The true scope of a disaster can be most profoundly felt the weeks, months and even years after the event. A food business owner in Texas was forced to face this type of situation when her business was affected by a hurricane. Below is some of her advice that she learned first-hand when dealing with insurance companies trying to recover from the disaster. She is not an expert and some of her situation could be different from your state, so make sure to check with your local insurance agents to make sure your business is covered properly.
- Your claim submission is recorded, if you have not already made it – THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK – word your claim carefully.
- Get a pocket sized spiral and let it be attached to you throughout your claim – write everything down. Our adjuster gave us one, and I used it every day for two years.
- Your agent should help you through everything and be your advocate. They should represent your side, but no one will represent you better than you, if you are a good sales person.
- If there is flood damage, the insurance will fight you about the cause. Was it a wind or flood event? Flood is covered by flood insurance bought and provided by FEMA. When you call in your claim you need to make sure you have a mitigating event for your damage that includes wind as the cause. If you say your property flooded, it will probably become a flood claim.
- If your power is out, and your food spoiled – in Texas you have to have spoilage insurance, but if it is a wind event your contents are covered, so your food product should be covered.
- If your power is out, you have to have wireline insurance, meaning it is insurance against the power company having a problem.
- Business interruption does not cover wireline power outages. Business Interruption covers your business being out of commission and losing revenue due to a covered mitigating event.
- ONLY USE LOCAL VENDORS FOR REPAIRS – Do not use storm chasers! They will “fix” your roof, take your money and disappear. Then your roof leaks and who and where are they?
- Be prepared to negotiate and ASK for money. When you call in your claim ask for an advance against contents, reconstruction or Extra Expenses (hopefully you have coverage for extra expenses). Also there is coverage for “ordinances of law.” Our policy had $10,000 and we had an ultra policy for $150,000 extra and it still was not enough. Our policy even covered for data recovery and accounting recovery (I did not need these). We also had separate sign insurance.
- It took two years to complete our claim. If you are closed for a long time, you will have cash flow issues, so be prepared to get a SBA Disaster loan.
THERE IS HOPE! – We rebuilt, paid our employees, were paid our lost revenues (for the most part) and even got a PR/Advertising budget for reopening. But it took major negotiation and developing a long term relationship with all our adjusters. You are a team with them, so don't get hot headed with them. Be grateful to them and just keep asking for whatever you need and for money. If you don't ask you don't get.
Also I am not an expert, insurance salesperson, agent or adjuster – just someone who had to deal with recovery from a hurricane. Begin the process of recovery – and you will get there – be positive!
MORE INFORMATION ON DISASTER RECOVERY
To apply for disaster assistance from FEMA:
• Online: www.DisasterAssistance.gov
• By Phone: (800) 621-3362 or (800) 462-7585 (TTY)
• In Person: You can find your closest FEMA Disaster Recovery Center at this website.