After severe storms rocked parts of northern Minnesota in recent weeks, it has become increasingly important for business owners to be aware of what actions should be taken before and after a disaster hits.
 
If a Doppler radar shows a tornado, heavy winds or strong thunderstorm approaching, Minnesota Department of Commerce spokesperson Julia Miller suggests making sure the office space or store is well kept and all valuables are secured before leaving.
 
Additionally, before locking the doors, take pictures of both the interior and exterior of the building. “That way, in case there is damage, you have something recent to compare when filing an insurance claim,” she said.
 
Furthermore, double check what type of damage is covered under the insurance policy for your place of business. “We encourage everyone to talk with their insurance agents to figure out what coverage is appropriate for them,” Miller said. “Because, as a business owner, you don’t want to be either under-insured or over-insured.”
 
In particular, Miller recommends that businesses and property owners look into flood insurance, which is housed under the National Flood Insurance Program, a branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
 
“There are distinctions as to what’s considered a flood and that might not be covered by standard small business insurance,” she said. “And any policies made through the National Flood Insurance Program need to be in place 30 days before an event.”
 
(To find out if your business or property is at risk of being impacted by a flood, and to get an insurance premium quote for your area, click here.)
 
If your office or store is impacted by a severe weather event, the Department of Commerce suggests you document the damage via photo and video and create a list of all property that was lost or affected by the storm. Moreover, if the damage requires your business to temporarily relocate, ask your insurance agent if those expenses are covered as well.
 
The cost of removing fallen trees is generally covered under most insurance policies, according to the state department. However, whether a tree caused damage to your place of business or not can determine if you are covered.
 
Insurance companies will send an adjuster to inspect the damage, per typical policy. Following the inspection, a proof-of-loss form will be provided, which can be used to file a claim with your insurance company.
 
In the meantime, only make temporary repairs to damaged areas and keep receipts for any purchased materials, that way any immediate costs can be reimbursed. “For example, board up broken windows or throw a tarp over a leaky roof,” the state department said. “Do not make permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the damage.”
 
Perhaps one of the biggest concerns business owners should be conscious of are “storm chaser” contractors.
 
“We want to make sure people are aware that there are individuals who descend upon areas immediately after a storm,” Miller said. “The very first thing they should do is check if they are licensed with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. If someone comes up to your door unsolicited in an unmarked van and they don’t have a contractor license number, those are big red flags.”
 
Furthermore, Miller urges business owners to be wary of contractors that use high-pressure sales tactics or require upfront payment. Never pay the full repair bill in advance, but instead when the agreed upon work is completed.
 
For more information about insurance and storm protection, visit the Department of Commerce’s Disaster Information Center website.

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