I get it. You’re thinking: “Norm lives in Florida. It’s called the Sunshine State, except during hurricane season when it’s better called the Plywood State. So he’s become paranoid about hurricanes.”
Paranoid? No. Aware it’s hurricane season? Yes. Having a good plan in advance to deal with one? Smart. And that brings me to the idea that every dealer should take time to write up a disaster plan, in advance, in case disaster hits.
This year, the Atlantic basin will see the most named storms (17 expected) since 2012 when Hurricane Sandy ripped up the Atlantic Coast, killing at least 145 people and causing some $50 billion in damages. This year, five to eight of the named storms will become hurricanes by Nov. 30, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Of course, hurricanes aren’t the only concern. Other weather-related disasters ranging from flooding (Louisiana now) to tornadoes could impact literally any dealer almost anywhere. So creating a plan in advance is important for every dealer. Remember, when a major weather event happens, it’s too late to plan.
Accordingly, here are five good tips recently offered by Trudy Knockless, writing for the daily newsletter PropertyCasualty360.com:
- Do your research ahead of time. This is everything: The demand for emergency services will surge after a severe windstorm or similar event and the best options likely won’t be unavailable if you call after the fact. So, for example, know which roofing contractor and/or restoration company you will call. Have relationships in place before a storm. If not, you could find yourself with subpar contractors or a less-than-capable restoration companie, etc.
- Create your emergency response plan: “Draft the plan ahead of time so you can immediately activate your catastrophic response team as soon as the wind dies and the water recedes,” Knockless said. “After all, the last thing you want to deal with is what to do when the flood comes or all the windows are blown out of your buildings or your roof is peeled back like a sardine can! You may also want to invest in a generator so you can deal with power interruptions.”
- Keep all insurance policies and key documents in a safe place. This may or may not be at the dealership. And when a weather event is imminent, take the documents with you: If damage occurs at your business, immediately notify your agent or insurance company and provide them as much detailed information as possible. Consider snapping a photo of the damage to keep on your phone and possibly keeping the documents in a dry bag or some other weather-proof container. Large catastrophes generate tens of thousands of claims, so communication is vital for a quick claim. Equally important, photograph all damaged areas prior to making any temporary repairs. Doing so will strengthen your claim and help with the best presentation of any loss.
- Don’t sign repair contracts before talking to the insurance adjuster: Warning: your insurance company is not bound by the contracts you sign. On the other hand, the adjuster can help avoid price-gouging after a catastrophe. Also, take extra care to safely secure or relocate any chemicals or pollutants to avoid property damage or bodily injuries that can result from an “environmental impairment” event.
- Organize your records: Immediately after the weather event, prepare an inventory of all damaged or destroyed property for the adjuster. Provide everything possible to support the value of damaged or destroyed property including invoices, cancelled checks, etc. Do not discard any items before the adjuster has a reasonable time to inspect them. Moreover, keep all receipts and invoices for every expense you incur after the loss, including items such as tarps, boards, cleaning supplies, rental equipment, etc. These costs add up quickly and could help erode your deductible.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like we’ve been witnessing more devastating weather events in the country than ever before. So, for the prudent dealer, drafting an emergency response plan — no matter where in the country you’re located — is a smart move.