More than half of the most expensive hurricanes in the United States occurred between August 2004 and October 2005 causing more than 80 billion in damages. There have been no major hurricanes in Louisiana recently but do not let that discourage your vigilance. As we head into the peak months of hurricane season, now is the time to take action.
BEFORE THE HURRICANE
Check with local builders to see if new advances in the construction industry can benefit your building with additional protection.
Contact our office to get a clear understanding of what coverage is provided for hurricanes on your policy. Be aware of your wind-hail deductible if your policy includes such, to know the church’s financial exposure on a hurricane loss.
Make an inventory list of the contents in your buildings including photographs or video. Keep off site in a secure location. Claim settlement on contents losses require YOUR CHURCH to tell us what was destroyed – an inventory can resolve this issue quickly. This eliminates the possibility of you overlooking items that may be stored, or not used often. Our office can provide a contents inventory template if needed.
Locate safe areas inside your facility (interior rooms with no windows, closets, etc.). Every church needs a “lock-down” area to move their congregation into should the worst happen – active shooter, tornado bearing down on the building, etc. An area that is lockable, preferably with no windows is desirable and as near the center of the building as possible.
Maintain a supply of hurricane survival kits for your congregation size – if you are stuck in the church after a storm, this provides necessities to survive several days. FEMA provides a detailed list of recommended items.
Locate water, gas, and electrical shutoffs. Cover windows, doors, and wall openings with ¾ inch exterior plywood if a hurricane watch is issued. Research the emergency evacuation plan for the surrounding community.
DURING THE HURRICANE
If local authorities advise you to evacuate, leave immediately and follow their instructions. Use a NOAA weather radio to stay informed and updated on storm developments.
Have a preplanned evacuation route and outlined maps. Inform your congregation using any communication method available of evacuation routes. This will benefit those with no access to radio or an information source.
Communicate with others where you are going. Not all church members have family in the area, or even in the state. Write down where members are going if forced to evacuate. This will help family locate their loved ones after the storm.
If evacuation is not possible, stay in safe areas, indoors with all interior doors closed. Stay away from doors and windows.
AFTER THE HURRICANE
Report the claim to our agency if storm damage.
Before entering a building, inspect the outside for structural damage. Do not enter if it looks unsafe or you are unsure about the structural condition of the building. If safe to enter, make a thorough inspection for damage and potential hazards on the inside. Photo and video your walk-through.
When entering a building, ONLY use battery powered flashlights or lanterns. Avoid using anything with an open flame as there may be gas trapped inside.
Do not turn on the air conditioner or electrical system until it has been inspected.
After taking photos of any damage you find, make temporary repairs to protect the property from further damage. Cover all holes, exposing the building to the elements, with a tarp or plastic sheeting.
As you begin repairs, require a certificate of insurance for all contractors hired. Keep all receipts for all expenses.
After the storm, many churches lend a helping hand and use their facility as an emergency shelter. There are certain considerations to make when deciding if your church is equipped to house disaster victims such as adequate showers, bathrooms, changing stations, sleeping/living space, medical attention, and security. Follow up with our office to find out if you have coverage for an emergency shelter or with any other questions or concerns.
Sources: Church Mutual, Insurance Information Institute, GuideOne, SafeChurch