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Insurance tips offered for small businesses

Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is sharing insurance advice with small business owners across Ohio to assist them in understanding their insurance coverage provisions as they recover from the recent severe weather that blanketed the state.

“The first step for business owners who suffered an interruption in service and damaged products and property is to get in touch with their insurance agent,” Taylor said. “They will be able to assist in sorting out the particulars of the policy and help you get back on your feet.”

Taylor added that if business owners incurred damage they should collect copies of receipts for equipment, furniture and other valuable items and photos of the property to share with their agent.

Taylor offered the following insurance information for small business owners impacted by recent severe weather:


Property Insurance

Property insurance typically covers for damage or theft of the physical property and equipment of the small business.

If you own the physical structure of your business address, your property insurance should cover both the structure and its other assets.

If you lease the space you occupy, you are likely responsible for insuring your personal property/contents. As a leaseholder, you should have a contingency plan in case your landlord or your landlord’s insurer is not able to promptly repair the building where your business is located.

Business Interruption

Business interruption insurance covers lost earnings due to circumstances stated in the policy – such as weather or fire – that shut down a business for an extended period.

Certain events will trigger this insurance that generally covers expenses associated with running your business, such as payroll and utility bills, based on your company’s financial records.

Benefits under this kind of coverage may not be payable for a certain number of days after the business interruption has occurred. Make sure you have sufficient funds to tide you over for that time.

The insurance may also help pay for the extra expenses to keep your business in operation until you recover.

Taylor also shared this information to assist business owners in preparing for potential future severe weather or natural disasters:

General Planning

Is your business ready for disaster?

Do you have an emergency response plan for employees and customers?

Do you have copies of important papers and information stored off site?

Does the information include: receipts, photos, insurance policies, contact details for your agent or company, employee roster, etc.?

These documents will assist you when you file a claim later.

Minimize your insurance risks by:

Installing fire and security alarms.

Planning and training employees for emergencies on the premises, such as fires and evacuations.

Having employees keep wallets and other personal items in a secure place. Keeping the business’ cash and other valuables in a safe.

Keeping office space in good physical condition.

Review your insurance needs and your current policies:

Are your policies up-to-date with your insurance coverage needs and are the limits for each coverage at a level that protects your investment?

The Office of the Ohio Treasurer recently announced businesses that suffered damage can apply to obtain up to a three percent interest rate reduction on new or existing loans for construction or to improve cash flow through the Ohio Treasury’s Renew Ohio & Rebuild Ohio emergency financing programs.

Taylor issues statewide directive to assist storm victims

Ohio residents affected by the recent severe weather are getting relief when it comes to deadlines for paying their insurance premiums.

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor issued a bulletin on Monday, July 2, 2012 to Ohio insurance companies asking them to be patient when receiving late insurance premium payments from those who are trying to recover.

“Thanks to cooperation from Ohio’s insurance community, we are giving residents some additional relief so that they can focus on cleaning up and repairing their properties instead of worrying about a pending insurance premium payment,” Taylor said.

This request to insurers derives from the Federal Emergency Declaration for the state due to storms that occurred on June 29, 2012 and is applicable to all Ohioans who have experienced a loss.

The bulletin, 2012-02, states that insurance companies are to give those who have been directly impacted by the storms 60 days from the date the premium was due to pay their premiums, interest free. The bulletin expires on September 30, 2012.

The full bulletin and a Severe Weather Recovery Toolkit, which includes information about how to safeguard your property, vehicle and possessions, tips on the claims filing process, FAQS about windstorm damage and insurance, and tips on protecting yourself from a deceitful contractor, are available on the Department’s website, www.insurance.ohio.gov.

Taylor shares insurance claim tips to help those impacted by severe weather

Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is advising Ohioans impacted by recent severe weather on how they should attend to damaged property and offered tips on the insurance claim filing process. Taylor also cautioned residents to beware of fraudulent contractors trying to take advantage of people in need of property repairs.

“We want to provide information to help those impacted understand the insurance claim filing process so they can get their lives back in order,” Taylor said. “Most homeowners and business insurance policies provide coverage for repairing damage caused by a windstorm, hail and tornado after the applicable deductibles are met and up to certain dollar amounts. Your agent or insurance company can help you understand the particulars of your policy while Department staff are available to help consumers experiencing problems with their claims.”

She added that protection for vehicles against damage caused by windstorm, hail and tornado is provided through an auto policy’s “other than collision” or “comprehensive” coverage. The Department has created a Severe Storm Recovery Toolkit under the Featured Links section on its website, http://www.insurance.ohio.gov. It includes claims filing tips, FAQs about windstorms and insurance, and tips on how to avoid a deceitful contractor.

Taylor said that if you have suffered damage from a storm, you should:
• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can.
• Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim.
• Back up claims with written estimates.
Taylor offers these tips to avoid becoming a victim of contractor fraud:
• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance carrier, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.

Taylor encourages Ohioans to plan ahead of spring severe weather season

COLUMBUS – Ohio Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor, in conjunction with Spring Severe Weather Awareness Week, March 25-31, is asking people to prepare ahead of the volatile spring weather season in Ohio, capable of producing thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes.

“Now is a good time for Ohioans to review their insurance policies with their agent to ensure they have appropriate protection against financial loss in the unfortunate event they would have to file a claim,” Taylor said. “I also encourage anyone with questions about their insurance coverage to call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526 for free assistance.”

Taylor stressed to start an insurance review now, particularly when considering the need for flood insurance, which is not included in a typical homeowner’s insurance policy. Flood insurance is made available by a federal program and is purchased through an insurance agent. There is a 30-day waiting period before coverage provided by flood insurance becomes effective. In addition, Taylor said to ask your insurance agent about whether coverage for damage caused by a back-up of sewers or drains is available and appropriate to add to your homeowners insurance policy.

Advance Insurance Planning Tips:

• Be sure you have adequate insurance coverage and deductibles that are reasonable for your needs.
• Damage caused by rain, hail, lightning and tornado are generally covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy and an auto insurance policy’s “comprehensive” or “other than collision” coverage.
• Call the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) at 1-888-379-9531 or visit www.floodsmart.gov to learn more about flood insurance.
• A recent study by the National Association of Insurance Commissions (NAIC) revealed 59 percent of Americans do not have a home inventory of their possessions. Visit www.insureuonline.org/home_inventory_page for a home inventory checklist and to download it on your smart phone. Keep your detailed written inventory, supplemented with photographs or a videotape, off-premises in a safety deposit box, or another secure location.

Post Storm Recovery and Insurance Tips:

• Call your insurance agent or company as soon as you can. Be sure your agent knows how to contact you, especially if you have to move out of your home.
• Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage if permitted by public safety authorities and if you will not endanger yourself.
• Closely inspect property and cars for damage. Note and photograph any damage.
• If required to seek temporary housing, check your homeowner’s insurance policy for “loss of use” coverage.
• Be sure everything is considered in your claim. Back up claims with written estimates.

How to Avoid Contractor Fraud:

• Obtain a list of reputable contractors from your insurance company, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization.
• Contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.
• Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.
• If you give a contractor permission to inspect your property, personally watch them conduct the inspection.
• Obtain, in writing, the terms and conditions of the project.
• Avoid signing a contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a trusted adviser.
• Pay the contractor by check or credit card, rather than in cash, and do not pay in full until all work has been finished.

Ohioans with insurance questions can call the Department’s consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526. Those who have been victimized by contractor fraud should contact the Department’s fraud hotline at 1-800-686-1527. Visit the severe weather toolkit at www.insurance.ohio.gov for more information or follow the Department on twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance.

Don’t be caught in the cold, get ready for winter

(PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OHIO COMMITTEE FOR SEVERE WEATHER AWARENESS)

A freak October snowstorm that dumped up to 32 inches of snow on the New England states two weeks ago was responsible for 29 deaths and caused power outages to 2 million people. Ohio hasn’t seen snow yet this season, but with overnight temperatures dipping in the 30s, and chilly, frosty mornings, we know that winter is on its way. The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA) encourages everyone to take the time now to prepare themselves and their homes for the upcoming season.

In a coordinated effort with OCSWA, Governor John R. Kasich has proclaimed November 13-19 as Ohio’s Winter Safety Awareness Week. This is an ideal time for homes, schools, businesses and organizations to update their safety plans and disaster supply kits and prepare for winter-related incidents.

“Don’t let winter catch you off-guard. Winterize your homes and vehicles now, before the first major snowfall hits,” said Nancy Dragani, executive director of the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. “Heavy snow and ice can bring down power lines for days. So, get ready now, just in case. Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Ensure you have enough stored food and water to supply your family for several days. Review your emergency plans. Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio to be notified of storm watches and warnings in your area.”

To help prepare for the upcoming winter months, OCSWA recommends the following:

Prepare your home for winter. Cut and remove low-hanging and dead tree branches. Ice, snow and strong winds can cause tree limbs to break and fall. Have your gutters cleaned. Snow and ice can build up quickly if gutters are clogged with debris. Have auxiliary heaters, furnaces and fireplaces maintenance checked or serviced before using. If using a portable generator, read instructions thoroughly to guard against carbon monoxide poisoning. Review your homeowner’s insurance policy; consider your need for flood insurance.

Prepare winter disaster kits for the home and vehicle. Refresh stored nonperishable foods and bottled water. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and radios. Winter emergency kits should include warm clothing, blankets, flashlights, new batteries, coats, hats, gloves, a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio, first aid kit, and enough nonperishable food and water (one gallon per person, per day) to sustain each family member for at least three days. Have stored food, bottled water and supplies for your pets, as well.

Invest in a NOAA Public Alert/Weather Radio. Every home, school and business should have a tone-alert weather radio with a battery back-up. Weather and public alert radios are programmed to automatically sound an alert during public safety and severe weather events. Click on www.weather.gov/nwr/ for additional information.

Update your disaster preparedness plans. Every home, school, business and organization should have written plans for the different types of disasters that can occur. Review the plans with the entire family or staff. Everyone should know what to do in the event of a snow or ice storm, a prolonged power outage, a flood or fire. Post contact information for your local emergency management agency. Prepare and practice drills that require sheltering in place and evacuation. Update your emergency contact list and establish a meeting place outside of the home, school or business, where others will know where to find or meet you.

The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness is an advocate for emergency preparedness and is comprised of representatives from the American Red Cross; Emergency Management Association of Ohio; National Weather Service; Hands On, Central Ohio; Ohio Department of Public Safety-Emergency Management Agency; Ohio Insurance Institute: Ohio News Network; Ohio Department of Commerce – State Fire Marshal; and the Ohio Departments of Aging, Education, Health, Insurance, Natural Resources, and Transportation.
For additional information on winter weather safety and severe weather preparedness, visit OCSWA’s site at www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.