Mr. Dahm


A Disaster Preparedness Guide: How to Plan Before, During & After an Event

By Richard Dahm, Senior Risk Consultant, National Hospitality Division, Wells Fargo Insurance Services

In the last five years the United States and countries around the world have witnessed many major natural disasters. Such disasters include hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis, severe windstorms and catastrophic flood damage that have left businesses, large and small, unable to recoup from their loss. Damage assessments by risk management and loss control specialists find to often preventative measures could have been implemented that would in part or significantly reduce the overall cost of a claim or the length of recovery time. The intent of this guide is to help business owners in the planning process for preparing and implementing an emergency plan. One that is activated before, during, and after an event.


  • Develop an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and an Emergency Response Team (ERT). If you do not have one, consult your insurance broker or Risk Consultant to help with the implementation.

  • Members of the ERT should understand their specific roles and the overall goal and procedures outlined in the EAP. Members (with alternatives to cover all hours of operation) should also be trained to carry out their specified responsibilities.

  • The ERT leader should have authority to implement the EAP based on predetermined benchmarks.

  • Responsibilities should include when to shut down operations and send personnel home.

  • Identify all critical areas of the facility, including general conditions of their buildings i.e. roof covering, roof flashing and drainage openings. Someone on all shifts should be trained and authorized to implement the shutdown procedures.

  • Update a list of all relevant telephone numbers and contact information for ERT members, civil authorities, etc.

  • The ERT should have the ability to monitor TV/radio or internet, to stay informed of weather conditions and issuance of watches and/or warnings.

  • Ordering or Storing Emergency Supplies - Remember that in a natural disaster supplies may not always be available. Plan ahead for your emergency needs. If possible store items such as plywood, storm shutters and sandbags at your facility. If you are not able to store them, contract with a company to reserve the materials in an emergency situation.

  • Test all generators, emergency lighting, UPS equipment and sump pumps on a monthly basis to ensure proper operations.

  • Provide for backup communications. Confirm that all cell phones and two way communication devices are charged. In some instances companies may want to have a satellite phone available. In larger disasters it may be impossible to have any ability to contact local emergency response units due to the size of damage.

  • Arrange for an off-site emergency communications center.

  • Determine which company records and equipment are vital to the operations and have a plan to protect and relocate them. Contract with a storage facility outside of your area (at least 90 miles from your facility) for reserved space in the event of a disaster.

  • Identify key equipment and stock that requires protection with tarpaulins and waterproof covers. In addition, be sure to secure all outside or roof mounted equipment from detaching from your facility. Anything that can be additionally strapped down will lesson the chances of becoming projectiles to you or your neighbors facilities.


  • Emergency response personnel should remain on site only if it is safe to do so.
  • Implement EAP.
  • Check al fire protection equipment including sprinkler systems, control valves and fire pumps.
  • Remain indoors and identify the safest location to stay during the height of the event.
  • Continuously monitor the property for roof leaks, pipe breaks, fire, or structural damage.
  • During a power loss, shut down electrical switches to prevent system reactivation without the necessary system checks performed.
  • Power outage - fuel all fire pumps, generators, company vehicles and or battery packs at the start of an event.
  • Install hurricane shutters or plywood over windows and doors
  • Remove any and all equipment or finished goods from floor
  • If possible, shut off all utilities to reduce possibility of fire or explosion.
  • Cover all computers, machinery and supplies with tarpaulins or plastic bags


  • Secure the site and survey the damage. Take pictures of any damage to both the building and contents

  • Evaluate and address all safety hazards (i.e. live wires, leaking gas, flammable liquids, etc.).

  • Repair fire protection system if it has been impaired.

  • Inspect bus bars, conductors, and insulators before starting system. If necessary, have system inspected by an electrician.

  • After site is deemed "safe", call in key personnel and contractors to begin repairs.

  • Take steps to perform temporary repairs (i.e. roofs, clean drains, windows, separate damaged goods from undamaged goods, etc.) to mitigate your damage. If you are able to safely fix or reduce losses, it is important that you expedite any and all situations as soon as possible. Most insurance companies will reimburse the client for any cost that would reduce the insurance company from having to pay out additional or higher claims. (Please note to keep any and all receipts) Please review your insurance policies for the "Expiditing Expenses".

  • Re-start operation if possible.

  • Contact your risk manager, broker and/or insurance company if you have sustained damage. The quicker you can contact your insurance company the more likely that you will be able to reduce the loss time of the claim.


  • Develop an emergency action plan (EAP) and emergency response team (ERT). As noted above.

  • Inspect all dikes and floodwalls. Ensure all flood doors, gates, and sump pumps are operational.

  • Clear storm drains and check back-flow valves.

  • Repair all building openings.

  • Anchor above ground tanks and drums.

  • Relocate hazardous materials to a pre-designated area.

  • Remove all movable equipment, stock, and vehicles to higher ground.

  • Identify any electrical equipment (i.e. motors, switches, computers, etc.) that can be deactivated and relocated from the impact zone.

  • Schedule a designated time to shut off of gas service, de-energize electrical service, and shut down boilers.


  • Secure the site and survey the damage.

  • Evaluate and address all safety hazards (i.e. live wires, leaking gas, flammable liquids, etc.).

  • Remove standing water.

  • Activate fire protection system after inspecting components and contacting the fire department for instructions.

  • Inspect bus bars, conductors, and insulators before starting system. Re-energize system after it has been inspected by an electrician. It should be assumed that any intrusion of water to electrical equipment may have caused serious damage.

  • After site is deemed "safe", call in key personnel and contractors to begin repairs.

  • Contact utility companies for information relative to your access to gas and electrical services.

  • Take steps to perform temporary repairs (i.e. roofs, clean drains, windows, separate damaged goods from undamaged goods, etc.) to mitigate your damage.

  • Retain moisture control contractor to identify and control the spread of moisture, bacteria, mold, etc.

  • Start salvage and cleaning operations immediately.

  • Re-start operation if possible.

  • Document your damages with photos, etc.

  • Contact your risk manager, broker and/or insurance company if you have sustained damage



  • Office Phone:

  • Cell Phone:

  • Fax Number:

Property Insurer:

  • Policy Number:

  • Claim Reporting Phone Number:

  • Claim Reporting Fax Number:

If Applicable:

  • Flood Insurer:

  • Flood Policy Number:

  • Claim Reporting Phone Number:

  • Claim Reporting Fax Number:

  • Additional Insurers: (i.e. specific wind policies, wind buy back policies, etc.)

  • Policy Numbers:

  • Claim Reporting Numbers:

Information needed to report a claim:

  • Insurer and policy number

  • Address of loss

  • Brief description of damages and date/time incurred:

  • Contact information for adjuster (provide phone number and cell number if applicable). Always secure a claim/reference number from your insurer when you report your claim.

After the disaster has occurred and the claim is reported:

  • Document your damages with photos, estimates, etc.

  • Whenever possible, make temporary/emergency repairs to mitigate or prevent further damages, as required by your policy.

  • Make sure your adjuster is properly licensed.

  • Hire licensed, insured, and reputable contractors to perform work.

  • Maintain your own copies of all receipts and invoices relating to your loss.

It is important to have a game plan for all emergencies. If you or your organization is uncertain of where to start this process, start by taking the basic points indicated in this article and map out the responsibilities of your organization. This will allow you to better understand your operations and better identify the key people that you will need when an emergency arises. Second, consult outside advice. Whether it's an outside risk consultant or your Insurance Broker, having a second opinion will help to trouble shoot anything your organization might not have anticipated. Third, practice what you preach. While it is important to have a plan, it is only effective if you practice for an emergency. Lastly, understand that no plan is full proof. The greatest preparation can always leave us in an unforeseen circumstance. The key to overcoming this obstacle is being proactive in your preparedness.

Richard Dahm, Jr. is senior risk consultant for the National Hospitality Division of Wells Fargo Insurance Services, Clearwater, Florida. His expertise includes property, restaurant/hotel facilities, and risk management. He holds a BA in management from Eckerd College and an MBA from DeVry University. Richard is a member of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. Mr. Dahm's knowledge, coupled with his professional staff of claims, safety, and marketing professionals enables him to provide hospitality executives with consultation that reduces insurance risks and premiums. Mr. Dahm can be contacted at 800-282-3343 Ext: 5436 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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