Although insurance brokers and agents are not meteorologists, they still play a big role in helping their commercial clients identify and protect their businesses against destruction caused by storms. Preparing clients for the random yet inevitable severe weather patterns that lead to hail and wind damage helps these individuals keep their peace of mind while they also end up saving a considerable amount of money on repairs and higher premium rates. In addition, showing clients that their safety is a concern increases their overall satisfaction levels, ensuring they remain clients for a long time into the future.
Identifying storm damage
Many business owners will ultimately rely on a representative from the National Storm Damage Center to provide a thorough inspection of any property damage following hail- or windstorms. The NSDC utilizes experienced and reputable storm restoration contractors that specialize in storm damage repair and dealing with insurance claims.
However, when one of these investigators comes to inspect the site of a client’s enterprise, it’s a good idea for the insurance broker or agent to also be on the scene with an accurate understanding of what the storm restoration contractor is talking about. This gives the broker or agent a chance to not only see any potential damage first hand, but also gives all parties the chance to communicate, collaborate and reach an agreement on the extent of the losses.
Further, the NSDC recommended that individuals obtain at least three inspections or estimates from contractors. The more eyes a client has on the damaged property means a greater chance for disputes. Brokers and agents who have their own subject matter expertise on storm damage can step in and mediate any potential discrepancies that might arise over conflicting reports or perceptions.
To really step up their identification skills, brokers and agents could even consider taking classes at the local community college or equivalent. A few extra hours of studying could potentially provide a more thorough comprehension of the conditions to these dangerous natural disasters.
Protecting against the elements
While architects and engineers design buildings specifically to protect people from the ravages of severe weather, these structures are not always able to withstand the full brunt of an elemental onslaught. Wind and hail can wreak havoc on the grounds and compound of a commercial operation and leave the business unable to keep its doors open.
Wind needs no introduction, as most everyone has seen and felt this force of nature, from easy summer breezes to powerful gusts that can knock down tree branches. Although the actual wind itself might not be damaging, the aftereffects, such as downed tree branches and broken windows can be substantial.
However, extreme wind – also known as straight-line winds to distinguish them from tornadoes – can cause significant property damage. As noted by the NOAA, these powerful gales can reach up to 100 mph and create a swath of destruction covering hundreds of miles. This type of wind can push over automobiles, rip off roofs or knock out power lines.
Hail is typically categorized based on its size, ranging from pea-sized balls at a quarter of an inch in diameter all the way up to softball-sized at 4.5 inches across, the NOAA reported. While smaller hail balls do not generally cause much damage or lead to leaks in a building, larger pieces can potentially cause significant problems. The bigger the thunderstorm, the larger the hail balls can become.
“The bigger the thunderstorm the larger the hail balls can become.”
Hail forms when water created by a thunderstorm becomes supercooled. Storms with strong updrafts will then push these frozen raindrops higher into the atmosphere to become even colder. Once the updraft weakens or can no longer support the weight of the hail, the chunks fall to the ground, often with destructive force.
The entire country is susceptible to hailstorms, but Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming experience the most, according to the NOAA. The area where these three states meet annually receives roughly seven to nine hail days and is commonly referred to as “hail alley.” Further, this hefty precipitation falls in paths known as hail swaths, which can be anywhere from an acre or two wide to an area 100 miles long and 10 miles wide.
Who can help?
Insurance brokers providing coverages for commercial enterprises must ensure these businesses are protected before, during and after a catastrophic storm. However, despite all the efforts to prepare for the worst-case scenario, heavy hail- and windstorms can still cause a substantial amount of damage to a business’s buildings.
Although this unsightly image of ripped siding, broken windows and dents caused by a destructive storm might not be harmful to the actual building, it can ultimately impinge business. Customers and clients have high standards and expect the establishments they frequent – whether a restaurant, retail store, office space or something else – to look good. People don’t want to eat at a diner with shattered windows, nor do they want to shop at a place with a holey roof. Having the insurance coverages in place that can quickly replace, repair or restore the damaged commercial property is crucial to normalizing business operations and reassuring customers.
Brokers who partner with McGowan Risk Specialists gain access to the wholesale brand of The McGowan Companies. With policies for property greater or less than $5 million total insured value, agents can get uniquely tailored CAT property insurance for coverage on a wide range of eligible commercial classes, such as schools, apartments, hospitals and more.