After an emergency: what happens next

After an emergency: what happens next

Take immediate action when disaster strikes.

November 16, 2016
Matt McClellan

The hours immediately following an emergency are often a time of crisis with business owners in shock. However, those first few hours after the unthinkable happens are crucial. Tom Richey, claims manager with Hortica®, a brand of the Sentry Insurance Group, says the first step is to put together respected leaders to assist in the claims process.

"Once a loss is called in to our call center, our insured can rest assured that our team of experts will be immediately notified and representatives will be on site within 24 hours," Richey said. "As we see it, being on site is critical in putting a plan together in order to get our insureds up and running as soon as possible."

Different experts are used for different types of losses, Richey said. The specific team that is chosen to respond to that given emergency will meet with the business’ leaders to determine what needs done immediately in order to retain their customers. Depending on the nature of the emergency, it may require accountants, manufacturers, or other experts. It may require finding a temporary facility, or maybe temporary repairs will suffice to get the business through the season.

"We have one goal in mind: get them up and running as quickly as possible," Richey said. "In our niche, if they lose one growing season, they lose customers for that season. And it is so difficult to get those customers back."

One of the important questions that crosses a business owner’s mind after finding out about the emergency is where his or her responsibility ends and where the insurer’s responsibility begins. Luckily, all these details are hammered out in advance. After signing an insurance contract, your insurer should inform you of who’s doing what in the case of a loss.

One critical part of the contract is to insure to value. If a business isn’t insured to its correct value, the insurer and the insured run the risk of being penalized.

"If they’re underinsured on their property and they have a $10,000 loss, they’re going to be penalized," Richey said. "Then they will sometimes be paid as little as 20 cents on the dollar because they’re underinsured."

For this reason, Richey says companies should carefully consider the value of their property and the recommendations of their agent. They are knowledgeable in their specific field.

"We know what it costs to build a building, a greenhouse," Richey said. "It’s specific."

When the shock has yet to wear off, your insurer should already be working to minimize the damage. Even when on the road, Richey always keeps information close at hand for all the contacts he may need to reach.

"Say a tornado comes through and rips all the polyethylene or cladding off a greenhouse," Richey said. "I can mobilize a team within two hours after the phone call comes in, say 'I need you on the road,' 'I need you to get materials out to this location.'"

Whether it’s summer or winter, the outside elements will often destroy plant material without the benefits of a protective structure.

Snow emergencies are also dangerous for horticultural businesses. Richey has received calls from clients with four feet of snow on top of greenhouse structures when it’s inevitable that those structures are coming down unless something is done quickly.

"I get a crew in there to shore it up," Richey said. "Brace the greenhouse walls, make sure they bring temporary heat for heating those gutters up, melt that snow."

That crew’s response time is key, because every hour matters in the horticulture industry.

"We know what the consequential losses are," Richey said. "They are catastrophic. We take potential $4 million claims and turn them into $400,000 claims. That’s very important to us as an insurance company, but very important to our clients and their customers."

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.