2020 has likely been one of the most challenging years most business owners have faced. In March, states starting closing down non-essential businesses due to the spread of coronavirus in the U.S.
Then, even when businesses could reopen in many places, there were still fears about potentially getting sick, which likely impacted revenue.
Those situations were further compounded by massive civil unrest in cities like Portland, Seattle, New York, and Chicago.
Businesses are struggling just to keep their doors open during these challenging times.
Many business owners also hoped to rely on their business interruption insurance to cover losses from coronavirus and civil unrest. What they’ve found is that they’re not always as covered as they thought they were, at least under business interruption insurance.
The following are some things to know for businesses right now, particularly as it pertains to dealing with civil unrest and looting.
Will Your Insurance Cover You?
In many states as a business owner, you’re required to carry commercial property insurance which covers buildings and personal and business property.
Commercial property insurance will usually cover specified perils, which are losses outlined and can include damage from vandalism. All-risk commercial property insurance covers all other losses except what’s named as exclusions.
Coverage for riots and associated damage is usually policy-specific, so you will need to look at what your policy outlines. In some instances, businesses purchase separate policies to make sure they have coverage for unrest.
Business interruption insurance may cover cases of civil unrest too because it’s for physical property damage causing an interruption to your business. For COVID-19 losses, on the other hand, your business interruption policy may not cover you.
If you suffer physical damage to your business, your business interruption policy might provide coverage for things like lost business income, commercial rent when your property isn’t usable, relocation expenses, and employee wages.
If you have physical damage resulting from riots and your insurance is saying they won’t cover you, it might be a good idea to speak with an attorney.
If you’re making a claim, there are a few key things to remember.
First, you should do whatever you can to secure your business against further loss, if you are impacted. Your insurance may cover the costs to secure your business.
You should report your claims immediately after you sustain a loss due to civil unrest. You are likely required under your insurance to report the situation to law enforcement as well.
As you spend to secure your property or deal with damages, track your expenses.
Whenever you speak with an insurance agent, adjuster, or anyone from the company, document who you spoke to, the date, and what was said.
If you need to hire a contractor to help you repair damages, only hire someone who’s licensed.
Assess For Areas of Vulnerability
If your business hasn’t already been affected by looting or riots, but you’re worried it could be, start by going over your insurance policies carefully.
Then, start to assess your physical business to see where you could be vulnerable.
You may want to check the businesses surrounding your own property, alleys, streets, and parking areas.
Where are the areas you are most at-risk?
If your business does become a target, you also want to make sure that you’ve removed your assets from the property.
You can post signs that valuables have been removed, and while this isn’t a 100% guarantee that looters will pass you by, it’s worth trying. You can also post a sign indicating you’re a small or local business, and make sure that you take all of your expensive items out of the store temporarily.
Take down window displays, and depending on what’s happening in your area, board up your windows.
If you’re in a big city, you might invest in window bars, and there are some you can install yourself.
Use Security Tools Already Available to You
There are likely security tools you’re already using in your business, so start by relying heavily on those.
For example, make sure you lock your doors, including during business hours if you think this is best.
If you have security cameras, always have them operational and turned in the right direction. Having visible security cameras can be a deterrent to would-be looters.
If something does happen, you can also use the footage as evidence.
If you record security footage, save it to the cloud. That’s more security than having physical recordings that can potentially be lost or destroyed.
Beyond the security you may already have, think about investing if more security if you’re in a high-risk location.
You might upgrade to new advanced surveillance video technology.
You could also hire a security guard, particularly if there’s an impending situation that you’re specifically worried about.
Some small business owners will work with one another and pool their resources and then have guards protect their block or their street.
Participate in Community Groups and Talk to Other Business Owners
The stronger your local community is, the better off you are in situations of social unrest. If there are community groups or you can get together with other business owners, do it. Connect and find ways to help each other and stay informed.
Don’t Try to Deal with Looters On Your Own
It’s devastating to think of your small business being destroyed, but you can’t deal with the situation on your own, and you shouldn’t try. It can be incredibly dangerous, and you, one of your employees or someone else could get hurt.
You also run the risk of escalating things to the point that you make your business more of a target.
You can hire a trained guard who specifically knows how to deter looters, or you can do your best to secure the premises and your physical assets.
When you fear looting or civil unrest could affect your business, it’s emotionally, physically, and financially draining. Do the best you can to stay proactive, but also safe.