Spring has sprung, and with the change of season comes the dangers of severe weather. We understand that safety and recovery are the utmost priority to your business, so below we offer general guidance on handling property claims in the event that your business incurs damage from severe weather and best practices to prepare your properties and employees for the future.


Property Claims

In general, if your property gets damaged during a storm, you should:

  1. Protect property from further damage.
  • Cover the property if it is exposed to the elements.
  • Make temporary repairs, if reasonable and necessary, to protect the property from further damage.
  • Maintain a record of all expenses incurred.
  • Separate damaged from undamaged personal property.
  1. Take photos of damage (if possible).
  2. Prepare an inventory of damaged personal property.
  • List quantity, description and value.
  • Attach bills, receipts, estimates and related documents.
  1. Retain damaged property until a claims adjuster approves its disposal (unless a danger to safety exists).
  • The adjuster may need to inspect the property.
  • The insurance company may be able to salvage the damaged property.
  1. Expect to be contacted by the claims adjuster within two working days. Call your broker or insurance carrier if you have not been contacted within that timeframe.
  • If the damage significantly affects your continuing operations, your broker can request that the insurance carrier expedite your claim.
  • Inform your broker or carrier immediately if your circumstances change and this loss will have a greater impact on your business than originally anticipated.
  1. Be prepared to provide additional information as requested by the claims adjuster.


Simple Ways to Get Ready for Spring

While it is important to know what to do after damage from severe weather, preparation is essential to minimizing damage and maintaining the safety of all employees. Here are 9 things you can do right now to ensure that your employees and your business are ready for spring and the severe weather season.severe, weather, thunderstorm, tornado, insurance, coverage, protection, tips

  1. Review your insurance policy. Update any necessary information, such as number of employees, business addresses, number of locations, size of deductible and value of the policy. Meet with your insurance agent to get his or her input. Do a walk through around the office and property together.
  2. Have your offices inspected by a contractor. In particular, check the roof, gutters and HVAC system for damage or clogging. Make necessary repairs, clean air ducts and replace filters.
  3. Update your go bag. Spring is a great time to take inventory of the items inside your kit and update lists, replace old keys, change out batteries, etc. If you have not yet purchased a go bag, they can be found on popular websites like Amazon and eBay, and specialty sites such as Echo-Cigma.
  4. Do an office spring cleaning. Remove important documents from low-level storage and digitize them if possible. Do a building-wide clean-up and remove any unnecessary items. Ensure all windows are secure. Clear the parking lot and grounds of debris that may have been hidden under the snow.
  5. Review your emergency management plan. Ensure new hires are familiar with your emergency plan. Review how to get to the nearest and all back-up exits and be sure that all team leaders understand and are able to carry out their responsibilities.
  6. Test your plan. As part of your disaster plan “spring cleaning”, conduct a hypothetical drill where everyone carries out their assigned responsibilities. Then hold a post-drill meeting to discuss ideas for improvement.
  7. Tune up your generator. If you have a backup generator, have your maintenance dept. or mechanic tune up and test your generator to ensure it is in good working condition. In a safe place away from your building, store enough gasoline to run the generator for 2-3 days.
  8. Ramp up your emergency alert system. Make sure you have the correct contact information for all staff, then test your emergency alert system via every method you utilize- i.e. audio, text message, email, social media and the web.
  9. Consider a disaster recovery vendor. Plan out with your disaster recovery partner what would be needed to get your organization back up and running quickly or to keep it running during a disaster situation. Keep their contact information handy, and in multiple locations for easy access in an emergency.


General Severe Weather Safety Practices

In a severe weather emergency, all  employees should be aware of their responsibilities and the actions they should take to protect themselves and others.

  • When severe weather is threatening, tune in to local radio or television stations or check local weather reports online.
  • If a tornado warning is issued or the weather becomes severe, seek immediate cover in the company’s pre-designated shelter area.
  • If you are unable to reach the pre-designated shelter area, take cover in interior rooms with small or no windows such as restrooms, kitchens or hallways on the lowest possible floor.
  • Climb under heavy furniture, such as tables and desks, if possible.
  • Cover your face and head with blankets, coats, jackets, etc. to protect yourself from flying glass.
  • Stay away from windows and doors and do not use the telephone.
  • Be prepared to take cover when the following alerts have been issued for our area:
    • Severe Thunderstorm Watch—Severe thunderstorms are possible.
    • Tornado Watch—Tornadoes are possible.
    • Severe Thunderstorm Warning—Severe thunderstorms are occurring.
  • Take immediate cover when the following warning has been issued for our area:
    • Tornado Warning—A tornado has been sighted or indicated by weather radar.


Severe Thunderstorms

Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which is extremely dangerous. Though lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. In 2017, there were 16 fatalities from lightning. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of long-term, debilitating symptoms.

Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities—more than 140 every year—than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires.


Before a Thunderstorm and Lightning

To prepare for a thunderstorm, you should do the following:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Remember the 30/30 Lightning Safety Rule: Go indoors if, after seeing lightning, you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.
  • Get inside a home, building or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection if you are not touching metal.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment before the storm arrives.


Facts about Thunderstorms

  • They may occur singly, in clusters or in lines.
  • A single thunderstorm affecting one location for an extended time can be more severe than other storms.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
  • About 10 percent of thunderstorms are classified as severe; these storms generally produce hail at least an inch or larger in diameter and have winds of 58 miles per hour or higher. They can also produce tornadoes.


Facts about Lightning

  • Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months during the afternoon and evening.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by following safety precautions.
  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.


During Thunderstorms and Lightning

If thunderstorms and lightning are occurring in your area, you should do the following:

  • Use a battery-operated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices, including those plugged into electrical outlets for recharging. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are safe to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in open areas.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach and boats on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal, such as tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.


Lightning Safety When Outdoors

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After a Thunderstorm or Lightning Strike

If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 911 for medical assistance as soon as possible. The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:

  • Breathing – if breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
  • Heartbeat – if the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
  • Pulse – if the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.


After the storm passes, remember the following:

  • Never drive through a flooded roadway. Water can damage your vehicle and poses a drowning hazard.
  • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.
  • Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
  • If at home, watch your animals closely. Keep them under your direct control.


In addition to insuring your home and business, S.S. Nesbitt & Co., Inc. is committed to helping you, your loved ones, and your employees stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing an emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact us at (205) 262-2700 or http://ssnesbitt.com today.

Information abstracted from Zywave’s “AYP Severe Thunderstorms,” “Be Prepared – Sever Weather,” and “9 Easy Ways to Prepare for Spring” articles.