Snowstorms and extremely cold temperatures can cause severe business interruption. Creating disaster recovery and business continuity plans will help minimize business interruption, mitigate your risk and safeguard your employees’ wellbeing. Below, Gallagher discusses how to prepare your business before and after a winter storm hits, as well as steps on filing a winter storm insurance claim.

Pre-Planning Your Business' Safety before a Winter Storm Occurs

Planning and preparing can make a big difference in staying safe during, and rebuilding your business, after a winter storm occurs. In anticipation of such an event, start talking to your Gallagher advisor to be sure you secure appropriate coverage, update current location schedules, and understand what is covered with your current property policy.

Emergency Response Team and Business Continuity Planning for Winter Preparedness

Awareness and preparation are key factors in minimizing your risk during a winter storm or extreme cold. By understanding your vulnerabilities and proper planning, you can reduce the detrimental effects on your business. The best protection is to have a solid natural disaster plan in place should a major winter storm hit.

Winter Storm and Extreme Cold Checklist

Take necessary steps to prepare once an advisory has been issued and a winter storm is imminent. Once you have enacted your disaster plan, follow it diligently as temperatures are expected to dip below freezing. In addition to the winter storm preparedness checklist, here are additional items to consider:

  • Seal all windows and doors throughout the property.
  • Display signs warning of icy conditions.
  • Use a de-icer, monitor walks and stairs at established intervals to make sure they remain safe.
  • Keep walkways, parking lots, driveways and doorways clear of ice and snow.
  • Position heaters, snow blowers, generators and cold weather equipment where they will most likely be used.
  • Remember to cordon off the area, lock the building or post security so nobody enters an unsafe area.
  • Secure as many items as possible with priority given to keys, files and money.
  • Check vacant buildings or spaces to ensure the heat is on, so pipes do not rupture.
  • If carbon monoxide alarms sound or if there is a smell of gas, leave premises and contact the gas company immediately.
  • If power failure occurs or lines go down due to heavy ice, stay away from them and phone the electric company.
  • If there is a danger of collapse due to snow or ice in any area of the building, evacuate the space according to your written plan.
  • Notify staff and corporate of the incoming storm.
  • Assist all staff, especially those with disabilities and special needs, leaving the facility.
  • Ensure employee vehicles and equipment are filled with gas.
  • Stay off roads if at all possible.
  • Limit time outside, if you need to go outside, then wear layers of warm clothing.
  • Avoid overexertion when shoveling or plowing snow.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away.

Post-Winter Storm Recovery Guidelines for your Business

After receiving the “all-clear” signal from your local agencies or emergency personnel, you can begin your post-winter storm measures. Once it’s safe to return to your business, examine the interior and exterior of your property and contact your Gallagher representative about your insurance coverage. When talking with your Gallagher advisor, bring your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list to determine any potential coverage and business impact. Also, have your Preliminary Damage Assessment Report handy and pictures or video of damage to the property. It’s important that your claim handler receives this information as soon as possible.

  • Inspect your property for immediate dangers – watch falling snow/debris, areas where there may not be solid footing and wild animals.
  • If possible, inspect the roof for significant damage, including snow accumulation on the leeward (downwind) side of a higher-level roof.
  • Secure any areas where dangers exist with caution tape. Keep areas cordoned off until a determination is made regarding safety.
  • Watch for downed trees and large limbs fallen on power lines, vehicles and buildings.
  • Remove tree branches that become heavy with snow and icicles hanging from gutters and over walkways.
  • As snow melts, water can back-up sewers and drains resulting in flooding. Local government officials should be notified if street drains are clogged.
  • Use flashlights to examine walls, floors, doors and windows to ensure building is not in danger of collapsing from the snow. If the building is in danger of collapsing, do not enter.
  • Complete an incident report and forward pictures to your supervisor, corporate office and insurance agent.
  • If possible, heat the building to at least 65 degrees. This will keep pipes from freezing.
  • Notify staff and corporate of the situation.
  • Assist all staff, especially those with disabilities and special needs, leaving the facility.
  • Ensure you have the following items available: including cellphones, smartphones, tablets, laptops, battery operated handheld radio(s), flashlights, cameras, additional chargers and batteries, water, food, first aid supplies and additional items from your disaster supply list.
  • Check local emergency broadcast radio for information regarding the storm.

When inspecting your property, watch and listen for leaking gas lines, electrical lines or flammable materials. Try to limit use of cellphones, laptops and hand-held radios to preserve battery life in the event of power failure.

You will also need to contact the following groups after a winter storm:

  • Emergency services, such as the fire department gas and electric companies, as necessary based on the review of the property.
  • A security company if there is sufficient damage to the property to arrange for surveillance. Instruct them to assist in directing emergency vehicles into the area and supply a list of approved employees to reduce the possibility of looters.
  • Local hospitals regarding injured staff and keep a log of all calls.
  • Your corporate office and insurance carrier to verbally report damage so that an adjuster can be sent to the site.
  • Vendors, such as cleaning services, electricians or plumbers, to help reduce further damage to the property that might result from heavy snow.

While organizing the post-recovery efforts for your business, be sure to review the winter storm emergency plan for problems, and update as necessary. Also, replace and restock items on your Disaster Supply List.

Filing a Commercial Insurance Claim

Once your local agencies or emergency personnel has said it’s safe to return to your business, you can begin your post-winter storm measures. Examine your property and complete your Preliminary Damage Assessment Report with pictures or video of the damage and property, a facility inspection and inspection to the roofs for significant damage, paying particular attention to retaining walls. You may also bring your Business Interruption and Extra Expense Claims list to determine insurance coverage and business operations impact.

It’s important that your Gallagher claim handler receives this information as quickly as possible. Also make sure to maintain an up-to-date Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory should such an event occur.

Claims Reporting Reference Guide

Coverage FAQs and forms to help your claims process.

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Find your Insurance Carrier

Use our Commercial Claims Contact List to find phone numbers and email addresses of your insurance carrier.

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Starting a Commercial Insurance Claim

In order for a commercial insurance claim to be initiated and an investigation to begin, provide the claim handler with as much detail as possible. The following is recommended:

Claims Process for Commercial Insurance: What to Expect

Throughout the claim investigation process, you may have various coverage-related questions. Please reach out to your Gallagher representative with specific policy and claim questions. During this high-volume claim reporting period, you should anticipate the following:

  • The adjuster assignment and initial contact may take some time. Some insurers may use adjusters under contact rather than staff adjusters, so the adjuster’s contact information may appear different than expected.
  • Access to the affected areas may be limited for some time after the storm clears.
  • Competition for labor and materials will be high, which could impact the timeframe and costs associated with repair and remediation.
  • Working with your adjuster closely. If you have questions regarding the resolution process, your Gallagher representative is here to assist and ensure you are in control of the claim progress.

Your policy and insurance company’s website will contain important information about how to handle claims and manage losses. To summarize your policy details, use our Policy and Claim Reporting Information Directory.