Catastrophe – When Your Business Property is Damaged

When a natural disaster, accident, or criminal act causes property damage to your business, doing the right things can control the damage and minimize your losses. Doing the wrong things can exacerbate the situation and even increase your losses. Here’s what to do to keep a challenging situation under control.

Begin by recognizing that if property damage does occur, the damage being done does not necessarily stop once the fire is put out, the water is turned off, and the actual disaster is under control. You need to take immediate steps to protect your undamaged property and salvage whatever damaged items you can.

– Verify the safety of the building before entering it. Your first impulse is going to be to rush into the facility, but don’t. If there’s water damage, there’s the potential of getting electrocuted. If there’s structural damage, walls or ceilings could fall. You could be hurt by debris, broken glass, nails or other items. Avoid getting hurt by waiting until the emergency services personnel have deemed it safe for you to enter the structure before you do so.

– Make the necessary notifications, including contacting your insurance carrier, employees, customers, suppliers and landlord, as soon as possible.

– If the damage is such that you cannot access your office, find a place to operate, such as a nearby hotel or executive suite complex. Some of your employees may be able to work from home in the early stages of your disaster response. If you are renting, your landlord may be able to help with this, especially if the company has other properties. Keep all receipts for temporary office space and related costs; these expenses are typically covered by insurance.

– Call the telephone company and arrange for calls to be routed to a location where they can be answered.

– Prevent further damage. While waiting for the insurance adjuster, take whatever immediate steps are necessary to prevent further property damage, such as shutting off water and electricity, boarding up broken windows, covering damaged roofs with tarps, and doing preliminary emergency clean-up.

– Take photographs of the damage. This will assist in your claims process, especially if you also have photographs of your facility prior to the incident for comparison.

– Contact a qualified professional restoration contractor. Be sure to tell the contractor what sort of business property–such as paper and electronic files, business equipment, etc.–you are attempting to salvage. Disaster restoration takes special skills and knowledge; get bids from several professionals before making a final selection. This will not take as long as you might think. Because immediate response is critical, professional restoration companies will usually have someone on site within one to two hours, and be prepared to start work right away.