcome.
Daniel Odess, GC, PA, is president of East Coast Public Adjusters, Inc., Miami, which assists clients throughout the United States and in international locations. For more information: www.ecpaclaims.com.