With over 3 million acres burned this year, California is reeling under the impact. This is around 10 times more acres than the state usually experiences.
While firefighters fight on, and our state’s resources are strapped – much of our wilderness and trails remain closed. As regular citizens we may feel helpless but we need to continue to do our part to prevent fires when we can.
October is National Fire Safety Month. Now is as good a time as any to evaluate your home and workplace so you can keep your loved ones and employees safe. Consider taking these steps that help you prevent fires this month and year-round.
Make sure trees and surrounding areas follow the local guidelines. Clear out flammable brush and take down flammable trees. Thin the trees (using recommended proximity guidelines) .
Organize your Space
Poor housekeeping can mean an increase in clutter and fire fuel. Plus, messy hallways and blocked exits, sprinklers or firefighting equipment can hinder escape and rescue efforts. Walk through every part of your building and perform a thorough cleanup.
Machinery, electronics and other equipment can overheat and cause a fire. Maintain all your equipment to prevent this hazard.
Prevent Electrical Hazards
Faulty wiring and other electrical hazards can spark a fire. Perform regular inspections of the entire electrical system and make any repairs immediately.
Store Chemicals Wisely
Flammable chemicals pose a safety risk. Read the Material Safety Data Sheets and labels on each container, then store and use the chemicals properly.
Allow Control Panel Access
You can turn off the electric and reduce this potential fire hazard at the control panel. Ensure the control panel is easily accessible and that key personnel know where it’s located and how to turn off the electric during an emergency.
Stock Fire Extinguishers
Based on your building’s size and occupancy, you must stock a certain number of fire extinguishers. Follow this requirement and inspect the fire extinguishers at least once a year to ensure they remain in proper working order. Also, train every staff member to use the fire extinguishers confidently.
Install Smoke Detectors and Sprinklers
Smoke detectors provide a warning, and a sprinkler system can save your building, equipment and inventory if a fire does start. Install both of these safety features, and inspect them regularly.
Designate Specific Smoking Areas
Require smoking employees and visitors to smoke only in certain areas that are far from chemicals, papers and other flammable materials. Provide ashtray receptacles and stock working fire extinguishers near the designated smoking areas, too.
Clearly Mark Exits
Post emergency exit diagrams where employees can see them. Also, mark every exit with a neon sign, and place reflective tape on the floor and doors.
Perform Regular Fire Drills
Fire drills prepare your employees for a successful evacuation. Conduct these drills regularly.
Update Contact Information
All of your employees should know who to contact during an emergency. The contact list will include the phone numbers for emergency personnel and key employees.
This October, you can celebrate National Fire Prevention Month. Take these 11 steps as you prepare your commercial property to remain safe.
Fall is officially here on Tuesday, September 22, 2020. Managing your property includes caring for the landscaping. Proactive measures this fall protect your plants and ensure vitality next spring. Implement several tips as you maintain attractive landscaping and improve the safety of your property.
Mow the Lawn
During the fall, grass will continue to grow so mow all season. During the final cutting, mow the grass as short as possible to prevent winter matting and promote lawn health all season.
Remove dead leaves, grass clippings and other debris from the lawn, flower beds and hardscape. This debris can encourage harmful disease to grow, block drainage systems and damage the environment. It’s also an eyesore.
Fertilize the Soil
Add nutrients to the soil for landscaping health. The ideal fall fertilizer is rich in phosphorus and potassium, two nutrients that stimulate grass root growth in the future.
Summer drought can affect plants long into the fall and winter. Water plants if necessary to combat water deficits.
Prune and Wrap Plants
Create a neat and tidy appearance, reduce storm damage risk and invest in healthy landscaping into the future when you prune shrubs and trees. Then wrap plants with burlap to protect them during the cold winter months.
Protective mulch prevents weeds from growing and insulates soil from water loss and cold weather damage. It’s also attractive, so spread a healthy layer of mulch around all your plants.
Insects, mites, voles, and other pests can wreak havoc on your landscaping in the fall and winter. Hire a professional exterminator to treat your property.
Plant Winter Greenery
A variety of flowers, shrubs and trees bloom during the winter and brighten your property. Consider planting greenery that adds texture, color and style to your property’s appearance.
Inspect your parking areas, sidewalks and other hardscape. Repair and seal the cracks and holes to prevent further damage, improve safety and protect your investment.
Drain the Sprinkler System
If you have a landscaping sprinkler system, drain it during the fall months. Remove the water to prevent frozen or burst pipes and expensive repairs.
Perform a Storm Damage Audit
Walk around your property and identify any areas that could be affected by storm damage. You may need to trim tree branches that hang over power lines, move dumpsters that interfere with snow removal or repair perimeter fencing. Remember to update your property insurance coverage, too, before winter storms strike.
Schedule Snow and Ice Removal
Plan for winter weather now. Schedule snow and ice removal to reduce slip, fall and accident risks.
When you take care of your property this fall, take proactive steps that enhance the landscaping. Keep it attractive and healthy all season.
This is about risk mitigation. To increase the chances that a loss will not shut operations down permanently, organizations must assess their exposures accurately by asking some questions.
- What is the most the organization could lose from a shutdown? Commercial Property insurance policies define “loss of income” as the sum of the expected pre-tax profit or loss and necessary continuing expenses. For example, if the expected profit is $300,000 and necessary continuing expenses are $100,000, the potential loss of income is $400,000. To calculate their exposure to business interruption losses, organizations should refer to their balance sheets, profit and loss statements, and cash flow statements. Insurance companies also have worksheets available to assist with the calculation.
- How much insurance should be carried? Once the organization knows the dollar amount of its exposure, it must decide how much Business Interruption insurance to buy. The key considerations are the length of time the insurance is likely to apply and the coinsurance percentage the organization must meet. Coverage usually begins 72 hours following the damage to the property and ends when business resumes at another location or when the building should be repaired with reasonable speed, whichever occurs first. If the organization decided that the coverage period would be around six months, it could buy an amount of insurance that would satisfy a 50% coinsurance requirement. If the interruption would last longer, higher coinsurance percentage and limits would be necessary.
- How long will it take business to return to normal? Even after operations resume, it could be some time before revenue returns to normal levels. Customers who had gone elsewhere during the shutdown might be slow to return. The standard insurance policy extends coverage for 30 days after operations resume, but some businesses might need more time than that, especially if their businesses are seasonal. For example, a seaside restaurant in New Jersey that makes most of its profits during the summer will need additional coverage even if it can re-open in November.
- How much of the normal payroll expense will continue during the shutdown? The organization will need the continuing services of some employees while it attempts to re-open, but other employees might not be necessary. For example, accounting staff will be needed to pay mandatory expenses such as property taxes and collect receivables earned before the shutdown. Employees who stock shelves will not be needed if there are no shelves to stock.
- Does the business depend on other businesses for revenue? A business can suffer a loss even if its own building is untouched. A loss that shuts down a key customer or supplier or damage to nearby property that causes authorities to close off access to the street can devastate a business’s bottom line (this happened to many businesses affected by 9/11). Special insurance coverage is available to protect against this possibility.
Our insurance team can help you answer these questions and identify insurance companies that can meet coverage needs. With some effort and planning before a loss happens, an organization can emerge from a shut down and return to profitability.
Hiring young people might be tempting for a business. After all, the labor is affordable since kids don’t demand high salaries and won’t need health, retirement and vacation benefits like their older counterparts. Kids are also enthusiastic, willing to do grunt work and able to handle hard labor. Before you hire minors, though, understand the law.
Federal Child Labor Rules
Find the rules about child labor in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It divides minors into categories based on their age.
Children under 13 may not be employed unless the job is on a farm or in a business operated by parents or guardians.
Children who are 14 to 15 years old have several restrictions.
- During the school session, they can work a maximum of three hours per day and 18 hours per week.
- Non-school sessions can include eight hours of work per day and 40 hours per week maximum.
- They may only work from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. or until 9 p.m. from June 1 to Labor Day.
- Hour and day restrictions do not apply for kids who are employed by parents or guardians.
- They may not perform hazardous jobs, including driving motor vehicles, mining, operating certain power tool, logging, manufacturing or meat packing, packaging or slicing.
- State minimum wage guidelines apply.
Children who are 16 to 17 years old can work unlimited hours per day and days per week. Certain hazardous job limitations and state minimum wage guidelines apply.
Children over 18 are considered adults and have no restrictions on work hours or days.
Exceptions to FLSA rules do not apply to kids who work as actors, deliver newspapers or work at home with evergreen materials. Agricultural exceptions also exist.
If you decide to hire minors, make sure your paperwork is in order.
- Use an official birth certificate, driver’s license or other document to verify the minor’s age.
- Obtain an age certificate from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour division.
- Your state may require you or your minor employee to get a work permit available through your state’s Department of Labor.
- Get permission from the minor’s parent and school. The authorization form is available from your state’s Labor and Industry department.
- Retain employment records for at least three years. The information includes the employee’s name, address, occupation, employment dates, pay rate, hours worked and pay received.
Before you hire minors for even small tasks like filing papers or cleaning your office, check the federal laws and your state’s Department of Labor’s website. Talk to your insurance agent and attorney, too, as you make sure you’re following the law.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) previously reported that over 40 percent of businesses affected by a disaster do not reopen. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented and that number is likely to be higher as the economy reopens.
We hope these tips will help, as America re-opens.
Several organizations are available to help your business rebuild after a disaster strikes. Here is a link to federal information on disaster assistance – https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance
- The Small Business Administration – Apply for a low-rate, long-term loan through the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance.
- Your bank – Talk to your banker about a low-cost loan or other financial assistance. Paycheck Protection Plan is still available.
- Insurance agent – File a claim and discuss your ongoing needs.
- Community – Ask your community, including neighbors, clients and vendors, to help clean up, rebuild and return to business as usual.
When disaster strikes, your business must be prepared. These steps can help. If you don’t have these steps in place, consider implementing them today in preparation for the next disaster.
Review Your Business Contingency Plan
If you don’t already have one – create a business contingency plan. It’s part of your emergency preparedness strategy. This backup plan outlines the steps you’ll take if you ever face a disaster, and it will address:
- Business continuity. COVID-19 or other pandemics do not qualify for this coverage. It may be a while before we have clarity on this from insurers and courts.
- Emergency response
- Crisis communications
- Information technology
- Incident management
- Employee assistance
Some of the questions this document answers include:
- Who is the go-to contact?
- How will we accept, fill and track orders?
- What alternatives are available if our vendors are non-operational?
- What’s the best way to secure data?
Examine your business contingency plan today and make sure it addresses all your needs. With it, your business can regroup quickly after a disaster strikes.
Review Your Insurance and Risk Protection
You probably carry typical business insurance such as liability, property and employee coverage. Read these policies carefully, and store copies of your insurance documents in a safe place where they are easily accessible any time.
If you see gaps in your coverage or notice that you don’t have coverage for certain disasters, purchase additional policies. An umbrella coverage or flood insurance are two examples of insurance products that protect your business. For more details on how to prepare insurance-wise for an emergency of any kind, talk to your insurance agent.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, more people are opting to away from crowds and social situations – and may work from home.
While and employer’s cybersecurity insurance can reduce liability, it makes sense to also implement several security measures in the telecommuting (work-from-home) policy to protect the company.
Use Secure Wi-Fi Networks
Sure, your employees could connect to their neighbor’s wireless network or use public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop. These unsecured networks can open the door for cybersecurity breaches, though. Instruct employees to only connect to secure Wi-Fi networks or provide a safe and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) for use as they work.
Maintain Security Settings
To protect work-issued devices and confidential data, you may set security settings on the devices you give telecommuters. Remind employees that they should not use a proxy or other method to get around those security settings. Doing so will compromise their device and the company’s data.
From apps to data, everything employees access from their work-issued device should be protected by encryption. This security measure makes it harder for thieves and hackers to steal or access information.
Employees should only have access to essential data and files, not the company’s entire virtual filing cabinet. This limited access protects information and improves security
To get into the device and access various files, employees should use secure passwords. The ideal password contains letters, numbers and symbols, is not easy to guess and is unique to each site. Change passwords at least once a month, too. For additional safety, utilize a two-step authentication process, PIN or token system when logging it.
Prohibit Device Lending
It’s common for telecommuters to let a co-worker or family member use their laptop or phone for a few minutes to check email, play a game or make a call. Discourage this practice since the other person could download questionable content, drop or damage the device, access confidential files, or otherwise compromises the device or security.
Protect Devices from Theft
Leaving a laptop, tablet or phone unattended gives thieves an invitation to steal the device. Remind employees to keep their devices with them at all times and not leave their work devices unattended or in an unlocked vehicle. Likewise, they should take care to secure USB drives and other accessories from theft. You can add tracking capabilities to devices for additional security.
After every work session, employees should log out of the websites they accessed, their Wi-Fi network and their device. This log out procedure protects company data.
Telecommuting is a privilege that benefits your employees and company. Use these security measures to protect everyone.