Tornadoes are one of the most devastating weather events in terms of property damage and potential for injury and loss of life. While tornadoes can occur anywhere, the United States experiences the highest number of any country. As of mid-December 2021, there were over 1,000 confirmed tornadoes in the U.S. including 14 events that resulted in over 125 fatalities. Three-quarters of the year’s total fatalities occurred over a single weekend in December that saw multiple tornado events in five states: Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee. Insurance industry analysts predict that the December 2021 tornado events will be the costliest in U.S. history. Insurance claims for tornado losses have exceeded $10 billion every year since 2008.
Many industries, including self-storage, are significantly impacted by the severe property damage and resulting business interruption caused by tornado activity. Because it is impossible to prevent a tornado, every self-storage operator should take some basic steps to prepare for a tornado-related emergency.
Review Insurance Coverage
The cost of reconstruction (materials and labor) has increased dramatically in the past year, due in large part to pandemic-related shortages. Given that tornado activity can cause severe property damage up to and including total loss, it is wise to address property valuation at your next coverage review with your insurance agent along with considerations such as wind and hail deductibles and other potential out-of-pocket costs. You may also consider establishing a CAT fund in which to set aside funds earmarked to pay out-of-pocket costs that may result from a catastrophic loss.
Assemble an Emergency Kit
It is critical that you assemble emergency supplies and equipment so they are on hand and available in the event of a tornado. In addition to a first aid kit, basic emergency supplies may include water and non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, whistles, battery- or crank-powered radios, blankets, extra clothing, hand and power tools, and plastic tarps. You may wish to have a supply of cash on hand for food, supplies, and paying employees or contractors. It is also an excellent idea to store a copy of important documents in an off-site location such as insurance policy numbers and contact information for employees, customers, and vendors.
Plan to Shelter In Place
If a tornado strikes during business hours, your employees and customers may be forced to shelter in place. Create a written plan and communicate its contents to your staff so they are ready to act if necessary.
Know the Warning Signs
The warning signs of a tornado include an unusual greenish or black color in the sky, heavy rain or hail followed by either dead calm or an intense wind shift, a visible funnel cloud, a loud continuous rumble that does not fade away quickly, and an intense ongoing sound that some describe as sounding like a waterfall, freight train, or jet. Pay close attention to news reports about tornado warnings and sightings and take immediate action when needed to ensure the safety of employees and customers that may be on site.
One of MiniCo’s carriers, Liberty Mutual Insurance, has prepared a detailed tornado action plan that you may download by visiting www.minico.com/tornadoplan. Additional resources are available at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website http://www.ready.gov.
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