|by Barry Williams, September 2004
Fire destroyed two thirds of our property at 3
a.m. on October 24, 2003.
I remember thinking, as I watched our hard work
go up in smoke, that every negative event carries with it an equal or greater
opportunity for something positive to occur.
Yeah ... that and the fact that I felt like choking
the life out of the guy who torched our place. THAT would have been positive
seed number one! ; )
I just wanted to get my ball and go home - I didn't feel like playing anymore.
However, I did take solace in the fact that we'd
just completed a thorough inspection by our insurance company and implemented
all the required upgrades only 10 days before the big event.
Back at the ranch, we're still "negotiating" with
our insurance company 11 months later. At times it feels like those positive
outcomes I so readily envisioned at the outset of this adventure are nothing
but more weird ponderings from the mind of another motelier gone mad.
Mad that is, until I thought of you and how my
experience might assist others to avoid some of the aspects of our calamity.
It is with this in mind that I bring your attention
to the following property insurance points:
OK. That's the extent of my insurance wisdom at this
point. Perhaps some time in the future I'll recount how our fire really
turned out to be a good thing for us. I'm looking forward to it!
If you haven't studied your policy lately or you
don't understand your coverage (and who does?) - set up a meeting ASAP
with your insurance agent. Find out exactly what coverage you have, it
might differ significantly with what you THINK you have.
Learn about Co-insurance. This is where you carry
some of the liability for your own policy. Know what percentage of co-insurance
you carry as it can drastically reduce any settlement you might receive.
If you experience a loss, seek professional assistance
with your claim from a reputable insurance consultant other than the company
that carries your policy. That advisor will help you decipher offers and
language in your policy as well as informing you about industry standards
for insurance companies in your area.
Always maintain an up to date equipment and contents
listing. Keep your reciepts for any large items you purchase. This is where
a videotape of your property would come in handy - it will ensure you have
perfect recall of your business contents.
Prepare for your insurance train to derail. The financial
and emotional strain can be dishartening if you aren't ready for it. You
may be fortunate to have a clear cut claim that pays out quickly but an
ounce of intestinal fortitude at the outset is worth a battery of lawyers
Understand that the adjusters and agents from your
insurance company are responsible TO THE INSURANCE COMPANY. That's where
their paychecks originate and that sometimes ; ) skews their judgement.
Be prepared to spend a good deal of time listing
and pricing all items lost in your claim. This one process took hundred
of hours in our case and it dragged on for many weeks.
Obtain permission IN WRITING about how your business
interruption coverage will pay your staff during your loss. What staffing
levels will they allow? Verbal agreements don't count with this - the spoken
word dissipates so quickly when money is involved that folks have a tough
time recalling exactly what was said to whom and when.
Put together an emergency plan now and communicate
it to everyone who should know. Get together with your employees as quickly
as humanly possible after the tragic occurrence. They're interested in
their jobs - we all have bills to pay.
Start drinking heavily NOW. Don't wait until your
cash flow is negatively affected to develop a habit that truely produces
enough mind fog for you to retain what little sanity you now enjoy.
Then everybody will want to have a fire ;-)
Later, my friends.
( Editor's Note: Barry Williams is an independent
motel operator. He has witty insight and uses humor in an extraordinary
way. Be sure to visit his motel's
web site, you will laugh and learn. )