When it comes to an extreme weather occurrence, “You can never over-plan,” says Brent Bates, Director of Safety Services for Hortica®, a brand of Sentry Insurance Group. Growers and retailers alike can take precautionary steps to more quickly and adequately recover from instances of wind, hail, snow, flood and more.
A stormy reality
Even if certain types of severe weather aren’t common in your area, or have not occurred in many years, a serious event could occur unexpectedly, Bates says. Take Hurricane Matthew, for example, a Category 4 storm that hit Eastern Florida on Oct. 5, and has been the worst hurricane in the state since 2007. Businesses in the area will be working actively – and quickly – with their insurance companies to recoup their losses and operate again after the storm subsides. Planning prior to such an event is critical to making sure your company has adequate limits of insurance to cover the losses they have sustained.
Other types of weather can also lead to losses, such as extremely cold temperatures or an electrical outage, both of which can cause freezing damage. “You can have downed power lines, and if your property doesn’t have generators, you may not be able to use the equipment that’s necessary to maintain heat for your plants,” Bates says. Again, you need to have the proper coverage to pay for such a loss. Significant snowstorms can cause huge losses to the greenhouse industry as well. Making sure your structures are properly maintained and heated is critical to avoid or reduce your chances of these losses.
Large hail storms can also cause damage to your greenhouse structure or retail building; windstorms can cause your property to lose power. And flooding, normally the aftermath of a heavy rainstorm, such as a hurricane, can cause its own set of issues, Bates says.
“We try to encourage people to have some kind of flood coverage through the federal government because it’s not a standard peril covered within your policy,” he adds.
Implement an action plan
By working with their insurance agents on an annual, or semi-annual, basis to update the value of their operations, green industry business owners can be more prepared in case of a disaster.
“They need to understand what deductibles are in their policy,” Bates says. “As more and more insurance companies are offering specific deductibles for wind, hail and similar events, they need to know how a certain storm can impact them.”
To do this, it’s important that owners go over the changes and/or improvements they’ve made to their businesses when they make them with their agent. Bates says that if you purchased your policy in Year One, and you don’t update that policy in the next five years in business, the increased value of your property may not be covered (new structures, new computers, automated equipment, etc.). If a storm hits and damages those improvements before you have updated your policy, you may not be covered sufficiently, if at all.
“You need to have your agent explain to you the difference between what the real property coverage is, i.e. the buildings, the attachments to that building, compared to the personal property coverage,” Bates says. “Sometimes we see people who under-value how much personal property [they possess].”
Bates also warns that if you don’t have adequate limits, and you suffer a loss, you may so be so underinsured that you receive a co-insurance penalty.
In addition to insuring your structures, equipment and inventory, business owners should also consider business interruption coverage to help them get back on their feet, Bates says. “Do you have coverage that will give you expenses to get yourself back into business?” he says. “Do you have coverage that would pay for temporary facilities in which to operate while your facility is being repaired?”
You also have to prepare yourself in case the storm affects your employees. At a time where you may need your employees more than ever, they may not be able to work if they have been impacted personally by the storm as well.
“We always encourage people to look at the worst-case scenario for every storm,” Bates says.
And last not but not least, make sure you update all of your contact information (cell phone, landline, email) with your insurance provider, he suggests, because in case of a power outage, it may be difficult to have communication with you, and this provides your agent with multiple avenues to reach out to help you make a claim.
Lean on your resources
Your insurance provider should be in tune with the National Weather Service to give you updates throughout the year as to what could potentially affect your operation, but there are other external avenues you can take to ensure your weather preparedness. “We try to encourage people to partner with different authorities like the American Red Cross, OSHA and FEMA for disaster planning to get quality advice and engage your employees so everybody is on the same page,” Bates says.
For more information, visit www.hortica.com
Disclaimer: This document is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. No one should act on the information contained in this document without advice from a local professional with relevant expertise.
Disclosure: Hortica® property and casualty coverages are underwritten, and loss control services are provided, by Florists' Mutual Insurance Company and Florists' Insurance Company, members of the Sentry Insurance Group. For more information, visit hortica.com. Policies, coverages, benefits and discounts are not available in all states. See policy for complete coverage details.