As the fires rage in Northern (and Southern) California, a topic like this is worth writing about. Earthquakes are always a threat, but floods, wildfires, hurricanes, and such are more apt to strike in the warmer summer months.
Please be safe and healthy.
There are three very important steps you can take to limit the effect natural disasters have on your life and property and expedite your recovery process.
1. Planning. There are some basics that any natural disaster plan should include:
- Always have several escape routes mapped out. Each family member should know where to meet, who to call for help, and where to call to signal their safety to other family members. Your family safety plan should be posted in a central location and the escape route and emergency contact numbers should be reviewed every six months.
- If possible, store irreplaceable items and documents like birth, marriage, death, and divorce certificates; passports; deeds; social security cards; expensive jewelry; and heirlooms in a safety deposit box during high-risk seasons if you live in an area frequently hit by natural disasters. You may also put video or photo documentation, a listing of serial numbers, appraisals, and receipts for these items in your safety deposit box.
- Scan your photos to your computer. You can store your photos with an online storage service or make a CD to place in your safety deposit box.
- You should have an emergency overnight bag ready to go for every person and pet in your family and always keep a credit card, emergency cash supply, and personal identification with you during high-risk seasons.
As far as disaster-specific planning goes, here are some key points:
Flood planning. Many people live in possible flood areas and don’t realize it. For example, those living in areas that recently had a wildfire and those living downstream from a dam could have problems with flash flooding. Those living in or near a construction area could find their risk of flooding increased due to changes in water flow patterns. You can assess your risk of flooding by contacting your local building authority and your insurance agent. Since basements aren’t usually covered by typical flood insurance policies, those with a basement need a plan on moving their valuables to upper-levels. Do make sure that you have an escape plan, as discussed above, in place for your family.
Hurricane planning. Most people in areas prone to hurricanes are already on high alert during hurricane season, but do keep in mind that hurricanes and the stormy remnants are often unpredictable. The flood planning from above is applicable to hurricane planning. Additionally, you’ll want to have a supply of nails and plywood ready to go so that you can board-up your home before evacuation. Remember, if your local authorities issue an evacuation, then you need to heed it.
Wildfire planning. Wildfires can begin unnoticed and spread rapidly with little forewarning. An effective evacuation plan is vital in many cases. If you do have forewarning, then stay tuned to the emergency broadcasts and follow the evacuation directions from local authorities. Remember to take your emergency evacuation bag with you.
If you’re under a warning, but haven’t been advised to evacuate yet, then you might have time to turn off your gas lines and propane tanks, soak your roof and shrubs with water, move flammable furniture to the center of rooms, and move large valuables to the safest location possible.
Tornado planning. Unlike many other disastrous events, leaving your home during a tornado warning is seldom a wise move. Everyone in your family should know where they should go during a tornado warning. While a basement is ideal, not everyone has one. You can use a central room; preferably one that doesn’t have windows or overhead objects. Be sure your emergency kit and phone numbers are in your designated room.
Earthquake planning. Follow the directions from tornado planning. You might also want to place an emergency kit in your vehicle and at your place of employment. Check to make sure your child’s school is also well-prepared.
Aside from living in an area not prone to natural disasters, there isn’t much you can do to avoid them. However, unlike most other natural disasters, wildfires can sometimes be prevented. You can personally prevent fires by being careful when using open flames, maintaining your chimney flue, and not throwing cigarettes outdoors. Of course, wildfires can happen regardless of your personal care with fire.
You can help to prevent flames from impacting your home by creating a defensible space. In fact, some insurers are now inspecting properties for defensible space before issuing or renewing policies. Your insurance agent, local agricultural organizations, and federal agencies like the American Red Cross and FEMA are valuable information sources on creating defensible spaces. The damage of flooding can also be limited by planning water diversions and landscaping as protective devices.
Last, but certainly not least, you should make sure your existing insurance is providing adequate protection. For example, your regular Homeowners policy most likely won’t provide coverage if a boulder falls or rolls into your home since such would be considered an earth movement and need to be covered by Earthquake insurance. Another example would be your regular Homeowners policy not covering damage from a water or sewage system outside your home breaking, or damages from a flash flood, as these would fall under Flood insurance. If you obtain Flood insurance, keep in mind that the coverage won’t become effective for 30 days and your basement usually still won’t be covered.
Don’t wait until the weather forecast calls for prolonged heavy rains before buying flood insurance. While this practical insurance can be purchased anytime, the policy does not take effect for 30 days. As the most common natural disaster in the country, flooding ruins millions of dollars of homes and property every year. Even so, flooding is not commonly covered in your typical homeowner’s insurance policy, making it necessary to purchase additional coverage for this costly, devastating disaster.
If you are in a high-risk flood zone, a federally regulated lender will require a would-be borrower to buy flood insurance in order to qualify for a mortgage loan. To satisfy the lender, flood insurance must be purchased in an amount that sufficiently covers the loan.
A homeowner should also buy flood insurance if he or she resides in a flood plain with no fail-safe controls, such as a dam. Flood policies even pay off if the President does not declare the area a federal disaster area, which can prove to be invaluable. Because the nation’s Chief Executive Officer rarely issues such a declaration, protecting yourself is extremely important. Besides, you have to repay the federal aid you receive for home repairs related to a natural disaster so providing your own protection is the only way to ensure financial recovery suffered from flooding.
Not all homes qualify for flood coverage. For instance, flood insurance for beachfront or ocean-side property may not be available for the obvious reasons.
The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) reports that more than 20,000 communities have agreed to tighter zoning and building measures to control floods. Residents of these communities can buy flood coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which FEMA oversees. As of 2009, NFIP had 5.7 million flood policies inforce nationwide.
Premiums for flood insurance vary widely, depending primarily on individual risk. In determining price, flood insurance underwriters consider several factors including the property’s elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and whether the dwelling has a basement. Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters.
Call our office today! We’d be happy to assist you through the murky waters.
Property owners have a unique opportunity to efficiently rent out their entire home, a spare bedroom or other accommodation through the online service known as Airbnb. For travellers, Airbnb is convenient, web-based platform that provides affordable and flexible alternatives to hotels. For property owners, the tool easily connects various rental units with prospective occupants and makes collecting payments simple and secure.
Despite it’s convenience and the potential for profit, Airbnb is not without its risks for those who decide to list. Before renting out your home or spare room through Airbnb, keep in mind the following tips:
- Acquire the proper insurance.
Proper insurance is key to mitigating the risks associated with Airbnb. Take the time to review your renters or homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage in place.
- Complete a home safety inspection.
Safety inspections can help Airbnb hosts address risks before they balloon into bigger issues. Before listing your property on Airbnb, complete a through home inspection and address all of the safety hazards you identify.
- Screen all guests.
Prior to allowing guests to stay in your home, it’s a good idea to check their background. To begin, ensure that prospective guests are verified through Airbnb. You can also review any connected social media accounts and read guest references through the site. Above all, trust your instincts.
- Set clear rules.
Through Airbnb, you can create guidelines for guests by completing the House Rules, Home Safety Card and House Manual sections of your profile. This allows you to set clear rules for guests around etiquette and safety.
- Establish occupancy limits.
Limiting the number of occupants that can use your property will help ensure that guests are comfortable and safe during their stay. Occupancy limits should take into account the size of the property and local regulations.
- Add a security deposit.
Adding a security deposit to your Airbnb listing can lessen the financial blow in the event of damaged property or another incident.
- Secure your valuables.
When you open your home to guests, there’s the potential that valuables could be damaged or stolen. To protect expensive items, consider moving them into a safety deposit box or to a secure off-site location.
- Protect sensitive information.
Your property isn’t the only thing you need to worry about when inviting guests into your home. To help prevent identity theft, make sure that guests cannot gain access to any files (physical or electronic) that contain sensitive personal information.
- Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed around the premises to protect guests and your property. Emergency exists should be property labeled as well.
- Child-proof your premises.
It’s likely that some of your guests will have children. To protect younger guests, take the time to properly child-proof your home.
- Keep your accommodations maintained.
Good housekeeping can help guests avoid common injuries such as slips and falls. Prior to each stay, examine your home for any new housekeeping issues that must be addressed.
- Provide contact information.
Always supply your guests with information sheets that indicate local emergency numbers and the nearest hospital. Provide a clear emergency contact number for yourself, as well as back up, for easy guest reference. Also make clear how you should be contacted if the guest has questions or issues arise.
- Supply a first-aid kit.
In addition to providing emergency contact information, having a first-aid kit readily available and fully stocked at all times is important to guest safety.
- Verify compliance with regulations.
Regulations around Airbnb hosting can differ depending on your location and the type of accommodation you are renting out. Double-check that you are compliant with local and state laws before using Airbnb.
- Notify those who could be impacted by your guests.
When you host guests through Airbnb, there is the potential that neighbors or roommates could be impacted. To avoid unnecessary conflict, let your neighbors or roommates know ahead of time that guests will be using your property.
Agricultural workers are at a serious risk of injury or death when installing, climbing into, fumigating, entering, filling or emptying a silo. Because of the nature of the conditions present, workers may be exposed to hazards such as a lack of oxygen, toxic gases and grain entrapment.
To reduce worker risk of injury, properly train workers and remind them frequently of the following safety recommendations:
- Avoid entering a silo unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Complete tasks outside of the silo whenever possible.
- Have a coworker close by in case of an emergency.
- Never smoke or cause sparks near a silo, especially if the air humidity is low.
- Wear respiratory protection when appropriate.
- Stand at a safe distance when filling or emptying a silo.
- Use an approved fall restraint system and harness when climbing a silo.
- Ventilate a fumigating silo before entering.
- Conduct regular safety inspections of silos.
For more farm and ranch safety tips, contact Scurich Insurance today.
Each year, thousands of businesses, schools and other establishments are mailed suspicious items (e.g., unmarked packages) or are the target of bomb threats. These threats can be made via phone calls, letters, social media channels, emails or other similar means.
Bomb threats and suspicious items are often used to cause alarm, panic, disruption or, in extreme cases, direct harm. However these threats are made, organizations of all kinds need to take them seriously and know how to respond appropriately.
What to Do If You Receive a Bomb Threat
Businesses often wrongly assume they aren’t at risk of a bomb threat. However, the truth is that no organization is 100 percent safe from malicious attacks or threats, making proper preparation all the more important. In the event that your organization receives a bomb threat – whether it be over the phone, via email or another means – follow these procedures.
Threats Made Over the Phone
- Remain calm. Keep the caller on the line for as long as possible, and don’t hang up even if the caller does.
- Signal or pass a note to another staff member, instructing them to notify the authorities. If this isn’t possible, call 911 from another phone after the caller hangs up.
- Document as much information about the call as possible. Details related to a caller ID number, the wording of the threat, the time of the call, background noises on the caller’s end, and the tone and inflection of the caller can all aid investigators. If possible, ask questions to infer specific details about the threat itself, including:
- Who is making the threat and where they are calling from
- The type of device and when it might go off
- What the device looks like
- Where the device is located
- Who the target is
- Record the call if possible.
- Be available for interviews.
- Follow any instructions from facility supervisors and local authorities. These individuals will also provide specific guidance related to facility lockdowns, searches or evacuations.
Threats Made Via Email, Online Platforms, the Mail or Other Source
- Call 911.
- Preserve the threat. If the threat is made online, take a screenshot. If the threat is made through the mail, store it in a safe place and handle it as minimally as possible.
- Note where the threat was found, who found it and when they found it.
- Wait for further instructions from the proper authorities.
In the event of a threat, staff members should avoid using two-way radios, cellular phones or any other electronics, as signals from these devices could potentially detonate a bomb. In addition, you should avoid activating alarms or evacuating the building until the proper authorities evaluate the threat. Law enforcement officials will direct the evacuation if one is necessary.
What to Do If You Find or Receive a Suspicious Item
In general, a suspicious item is any item – like a bag or package – that is believed to contain explosives, improvised explosive devices or hazardous materials. When it comes to identifying these items, you should watch out for unexplainable or unusual wires, electronics, sounds, vapors, mists or odors.
It is not uncommon for establishments to find or receive suspicious items and, while they may end up being harmless, it’s good practice to be overly cautious. As a good rule of thumb, any item that is Hidden, Obviously suspicious and not Typical (HOT) should be deemed suspicious.
In the event that your organization finds or receives a suspicious item, you should:
- Remain calm.
- Avoid touching, tampering or moving the item.
- Notify the proper authorities and your facility supervisor. Follow any and all of their instructions carefully.
Plan Ahead and Stay Safe
When it comes to bomb threats and suspicious items, every situation is unique. Typically, facility supervisors and law enforcement officials will be in the best position assess the situation, determine if a real risk is present and provide instruction on how to respond.
For even more protection, businesses should review guidance provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. Doing so can help you better prepare for potential threats. For more workplace safety advice and risk mitigation tips, contact Scurich Insurance today.
As technology becomes increasingly important for successful business operations, the value of a strong cyber liability insurance policy continues to grow. The continued rise in the amount of information stored and transferred electronically has resulted in a remarkable increase in the potential exposures facing businesses.
In an age where a stolen laptop or data breach can instantly compromise the personal data of thousands of customers, protecting your business from cyber liability is just as important as some of the more traditional exposures businesses account for in their commercial general liability policies.
Claims Scenario: Outsourcing Gone Wrong
The company: A national construction company that outsources some of its cyber security protections
The challenge: A construction firm partnered with a third-party cloud service provider in order to store customer information. While this service helped the company save on server costs, the third-party firm suffered a data breach.
As a result, the construction firm had to notify 10,000 of its customers and was forced to pay nearly $200,000 in incident investigation costs. The incident was made worse by the fact that the firm did not have a document retention procedure, which complicated the incident response process.
Cyber liability insurance in action: Following a data breach or other cyber event, the right policy can help organizations recoup a number of key costs. Specifically, cyber liability policies often cover investigation and forensics expenses—expenses that can easily bankrupt smaller firms who forgo coverage.
What’s more, when third parties are involved, managing litigation concerns can be a challenge. By using cyber liability insurance, organizations have access to legal professionals well-versed in cyber lawsuits and response.
Claims Scenario: Pardon the Interruption
The company: An online retail store that relies heavily on e-commerce
The challenge: A small-sized, online retailer partnered with a data centre to host its website and store its data. This is not uncommon, as many small businesses don’t have the IT infrastructure to host products, process payments and fulfil orders on-site.
Unfortunately, the data centre was targeted in a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. As a result of this attack, the retailer’s website went down for several days. While functionality was eventually restored, business interruption costs from lost sales and website downtime was over $165,000.
Cyber liability insurance in action: DDoS attacks are one of many weapons cyber criminals use to infiltrate and disrupt businesses. These attacks can impact any organization that owns a website, regardless of where it’s hosted.
Cyber liability insurance is one of the only protections organizations have against costly DDoS attacks and similar disruptions. This is because cyber policies offer business interruption loss reimbursement. Following a disruption caused by a cyber event, policies kick in and help organizations recover from any financial losses.
Benefits of Cyber Liability Insurance
- Data breach coverage—In the event of a breach, organizations are required by law to notify affected parties. This can add to overall data breach costs, particularly as they relate to security fixes, identity theft protection for those impacted by the breach and protection from possible legal action. Cyber liability policies include coverage for these exposures, thus safeguarding your data from cyber criminals.
- Business interruption loss reimbursement—A cyber attack can lead to an IT failure that disrupts business operations, costing your organization both time and money. Cyber liability policies may cover your loss of income during these interruptions. What’s more, increased costs to your business operations in the aftermath of a cyber attack may also be covered.
- Cyber extortion defence—Ransomware and similar malicious software are designed to steal and withhold key data from organizations until a steep fee is paid. As these types of attacks increase in frequency and severity, it’s critical that organizations seek cyber liability insurance, which can help recoup losses related to cyber extortion.
- Legal support—In the wake of a cyber incident, businesses often seek legal assistance. This assistance can be costly. Cyber liability insurance can help businesses afford proper legal work following a cyber attack.
When cyber attacks like data breaches and hacks occur, they can result in devastating damage. Businesses have to deal with business disruptions, lost revenue and litigation. It is important to remember that no organization is immune to the impact of cyber crime. As a result, cyber liability insurance has become an essential component to any risk management program.
Cyber exposures aren’t going away and, in fact, continue to escalate. Businesses need to be prepared in the event that a cyber attack strikes. To learn more about cyber liability insurance, contact Scurich Insurance today.