Students and faculty are regularly threatened by adverse weather in the middle of the school day—especially those living and working on the Texas coast. In addition to performing hurricane drills to ensure the safety of students and employees, school administrators should check their coverages annually to make sure there are no gaps. Attorney Bill Voss explores academic property damage options that can pay for large losses caused by a hurricane, as well as choosing the right policy endorsements to prevent a shortfall during rebuilding.
Ways to Protect Against Hurricane Damage Losses in Academic Institutions
All businesses are responsible for covering the full extent of their property under their insurance policies, including structures that are newly-acquired or under construction. One of the easiest ways to ensure coverage is to perform a property appraisal to gauge the value and the extent of the property. Appraisals should be done every 1 to 3 years, and give an accurate estimate of the full value of the property, additions to the structure, projected costs in a large-loss situation, and depreciation estimates.
Schools and universities in hurricane-prone areas should be covered by property damage policies that include protection from:
- Commercial auto losses. Whether you are seeking payment for damage caused by a summer storm or the replacement of your entire fleet of vehicles, your commercial auto insurer isn’t going to pay a dime if you have liability only. Comprehensive coverage is necessary for protecting your school buses, shuttles, and employee vehicles, from weather-related damage, and it may also offset the costs of renting buses or charter coaches until your buses have been repaired.
- Lost offsite property. Hurricanes can devastate buildings and landscapes across several counties, posing a threat to inventory both on and off your insured property when the storm strikes. Inland marine insurance, also known as "floating" property insurance, protects the property of your school regardless of its location.
- Service interruptions. Service providers may struggle to reinstate phone, internet, and electrical services to customers after a hurricane, while municipalities may struggle to provide waste disposal services due to washed-out roads. Service interruption insurance can pay for losses caused by power outages, including loss of perishable items and increased costs of cleaning due to biohazards.
- Special equipment damage. Most property insurance policies can be tailored to the specific needs of an institution, and allow owners to adjust coverage as business needs change. One of the most commonly requested policy extensions is an enhancement for specialty equipment, such as computers, monitors, and multimedia technology, pools and gymnasiums, auto labs, security systems, and other high-value items.
- Special event losses. Schools regularly play host to academic tournaments, concerts, sporting championships, graduation ceremonies, fundraisers, and other special events. Seasonal business insurance can replace the income that would have been generated in ticket sales, donations, and other revenue from events that must be canceled due to hurricane devastation.
- Business interruption. All businesses, including academic institutions, need the protection of business income replacement after a covered loss. This coverage pays for up to six months of lost revenue caused by an adverse weather event. This lump sum amount can be used to keep academic services up and running (even if the school building itself remains closed) by paying teachers’ and bus drivers’ salaries, opening a temporary learning location, or creating online classrooms so students can continue their studies from home. If costs spiral out of control, coverage extensions such as umbrella insurance and extra expense coverage can provide additional funds above and beyond policy limits.
If you are struggling to get fair payment from an insurer after a hurricane, our experienced insurance attorneys will work to get the coverage you deserve from your commercial insurance carrier. Simply fill out the form on this page today to contact an insurance attorney at the Voss Law Firm or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.