Small business risk: Fire ranks high

Going into business is heavy with financial risk but, once in business, natural disasters or unforeseen problems can create catastrophe.
Fire ranks high as a potentially devastating risk for business.
More than 75 percent of companies that experience a serious fire go out of business within three years of reopening, according to Phoenix Fire Protection.
Proper insurance can cushion destruction of assets and business interruption costs, but it won’t stem loss of customers, employees and data.
Of these three risks, data loss may be the easiest to mitigate.

* Daily off-site backups are key. On-site backups may seem sufficient unless a fire begins on the weekend or a holiday.

* Check backups regularly.

* Make sure at least two people know how to retrieve backups.

Make a pre-fire or disaster plan: Some of the questions you can ask:

* How can you protect IT equipment from fire or other disasters? If you can’t protect equipment, how will you replace it after the emergency?

* How will you retrieve data? Who will do it?

* Where will you operate? Will you need a generator for electricity? If so, where will you get the fuel to power the generator?

* What are the steps you will take to replace inventory? Is it necessary or possible to insure inventory? What is the worst-case scenario if it isn’t insured?

Michelin’s 3-D printed tire could be the future

Flat tires, blowouts, and even putting air into tires could one day be obsolete if Michelin’s concept for a new tire makes it to the mainstream. According to Engadget, the company has designed a prototype of a tire that can be printed in a machine, retreaded without replacement after it gets worn down, and is made using sustainable materials. All of these factors would lead to a tire that is cheaper, safer and more versatile for the consumer than the products currently on the market.

With the new design, there is not a separate wheel and tire but rather one object constructed with a web-like pattern of rubbery material that supports the exterior tread. Because of this feature, the tire does not require any air and will be impervious to nails and other objects that can easily cause a flat with today’s vehicles. Although it is a long way off, this concept paints a bright future for the auto industry’s lessened impact on the environment.

Besides Insurance, How Can a Business Prepare for a Hurricane?

Besides Insurance, How Can a Business Prepare for a Hurricane?
By M Wyzanski

Any insurance professional will stress the importance of a good commercial policy that includes wind and hail as well as flood coverage in relation to protecting your business from the elements. Case in point is the fact that many stricken by current hurricanes do not even own flood insurance.

We won’t get into the implications of damages and losses recovery in regard to this unfortunate set of circumstances. Suffice it to say, in wake of the destruction, these home and business owners have to deal with the financial stress on their own, save for whatever government assistance they can get.

Besides having a proper insurance plan in place, businesses can prepare for the worst weather scenarios by doing the following.

Review your company’s impact study:
• Make a tally of what type of losses you may incur.
• Consider the amount of risk loss and severity probability that may impact your business.
• Look over your business process flow agenda: Should one portion of your company become unworkable, assign another unit to take over.
• Choose which operations are vital for continued survival and recovery.
• Ensure all records of sales and customer-base, as well as tax data and documents are stored in a secure off-site location.
• Assign others to take over executive management if those in place are not able to carry out duties.

Partner with Other Businesses
• Have vendors ready to outsource services in case of a hurricane disaster.
• Mark down important vendor and business partners and store this info in an off-site multiple employee-accessible location.

Make Alternate Plans for your Facility
• Contemplate the use of other locations in the event your main office is rendered inaccessible or inoperable.
• Plan for security of people and property.

Ensure Payroll Efficiency
• If it is pertinent, ensure the vendors you will deal with understand how to continue with payroll.
• Partner with your vendors to ensure employee info is stored securely in an off-site location.

Team up with Other Operations
• Group together with other corporations at your building site to prepare for continued business in a weather-induced crisis.
• Reach out to emergency personnel and power companies to show them how your operations are conducted.
• Devise a plan together with your suppliers, shippers and others you rely on so that you will know how to carry on in the event of an emergency.

Keep Up with Your Protection Plans
• Review your plans on how to deal with an emergency situation yearly. Revise them if you feel changes need to be made.
• Conduct consistent emergency drills.
Risk control is part of any major insurance company’s policyholder’s benefits. Contact an independent agency that does direct business with many of the leading providers for more information on how your company can protect itself from a hurricane or other natural disaster.

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/M_Wyzanski/2158115

Flood Insurance, Even in a Non-Flood Zone? You Bet

By M Wyzanski

Record breaking flood waters have emerged following one of the most devastating hurricanes the US has come to know. In fact, in the southeast areas of the lone star state, the majority of homeowners do not even own flood insurance. And who can blame them? There was never a precedent in the locality. Although hail and wind storms are a constant concern for property and business owners, no one imagined that rain waters would contribute to enormous damages as those suffered and broadcast throughout the country in recent days. Surely not the home mortgage companies, for they do not even require it from borrowers!

But now that the toll has risen among the dead and those forced out of their homes seeking shelter, one thing remains clear. When things eventually do settle down, home owners and people in the commercial sector will have to deal with the epic losses and damages on their own because of a lack of related coverage.

For homeowners without flood coverage the facts are uncomfortable, as they are painful: a standard home insurance policy does not protect from floods and the damages related to them. The insurance industry stresses in no uncertain terms that compensation is only provided to those who had the foresight to acquire flood insurance in the event of water damage emanating from atmospheric conditions like a hurricane, a tropical storm or other inclement weather.

A little history about Flood insurance:
The year was 1968 when the US Congress mapped out its flood program. Designed to help assist home and business property owners from the financial ravages of a damaging flood, its policies are offered in all communities that are involved in the rules of participation.

Flood coverage shields property owners or renters from building damage and contents damage.
This includes the following:
• The structure, as well as building foundation
• Electric and plumbing systems
• Central air conditioner, furnace, water heater
• Refrigerator, stoves, and any installed appliances, like a dishwasher
• Carpet that has been installed over bare flooring
• Personal clothing and electronics
• Drapery
• Transportable heaters and air conditioners
• Carpeting other than what is included in the property coverage
• Washers and dryers

Typically, flood recompense claims include:
• Replacement Cost Value: up to eighty percent of the amount needed to replace property damages in a single-family, primary residence
and
• Actual Cost Value – replacement costs at the time of loss reduced by physical depreciation

Note: The flood program always uses actual cost value to determine reimbursement of personal property.

Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/M_Wyzanski/2158115

Note from InsureUS: As a result of Hurricane Harvey and the horrific devastation caused by flooding in Harris and surrounding counties, floodplain maps will likely be revamped in the near future, which means rates for flood insurance could be on the rise. If you believe your home may be in a period that will be on the new floodplain map, NOW is the best time to act on it as the rates will go up after the new maps are created. Call InsureUS today at (281) 640-8888 for your quote.

Hurricane Harvey highlights small business risk

The devastation left by Hurricane Harvey is a good reminder to small business owners that preparing for disaster is essential. The devastation left by Hurricane Harvey is a good reminder to small business owners that preparing for disaster is essential. Catastrophic hurricanes claim close to 40 percent of small businesses, according to FEMA. It can take years for even the most prosperous businesses to recover. Most Mom-and-Pop operations running on the edge never reopen. According to a 2016 study by Harvard Business Review, small and young businesses, already taking big financial risks, are notably unprepared for a disaster such as a hurricane. The study focused on small and young business recovery one year after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Among its findings:

* Many firms were uninsured. Nearly one-third of companies affected by Sandy had no insurance of any kind. Of firms less than five years old, about 60 percent were uninsured. Those that were insured found that their insurance covered none of their losses.

* Businesses increased their debt load when they could. More businesses applied for credit after Sandy than received insurance payments. * Credit was often constrained. Firms unprepared for disaster found that their interest rates went up after Sandy. Smaller firms were unable to secure credit because they did not meet the requirements, according to an informal survey by the New York Daily News.

* Community banks reduced lending. After Sandy, so many households and businesses were affected at once that small banks found loan defaults depleted capital. They were unable to lend. The study concluded that risk analysis had to be made a strategic priority.

September is National Preparedness Month

A few easy steps can prepare for disaster
No part of the country is immune to natural or man-made disasters.

During September, the Department of Homeland Security joins with national, state, and local agencies to encourage Americans to prepare their homes for disasters of all kinds.

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), engaging citizens in disaster preparedness is a critical first step in effective response and recovery efforts.

In other words, if you know what to do when a disaster is predicted, what to do when it occurs, and what to do afterward, you will be in a better position to save yourself and your home before help arrives.

While there are obvious differences in preparing for a hurricane and preparing for a forest fire, there are similarities in preparedness for all types of disasters. You should know where you will go to escape, what your mode of transportation will be, and when you should leave. (It’s never a good idea to let your car be almost out of gas.)

Assemble important documents to take with you including copies of insurance policies, identification, and bank account numbers. Use a waterproof container and include some cash.

It may not be necessary to leave your home. Do what you can in advance of a storm or earthquake to make it safer. Remember the basics of survival: water, food, clean air, and warmth.

Consider the amount of water and non-perishable food your family will need to stay in place without power for at least three or four days. Always have extra batteries for portable radios. Also have a backup battery for cellphones.

Drivers of all ages can increase their comfort, safety

All vehicle drivers should check this advice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Older drivers particularly should check it out.

* Visibility: Be sure your seat is adjusted correctly. Drivers should be able to see at least 10 feet in front of the vehicle. Headlights should be aimed at the roadway. A mechanic can determine if they are aimed and aligned right.

* Check with an ophthalmologist to be sure your eyeglasses are correct.

* If your night vision is less than it once was, drive only during the day. Arrange your activities so you are not caught outside in the dark. You still have your independence, but remember: safety first.

* Ease of entry. When you are having trouble getting in and out of a car with low seats, consider buying a minivan or SUV, which have higher seats. People of all ages should consider this.

* Ease of driving. Almost all cars have power steering today, which takes much less strength to guide the car. An automatic transmission is easier to drive than a stick shift, even if the stick shift is thought to be more sporty.

Many people feel that small cars are easier to drive. If your big car no longer seems comfortable, a smaller car might be right for you.

* Check your medications. Today, the average person takes several, some of which can produce drowsiness, dizziness or nervousness. If you think a medication has one of these effects, ask your doctor for an alternative medicine

Beware dangers of lawn mower fires

The hum of lawn mowers ring through the country in summertime.

Homeowners rarely consider this task dangerous, but the fact is mowers can and do cause fires.

A lawn mower was responsible for a 2015 wildfire in Oregon that cost millions to fight. The fire raged through more than 26,000 acres, threatening 158 homes.

Every summer, mowers are responsible for devastating house fires, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. In 2013, a Virginia homeowner parked a hot mower under a wooden deck. The heat from the mower sparked a fire that rapidly consumed the house.

Fire in lawn mowers is not a commonly acknowledged problem.

Any lawn mower, electric or gas, can catch fire. As with any powerful tool, many things can go wrong. Nearly every mower brand has had a recall due to fire potential. In 2011, John Deere recalled mowers after cooling fans failed, causing a reported 83 fires. Toro recalled its zero-turn mowers in 2013 after an idler pulley rubbing against the fuel tank posed a fire hazard. Craftsman mowers were recalled because of fuel line connections, according to classaction.org.

Fuel hazards are one of the leading causes of fire in gas-powered lawn mowers. Fuel leaking onto the motor can cause a fire. Fuel vapors around a hot muffler also cause fires.

According to Underwriters Laboratory, the exhaust of a mower is 240 degrees and the engine can heat to 200 degrees. A gas cap leak or sloppy fueling can easily spark a fire.

Experts recommend that you fill a mower only when it is cool.

Gas-powered mowers are not the only types responsible for fire. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, this year an electric mower by Hong Kong Sun Rise Trading, was recalled when it was discovered that a short in the circuit board could cause a fire.

Another common cause of fire has nothing to do with the machine itself and everything to do with how it is used. Mowers frequently cause brush fires when tall, dry grass becomes stuck in the mower deck. This grass can get packed into the blazing hot muffler and catch fire. Not only does it burn the machine, but usually sets off a grass or field fire. This could have been the cause of the Oregon wildfire of 2015.

Rock strikes cause fires when the mower’s metal blades, traveling 200 mph at the tip, hit even a tiny rock, causing a spark and igniting dried grass.

Fire experts recommend homeowners wet down dried grass or brush before mowing. An even better idea is to not mow at all in hot, dry, windy weather.

Best practices for using your lawn mower:

* Start mowing near the house and mow outward to create a firebreak.

* Never fuel up a hot mower.

* Replace any leaky gas caps.

* Once you have fueled up, keep the gasoline container at a safe distance.

* Disconnect the spark plug before doing any service on the mower. A spark plug can cause the mower to start unexpectedly.

* Clear rocks from the mowing area.

* Keep the mower clean of fuel.

* Routinely clean out grass from the mower blades with a hose. Never put your hands near the blade unless the spark plug has been disconnected and the unit has completely cooled.

Heat and humidity add up to danger

Emergency rooms see an increase in cases of heat stroke and dehydration in July and August.

The American College of Emergency Physicians gives this advice on how to stay safe in hot weather:

*Check the heat index before going out to work, play or practice and plan accordingly.

*Avoid direct sunlight in the middle of the day. Schedule activities for the early morning or early evening hours.

*Wear loose, light-colored clothes and hats. Dark colors absorb more heat.

*Drink lots of water or sports drinks; about 8 ounces an hour when in the sun in order to avoid dehydration.

*Take frequent breaks in the shade or in air-conditioning to cool off.

Calculate the “apparent temperature” before taking part in activities. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

* At 90 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 96. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 106 degrees. Heat exhaustion is likely, so take it easy.

Heat exhaustion can include cramps, heavy sweating, nausea, heart-rate changes and dizziness. Get the victim out of the sun, remove excess clothing and place cool towels on extremities. Fan and give small sips of water.

* At 95 degrees and 50 percent humidity, it feels like 107 degrees. At 70 percent humidity, it feels like 124 degrees. At that temperature and at any higher temperature or humidity, it is extremely dangerous to be outside and heatstroke could occur.

* At 100 degrees, humidity ranging from 35 percent to 55 percent can cause heat exhaustion. At 100 degrees, humidity of 60 percent or higher puts a person into heat stroke territory.

Heatstroke is a medical emergency. Symptoms include confusion, an altered mental state, unconsciousness and hot, dry skin. Call 911. Do not give fluids, which can cause seizures.

Hurricane Preparedness Week, May 7-13, 2017

There will be trouble. Expect it. Prepare for it.

According to NOAA, on average, 12 tropical storms will form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico during the hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. Six will become hurricanes.

In the Central Pacific Ocean, an average of three tropical storms, two of which become hurricanes, form or move over the area during the hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 each year. During a typical 2-year period, the U.S. coastline is struck by an average of 3 hurricanes, one of which is classified as a major hurricane (winds of 111 mph or greater)

What damage does each category of hurricane cause?

Category 1 – 74-95 mph winds

Don’t take a Cat 1 hurricane lightly. At this wind speed, you may have roof and siding damage. Dead trees will fall; branches will break. Power outages will last for several days.

Prepare: Trim trees, service your generator, make sure you have water, food, and an up to date emergency kit.

Category 2 – 96-110 mph winds.

Downed trees will block roads. Power can be out from days to weeks.

Category 3 – 111-129 mph winds

Expect devastation to buildings. You may lose your roof, gutters and siding. Power will almost certainly be out for at least two weeks. Water will be a problem. Fill bathtubs before the storm to use for flushing toilets and bathing.

Category 4 – 130-156 mph winds

You’ll be evacuated if this storm heads your way. Make plans before hurricane season for a place to stay for a minimum of two weeks. Your house will sustain major structural damage. There will be no water or power. Your pets cannot survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Category 5 – 157 or higher mph winds

Catastrophic. You will be evacuated. After the storm, you will have no place to live. Houses will be reduced to timber. Travel will be impossible for weeks. No water or power for weeks. Not only will you need a place to stay for weeks, you’ll be filing an insurance claim for everything you own. Before the storm, use your smartphone to take a video of your home, room by room. Your pets will not survive this storm. Make plans to take them with you.

Storm surge

Surging waters can be a deadly effect of a hurricane. In Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it was the storm surge that broke levees in New Orleans and caused flooding six to 12 miles from the beach.