Manassas, VA – 31 May 2013 – Whether you believe wicked weather is a result of climate change, divine intervention, aliens or scientific meteorological occurrences, no one can deny that catastrophic weather events have had in impact in recent years.
June 1st is the official start of the Hurricane Season and similar to recent years, NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) and the National Weather Service are again predicting an active Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane season starts in June and goes through November.
For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
While we tend to focus our hurricane attentions on the Atlantic Coast and Gulf regions, we cannot and should not forget that Pacific Hurricanes are also a reality. (NOAA and the National Weather Service are saying however that this year is anticipated to be a below average season for Pacific Hurricanes.) We also must not forget or ignore the high probabilities of tornados like those seen last week and again this week in the Midwest and wild fires that can be sparked by storms, enraged by high winds and intensified by drought in the West. Tornados could perhaps be considered the most dangerous of these scenarios because there is generally less warning and atmospheric conditions allow for multiple tornados to occur at the same time given the dangerous combinations of instability (high and low pressure systems meeting) and wind shear in the atmosphere.
Each region of the country has their own wild to severe weather conditions that each pose unique threats to business entities in the areas. The one commonality however is the need to try to plan for the unexpected and communicate before, during and after it happens.
Your industry puts you in a unique position that many other businesses do not have to face in the event of an emergency. Many local businesses are solely responsible for their own business property, equipment, inventory, etc. You on the other hand are responsible for all of that plus the vehicles and equipment that belong to your clients, and the personal property left in those vehicles and equipment that you are legally obligated to protect belonging to debtors or 3rd parties.
Personal property losses are some of the most difficult losses for adjusters to manage. These losses are so difficult because people tend to live and work out of their vehicles these days, so the amount of property and trash continues to rise, requiring more time and attention on the part of the repossession agency to the inventory process. Also, proving whether something was or was not actually in a vehicle and the value of that item becomes increasingly difficult when only the most basic of inventories and reports are completed. This often becomes a “he said / she said” scenario and one of credibility and documentation. So hopefully you already have a comprehensive plan in place for inventorying, documenting and storing debtor’s personal effects. When weather threatens your facility, you should make every effort to ensure personal property remains secure and off the floor or ground level, especially if you are in an area prone to flooding.
Physical damage claims are another huge potential loss during severe weather which is why we always advise you to move vehicles to the auction or release vehicles to transporters and debtors when you have enough warning. If vehicles can’t be released from your care, custody and control move them to a safer location (higher ground, area free of trees, debris, etc.) if need be. Properly completed condition reports and photos are also extremely important in physical damage losses. The better documentation you have on pre-existing damage, the better.
Up to this point, this article tended to focus on the property of others, but you also need to take steps to ensure that your own business property is ready and covered in the event of severe weather or loss. Remember that flood coverage is not provided through a regular insurance policy. If you feel you want or need flood coverage for your business or home, you should look to the National Flood Insurance Program (http://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program). If you do not have current building and contents coverage, you should ask your agent or contact Lighthouse Insurance Services at 703-365-0362 about those coverages. The time to look into these coverages is not when there’s a threat of severe weather, but well before hand. Most carriers are not allowed to bind new coverage in areas where severe weather is expected.
And perhaps most importantly you need to have a plan. Planning and communication are the keys to dealing with every crisis. Figure out how you will communicate with employees and clients in the event you cannot immediately return to your office. Determine how you will secure your business computers and records so you can have access to the information you need when you try to return to business as usual.
When severe weather threatens your area:
- fuel your vehicles, generators etc. in advance
- charge laptops, tablets, cell phones
- back up your electronic data to a secondary location – or the “cloud”
- secure windows, doors, and any entrance or exit to your facility
- clear sewer, drainage areas and downspouts of any debris that could block pipes causing water/sewage backup
- have a list of important phone numbers, email addresses and contact information for key employees, clients and insurance providers (including policy numbers should you need to file a claim)
Most importantly remember the most important asset to your company are your people….the human element. In the event of an emergency, people will focus on family first – work second. More and more every year we read and see the devastation that can be caused by severe weather. We obviously cannot control the weather, but we can control how we prepare for and react to it.
While the summer and fall months are often filled with family vacations, weekends at the lake, camping or whatever you find to amuse yourself and decompress, we must always keep Mother Nature in mind and take steps to minimize her wrath.
RSIG is an insurance purchasing group for the repossession industry and is one of the few providers who are able provide coverage for these type of losses, (subject of course to the terms and conditions of the underlying insurance policy) without geographical limitations. If you’re not a current member, contact our office 703-365-0199 for more information.