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Preparing for a disaster before it happens

by: Kirsten Land on April 3rd, 2018 about General

The people of Oklahoma are no stranger to disasters. From tornadoes to flooding to fires and more, these disasters can have a significant impact on individuals and businesses. A disaster can break a business, and it can create a lot of stress for homeowners.

Here are some key things to consider both for your business and your home to be better prepared.

Know your risk

What sort of risk does your business or home face? In Oklahoma, storm damage from winter or spring storms is a definite risk. Other risk factors include flooding, earthquakes, and proximity to hazardous materials. Then, of course, there are those things you don’t think will happen, such as a natural gas explosion or even an act of terrorism.

Take some time to really think about the types of things that could impact your business or your home. It’s not fun to think about, but it’s an important part of being prepared.

Review your coverage

When it comes to recovering from a disaster, your insurance coverage matters. We’ve seen both commercial and residential customers who had insufficient coverage end up paying a significant amount of money out of pocket for a new roof. Or, they end up paying out of pocket for flood damage. Most standard policies don’t cover flood or earthquakes, so be sure to talk to your insurance agent about what your coverage includes.

When you get your renewal policy every year, read through it and make sure your coverage looks good. Ask your agent if anything has changed from the prior policy. Yes, it’s a thick stack of paper (or a long document to read on the computer), but knowing what’s covered and how to file a claim can save you time and lots of money after a disaster. Businesses may also want to ask about business continuity coverage, which can help cover the cost of business disruptions and lost revenue.

Photograph and protect belongings

Your insurance policy should protect both your home or office and the contents inside, but that process is much easier if you know what was inside. Take pictures of your home or office and the contents to document items that insurance will need to replace. It's also a good idea to note serial numbers and appraisal value for more expensive items. Store irreplaceable items and documents plus your photos in a fireproof safe or at an off-site location.

Before each storm season, clean out your storm shelter and stock it with necessary supplies, such as a flashlight, personal size fan, drinking water, and a radio. Be sure to register your storm shelter with your city or county so that first responders know to check it in the event of a disaster.

Have a plan

There are a couple of different plans that can be helpful, including a disaster plan and a business continuity plan. A disaster plan can be helpful for a business and a home, as it details what should happen in the event of a disaster. If a disaster occurs and your high school students can’t safely make it back home, where should they go? What escape route should each person take if a fire occurs at home? Where do you keep copies of your insurance policy and account numbers for access if your office is hit by a tornado? These are the types of questions to address in a disaster plan.

For a business continuity plan, the focus is on the impact to your business and what steps are necessary to continue operating at some level following a disaster. Your business continuity plan should include key contact information for all employees, as well as procedures for contacting customers and suppliers following a disaster. It should also include information on how to access necessary files and computer systems, which should be backed up in the cloud or offsite in case of a disaster.

If you don’t have a current disaster plan and business continuity plan, now is the time to spend some time pulling the plan together before a disaster strikes. You can find additional tips for creating an emergency kit on the ready.gov website.

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