For property owners, few ordeals are as challenging as experiencing a disaster and then navigating the subsequent rebuilding process — sometimes from the ground up. This requires property owners — whether they be residential homeowners, or owners of a sprawling commercial property — to put any plans on hold. Instead, they end up spending a tremendous amount of time and energy just trying to return to the pre-disaster status quo.
The rebuilding process can take a long time, even with excellent insurance in place. Depending on the scope and magnitude of the loss, it can take up to six months to restore a residential property that has experienced fire damage. And it can take more than a year for a commercial property to recover from fire damage. Water and mold disasters can be incredibly time consuming, too, requiring weeks or months of work. Indeed, property owners must navigate the claims process, environmental testing and permits in addition to the rebuilding itself.
To help clients navigate this difficult time, insurance professionals can work with them to put proactive strategies in motion. Although no one can fully anticipate a disaster, there are tried-and-true methods for ensuring that the recovery and restoration process goes as smoothly — and quickly — as possible.
Here are five strategies to help ensure your clients are prepared for whatever lies ahead.
Educate clients on what to do in an emergency. Again, you can’t predict a disaster. But you can be prepared for one. Specifically, you can ensure that the personnel in charge of a property — whether facility managers or homeowners — are well versed in their responsibilities should a disaster strike. For example, clients should be familiar with water, oil and gas valves, so they can shut them off quickly if need be (and assuming it is safe to do so). Taking quick steps like these at the start of a disaster can be the difference between minimal damage and an unmitigated crisis.
Be transparent about coverage. Amid a disaster, the last thing a client wants to deal with is a confusing or unclear insurance policy — it adds considerably more stress and work. Offer clarity on what a policy covers, even if there’s no crisis at hand. Carefully walk through all insurance policies and coverages with your client whenever there’s a change, or whenever they need a refresher. This way, clients can rest assured that their property — from structure to content — is covered or replaceable should it ever face irrevocable damage. As part of this strategy, also make sure your clients know how to collect evidence in the event of a disaster. If they’re trained in what to inventory, what to photograph and so forth, it can speed up the recovery effort.
Build a strong relationship with a trusted restoration professional. Finding a reliable contractor on short notice is no small feat. For that reason, insurance professionals and their clients should have a trustworthy, go-to contractor they know they can always call in a crisis. This way, if disaster strikes, you don’t need to spend time researching, calling and scheduling carpenters, plumbers or electricians. Instead, you can jump right into action. So where do you start? Insurers and clients can partner with recovery professionals who provide full-service restoration. That means you’ll have a single point of contact throughout the process, rather than juggling several different contractors.
Have robust documentation of the property. When rebuilding a property struck by disaster, it’s essential to have all the right specifications, from square footage to layout. Verify that all property specs are updated, comprehensive and accessible. This can save a great deal of time in a crisis. Materials such as a 3D map of the property, an inventory documentation and any other relevant property notes will accelerate the claim process from the very start. It’s crucial to act within the first 48 hours after a loss to prevent further damages. And it goes without saying that this information should also be stored offsite, since it could be destroyed or inaccessible if kept onsite.
Make sure everyone is prioritizing personal safety. Last but certainly not least, clients should always know that personal safety is the most important priority in a disaster. They should never take any steps that put them in harm's way. Leave the professional work to the professionals. There’s never a good reason for property damage event to turn into a tragedy.
By putting these strategies into action, you can ensure your clients are prepared for just about anything. Navigating damage to property is never easy, but with proactive preparation, you can be far more effective and efficient.
Ron Fanish is co-owner of Rainbow International Restoration of Westchester, based in Westchester County, N.Y. Ron may be contacted at [email protected].