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Watch for potential dangers even after the storm passes

Here are three ways you can protect your people and operations as you start to rebuild from the storm.

In the wake of a hurricane, many people and businesses can face significant flooding, power outages, and other devastating effects. Recovery could take several weeks, during which time high floodwaters and other hazards could pose dangers to employees and others.

Here are three ways you can protect your people and operations as you start to rebuild from a storm.

1. Focus on your people first

While companies may be eager to both collect information to file storm-related property claims and return to normal operations, it’s important that you avoid putting employees — who should be your top priority as you manage your recovery — in unnecessary danger. It’s also vital that you avoid compounding any storm losses you’ve already suffered with additional liability claims during cleanup and recovery.

Before you enlist employees to help with your recovery, make sure you’ve first addressed their safety and needs. The first step is to account for their whereabouts and provide any needed humanitarian aid. Once that’s complete and you begin to clean up and restore property and operations, you should:

  • Secure your property from potential hazards.
  • Ensure your employees use appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE).
  • Do not allow employees and others to enter locations where they could be exposed to pollutants, which could be found in mud and debris or released as a result of flooding.
  • Avoid walking through areas where you cannot see where you’re stepping — such as those covered in water — since you may not be able to see any dangerous debris or wildlife displaced by flooding.
  • Use technology, such as drones, to access damaged areas, especially roofs, to minimize exposure to danger in the immediate aftermath of a hurricane.

2. Review your insurance coverage

If you believe you may have suffered damage from the storm, you should carefully review your property policy and start the process of preparing your claim. But you should also understand what’s in your other policies, including workers’ compensation, general liability, umbrella and excess casualty, professional liability, and environmental coverage. Before making decisions, consider potential liability claims for acts that are alleged to have caused or exacerbated damages to people and others, including customers and vendors. You should also be familiar with:

  • The notice and reporting requirements of various policies.
  • Other insurance clauses within these policies.
  • Any time limitations that may exist within them.

3. Work closely with insurers

In the event you suffer a loss, you’ll need to work with other stakeholders. Make sure to involve your insurers in all claim decisions — no binding agreements regarding liability, defense, or settlement should be made until your insurers can evaluate and give consent. The cooperation clause and other provisions present in many policies prohibit insureds from incurring costs or conceding liability. And courts have generally held that insurers are not liable for expenses incurred prior to tender or for agreements or settlements made without an insurer’s consent.

When it comes to environmental claims, you may also need to work with governments, which may control the response to an environmental release or discovery of pollution. Government entities may order immediate action, with no time to gain an insurer’s consent. If such a situation occurs, you should immediately notify your insurers of all activity and orders as they occur and preserve all evidence to include in your claims filing.