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Better Safe Than Sorry: Are You Ready?

Natural disasters – such as floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes – can occur with little or no warning. Do you have a plan in place to minimize property damage and provide
safety for all your employees?

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Hopefully, you and your employees will never
have to endure a disaster, but just in case, it’s up to you to
make sure everyone knows how to handle emergencies. Below are
some tips to help you develop a pre-emergency plan. You should
also consult local police, fire and emergency preparedness departments
for expert advice on developing your plan.

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Pre-Emergency Planning

  • Designate an authorized person or group of people as emergency
    coordinators.

  • Provide written plans for various types of emergencies outlining
    specific actions to be taken and persons responsible. The fire
    department can assist you with this.

  • Assign responsibility for contacting appropriate emergency
    units to one person, but also assign a back up. This individual
    can be the emergency coordinator, or you can designate another
    person to be the coordinator.

  • Make sure employees know what action will be required of them
    during various emergencies. Conduct drills to check emergency
    preparedness.

  • Train employees in the basics of fire fighting, including
    the proper use of fire extinguishers, and document any training
    provided.

  • Compile and distribute emergency phone numbers to key personnel
    and post the list in conspicuous areas.

  • Designate safe areas in the building for various emergencies.
    For assistance, contact your fire department.

  • Back-up copies of all computer records should be secured at
    an off-site facility. Backups should be completed, removed from
    the main facility and secured daily.
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  • Maintain a complete inventory of all stock and equipment.
    Back-up copies of these records should also be kept off site.

  • Select or make arrangements for an alternate building in which
    you can establish critical operations essential to conducting
    daily business.

  • Obtain flood maps or plans for your area from the Army Corps
    of Engineers.

  • Obtain a source of temporary personnel to assist your business
    in carrying out emergency plans.

  • Contract with suppliers to provide and deliver emergency and
    back-up generators and other temporary power sources in the event
    public utilities are unavailable.
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  • Have emergency communication equipment, such as cellular phones,
    two-way radios, etc., on hand in case telephone lines go down.

  • Make sure your fire protection systems, such as alarms and
    sprinklers, are in good condition by conducting routine maintenance
    and testing.

  • Inspect all roof gutters and drains to ensure they’re not
    blocked and will allow for storm-water runoff.

  • Keep all above- and below-ground tanks filled with the respective
    product to prevent flotation and instability.

    During an Emergency

    • Secure all above-ground tanks and portable containers.
    • Discontinue service and repair activity as soon as possible.
    • Park vehicles away from signs and light poles. If possible,
      park them inside, away from windows.
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  • Secure all vehicle keys in a safe or locked desk made of heavy
    metal. Don’t leave them on key boards in offices, service areas
    or closets.

  • Make all bank deposits as soon as possible.
  • In case of fire, immediately notify the fire department and
    then evacuate everyone from the facility.

  • During a tornado, everyone should immediately head for shelter.
    Monitor public communication until the danger has passed.

  • In case of flood, move all critical equipment – such as computers
    and records – to higher ground. Next, move other stock, vehicles,
    equipment, etc. If time permits, protect your property with sand
    bags.
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  • To minimize damage from a hurricane, board up all windows,
    glass doors and other vulnerable areas. Move inventory to sheltered
    areas if time allows. Monitor public communications and follow
    the recommendations of local authorities.

  • During earthquakes, employees should go to designated safe
    areas, such as beneath tables, desks, benches and supported doorways
    or along an inside wall.

  • Should your business receive a bomb threat, treat it as a
    real situation and evacuate the building. Notify authorities and
    follow their instructions. Do not handle suspicious packages.

  • During riot or civil commotion, notify local authorities immediately.
    Make utilities and fire protection equipment as secure as possible.
    Close your business and lock up or remove all vital information,
    keys, etc.

    After a Disaster

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    • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible.
    • Protect the salvage until help arrives.
    • Allocate adequate personnel to help the claims adjuster move,
      protect and repair damage to prevent further deterioration.

    • Obtain portable equipment – generators, light sets, cellular
      phones, two-way radios, etc. – to continue business operations
      as soon as possible.

    • Don’t move or start flooded vehicles. Leave them in place
      until insurance adjusters arrive.

    • Make temporary repairs to the building and roof to avoid further
      damage. Document these repairs and keep receipts for all work
      and services completed.
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  • Retain all damaged stock, equipment and parts. Don’t remove
    or discard damaged material until approved by insurance adjusters.

  • Secure buildings, premises and damaged areas. If necessary,
    hire security guards.

  • Retrieve and construct all back-up records and documents of
    business operations and have them available for insurance adjusters.

    Be Prepared

    Is your business prepared for the worst? With an effective emergency
    plan, you and your employees will know how to remain safe, as
    well as how to minimize damage to your property. No one plans
    for a disaster to occur, but wise business owners have an emergency
    recovery plan in place just in case.

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    Writer Gerald Cecil, CPCU, ARM, is director of marketing development
    for Universal Underwriters Insurance Company’s Automotive Specialty
    Markets Division. This article is provided for informational purposes
    only. Universal Underwriters Group is not providing legal advice
    and assumes no liability concerning the preceding information.

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