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With hurricane season quickly approaching, human resources professionals should prepare their organizations’ emergency plans now to ensure employees stay updated with crucial information and support, and to make sure business stays on track in the event we’re faced with another storm this summer.

Here’s a checklist organizations can use to prepare for Hurricane Season:

Share Disaster Plans & Emergency Resources Early

In anticipation of a natural disaster, HR leaders are often responsible for setting up communication plans and sharing information so that individual employees can prepare. Some recommended resources to share with those who may be impacted include:

  • National Hurricane Center’s Hurricane Preparedness Guidelines
  • Department of Homeland Security’s Emergency Kit and Supply Checklist
  • Local Evacuation Shelter Information & Maps (including resources for pets)


Test Your Ability to Contact Employees During/After a Disaster, and Vice Versa

It is critical to encourage employees to update their emergency contact information in the organization’s system to ensure you have up-to-date phone numbers and other pertinent details on hand. At Gulfshore Insurance, we activate a secondary disaster hotline for employees only that allows us to convey critical messages before, during, and after a storm. If employees have cellular service, then they are able to call in to receive timely updates on the agency’s status of operations. A phone tree is another widely used method for communicating with employees, particularly if your organization has more than a handful of employees.

Consider an Alternative When Cell Service Becomes Difficult

While cell phone towers may go down and access to the internet or SMS capabilities may be affected, texting may provide one of the best options for staying in touch. Many organizations utilize an SMS instant-messaging system that allows them to notify employees about operations and other pertinent details. As such, it is important to remind employees about the need for extended batteries and backups in order to effectively use this system.

Extend Deadlines, Alert Vendors, and Pre-Schedule Remote Check-Ins

Business, of course, goes on in the rest of the world and deadlines still loom. If you have any vendors outside the affected areas with employee deadlines you should start working with them to get an extension. Leadership and operations teams may want to pre-schedule call-in times and provide access to a conference line. The calls will allow you to effectively plan for business continuity and report on efforts to check in with your employees.

Consider an Advance Payroll

Many of the activities HR teams will need to address in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster will, in some instances, be things that have been prepared for ahead of time. As employees get back in touch, additional needs will be identified, but access to payroll funds and cash, as well as a sense of job security, are often uppermost in the minds of staff members. The first paycheck after a storm can be is critical for employees. Remember that if extreme power outages occur, not only will banks be closed, but ATMs will probably not work either–cash is king!

Be Flexible with Attendance and Time Off Policies

Employees who have been displaced from their homes or have evacuated entirely may be anxious about job continuity even as they’re struggling with basics like getting access to food, shelter, gas, and clothing. Part of the communication prior to the weather event will ideally have provided employees with clarity around items such as pay continuity, use of PTO, or flexibility in the company’s attendance policies. As employees return to work, whenever that may be, they’ll still be dealing with numerous aftereffects. Providing consideration for additional time-off without penalty will be important to employees who must keep appointments with insurance adjustors, rebuild their homes, or find new living arrangements; this time may be with or without pay as appropriate and in alignment with the Fair Labor Standards Act for employers in the U.S.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was one for the record books, and as people prepare for what the upcoming hurricane season brings, they may notice changes that the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is making. This year, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) is making some changes in regards to the upcoming hurricane season:

1. Adjustments to the official hurricane track maps
One of the biggest changes this hurricane season will be adjustments to the NHC’s hurricane track map. When the NHC issues a track for a tropical system, the map includes what is known as the cone of uncertainty. For the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, the cone will be smaller than it has been in past years. This will give the public a better idea of where the center of the storm is headed in the coming days.

2. Experimental wind maps will become official
In 2017, the NHC introduced an experimental map to help convey to the public when strong winds would arrive at a given location. These experimental maps showed the expected arrival time of tropical storm-force winds in 6- to- 12-hour increments extending out five days out. Not only should preparations be complete by the time these strong winds arrive, but anyone that is evacuating should have left the area as traveling in tropical-storm-force winds can be extremely dangerous. After going through a test run in the 2017 season, the NHC has decided to make these maps fully operational for the upcoming season.

3. Advisories will include potential impacts farther in advance
Whenever there is an active tropical system, the NHC issues a public advisory that includes information about all aspects of the storm, such as current winds, expected storm surge and the precise location of the system’s center. In past years, these advisories only discussed the given tropical system for the next two days, limiting the amount of log-range details about the storm. However, starting this year, these advisories will contain information that talks about hazards as far as five days in advance.

Hurricane Irma’s historic size and impact have been felt throughout the state. In addition to its impact on Floridians and their property, Hurricane Irma has the potential to impact your insurance after the fact. It is important to make sure you have the proper coverage in place before accepting projects outside your normal scope of operations; leasing and operating new equipment; or hiring new sub-contractors.

Below are several important post Hurricane Irma considerations to make.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: Employees may be working extensive overtime hours or you may be hiring temporary sub-contractors.

  • Consider increasing payroll exposures now so your work comp audit is not negatively impacted at year end. Be sure to break out overtime pay so that at the time of the premium audit, the auditor will be able to discount it back to straight time. If the auditor cannot readily break out the overtime portion, it will be used in calculating the premium.
  • If hiring temporary workers or sub-contractors, make sure those workers have insurance and obtain proof of coverage. If hiring a subcontractor who does not have workers’ compensation coverage or it gets cancelled and one of the sub’s employees gets hurt, the responsibility for that injury can fall to you. This will ultimately impact your work comp experience mod and insurance premium. It’s the same situation when hiring an exemption holder.­ If that exemption expires and the subcontractor does not renew it in a timely fashion, that sub is no longer exempt.­ If he/she is hurt on the job, a claim can be filed against your company to cover the injury.­ To quickly look up the status of a sub-contractor’s work comp insurance, you can do so here: Search for Proof of Compliance
  • If undertaking or bidding projects outside of your normal scope of operations ensure you are aware of the appropriate class codes and rates for that work.  Workers’ Compensation class codes are specific to the type of work being performed, and the rates can vary greatly.  New or complimentary operations often require additional class codes being added to your WC policy.  Make sure you’re aware if the new class code comes with a higher rate, so there will be no surprises at the year-end audit.

 

EQUIPMENT FLOATERS & INLAND MARINE: Leasing & operating temporary equipment could put you at risk. 

  • If you lease temporary equipment, then you should verify the limits of your insurance coverage and possibly increase your coverage limits.
  • Unusual equipment often requires special coverage. In addition, renting equipment with an operator will require proof of insurance for the operator as well. Some equipment, such as cranes or lift trucks with large booms require special coverage and needs to be discussed with your Account Manager or Client Advisor to ensure it is properly covered for weight of load, tipping, etc.
  • In addition, if you are renting a crane with an operator, the rental company should be providing the coverage – for the equipment, employee (workers’ comp), and any associated general liability for operating the crane. Be sure to review the rental agreement with your Client Advisor or Account Manager to make sure that you are protected and that you obtain proof of coverage from the crane company.

 

MOLD: Do not end up with a mold-related lawsuit; have the proper coverage in place. 

  • With hurricane related water damage, inevitably comes mold. If you become involved in any mold mitigation projects, make sure to have proper pollution and professional coverage in place. Without it, you will not be covered against claims from removal, disposal, or cleanup work.

 

GENERAL LIABILITY: Policy exclusions may impact the scope of work you are taking on.  

  • For companies that have never worked on residential projects and might be taking on that type of work following Hurricane Irma, it is important to note that you may have policy exclusions that restrict your coverage.  Sub-contractors may also have exclusions to their policies for residential, condo, or multi-family work, so it’s critical to verify there are none of these exclusions on your or your sub-contractors’ General Liability policy, prior to performing any of this work.

 

It is important to discuss these considerations with your trusted Client Advisor or Account Manager at Gulfshore Insurance to ensure you have the proper protection. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this information, please contact us. We are here to assist you and happy to answer any questions you have.

“Call for the generator and kick into business continuity alert mode – a category 5 storm is expected to hit Naples on Thursday.” Word of a Hurricane spread quickly, but did not come from the National Hurricane Center or The Weather Channel. Rather, Gulfshore Insurance announced internally that “a three-day agency-wide disaster preparedness drill designed to simulate a major hurricane in our area” would be held May 24-26.

Life has taught us that practice makes perfect and that it probably is unreasonable to expect everything to be orderly, sane, and fully functioning during or after a disaster. That is why Gulfshore Insurance hosted a multi-day, department-wide, hurricane readiness drill to intensively prepare the agency to deal with the effects of a major storm. The exercise was in preparation for the start of the Atlantic Hurricane season, which began June 1st.

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As hurricane season approaches, there are key items that Association Boards of Directors, Management, and residents need to be prepared for. The most important thing you can do in preparation for hurricane season is to have a plan. Every association in Florida, particularly those along the coastline and in flood or evacuation zones, should create a hurricane preparedness plan and distribute it to residents. In order to create a comprehensive plan, we recommend the following:

  1. Know your exposure: It’s important to understand the risk associated with your community. Flood elevation, vulnerability to storm surge, and potential for power loss should all be considered.
  2. Identify important contacts: Your plan should include contact information for local law enforcement, fire rescue, hospitals, schools, shelters, and utilities.
  3. Have supplies: Put together a basic supply kit. The most common items can become hard to come by before and after a disaster.
  4. Most Importantly, Prepare: While each Association has different needs, it is important to have a detailed preparation plan that it specific to your community. As a storm approaches, actions such as cutting back trees, clearing debris, securing common elements, and shuttering the windows of common facilities may need to be taken. Know exactly what each task is and when it needs to be completed.

Please download our comprehensive Hurricane Resource Guide for information for important checklists and information regarding storm preparedness.