What Causes Hotel Claims and How to Prevent Them
By Philip J Harvey President, Venture Insurance Programs | November 01, 2015
As you well know, Legionnaires' disease has reared its coughing, aching head this year. Generally, we see one or two cases of Legionnaires' in hotels every eight to 10 years. Yet there have been at least three outbreaks in the Northeast and Southeast United States this year. A new outbreak was just reported in the South Bronx.
We have reason to believe there will be more Legionnaires' outbreaks in coming years. Not only is the recent spike in cases worrisome, but some experts believe the effects of climate change may encourage the spread of the legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires'.
This respiratory infection puts older and immune-compromised hotel guests in serious danger-quite the opposite outcome a hotel manager would hope for a guest's stay. It can also be a costly loss for your hotel if an infected guest files suit. Like any bacterial disease, it is difficult to halt the transmission of the legionella bacteria entirely. But your hotel must mitigate the risk and the costs of a potential outbreak.
Proper maintenance of cooling towers, fountains and other areas of standing water is critical; these can become breeding grounds for legionella if not maintained properly. Put a maintenance schedule in place and stick to it. This not only helps to prevent outbreaks of disease, but also helps defend you in the event that an outbreak draws an insurance claim. You will then have records that demonstrate your due diligence.
If your hotel does experience a Legionnaires' outbreak, you must follow an emergency response plan. This should include identifying the source of the outbreak (cooling tower, hot tub, etc.), taking steps to stem the spread of the disease and having a public relations plan for communicating with guests, employees and the public.
The past two starkly cold winters in the U.S. have raised another maintenance concern: frozen pipes. When pipes freeze and burst, the resulting water leak can cause extensive damage, resulting in insurance claims from Maine to Georgia.