After the Storm
Emergency Actions After Hurricane Harvey
Several of our fellow optometrists have been displaced, flooded and without power from this week's Hurricane Harvey. We have been sharing resources and encouragement, as well as the following reminders concerning emergency actions after a catastrophe.
Texas optometrists have had to once again board up, pack up, and do their best to prepare their offices and homes for this year's devastating storms. TOA Past President Brian Blount, OD has some hard-earned Hurricane Rita wisdom of simple things that you can quickly do to protect your assets and livelihood after the storm.
1.     Account for your family and staff . Get people emergency aid first and foremost.
2.     Get cameras and start taking pictures of all the damage immediately.  This will serve as evidence if the insurance companies question your recovery efforts. 

3.     Be careful about accepting interim fill-in work with other offices.  This may cancel your stop-gap insurance payments.

4.     If you have not done so, pack up your computers, financial records, AND YOUR APPOINTMENT CALENDAR . You will need these to get compensated by your insurance company. Business policies usually pay for loss of business and downtime. But you must show that your office had appointments booked and you must calculate how much of this is not "rebookable - you must be able to calculate how many of these patients could not wait and would go to another optometrist for services. The insurance companies generally don't pay for "delayed" revenues, it must be lost income.  Take ALL financial records with you , including check books, bank and credit card statements, bank line of credit numbers, etc. These documents if found floating down stream or in the trash barrel can be used to set you up for identity theft.

5.     Try to limit the water damage . As soon as the storm passes, hire or rent equipment to pump the water out of your office. Insurance usually pays for this 100%. Rip out all carpets. Once the water is out, rip off all floor mouldings. These keep the water from quickly draining. Rip off the lower wall boarding and insulation to just above the water line and throw all of it out. These are full of water and will "wick" up causing more damage and the growth of mold.

6.     If windows have been blown out, send someone to the nearest lumber yard and start boarding up holes that the after rains can come through . Cover large holes in a roof with plastic sheeting - you will need to nail this down. If possible, call a roofing company as soon as possible and get on their waiting list for service.
7.     Hire your employees to help with the cleanup . Your insurance company usually pays for cleanup workers. This keeps your employees working while you are out of business thus giving them paychecks and showing that your care about them. They will be less likely to go looking for another job during this time.

8.     Most insurance policies pay for records recovery . If you were not a "paperless" office, now is the time to consider becoming one.  Insurance usually covers the purchase of equipment to copy your damaged records and the paper to print them on. Due to mold and other health hazards most of your records will be permanently lost if not copied quickly.  Consider using the insurance money to buy a high speed, two-sided copier that can directly copy your records into an electronic record.  You can "hire" your employees to do this during the recovery process and it is a reimbursable expense. It is a lot easier to take a computer hard drive with you in an emergency than walls of paper records.

9.     If you need to evacuate the building, go to a convenient post office and get a post office box, make out a temporary change of address card . You want the least disruption to your business as possible. Suppliers will not be happy if they get bills returned with no forwarding address and you will need their good will as you rebuild. Have staff call your major vendors and see if they won't extend your billing out until you are back in business and hold any orders that may be ready to ship.

10.  Ask your insurance agent - How much water damage does your policy cover?  Does it only cover rain damage or does it include flooding? Do you have a specific flood insurance rider on your policy? Does your policy have 'gap' insurance to cover your business expenses while you are rebuilding? Does your policy cover replacement value of equipment and furnishing or only the depreciated book value? Does your insurance cover setting up a temporary place of business? Not very many do.

11.  If you lease space , you may be addressing questions from your landlord's insurance company in addition to your own.  As a renter you should have your own policy that covers the interior of the building plus all of your tenant improvements, your equipment and furnishings, records, etc. However, a portion of this policy is directly payable to your landlord - not you - for structural reconstruction and your tenant improvements. You will have to work closely with your landlord to get things done. And if the owner decides not to rebuild a large portion of the buildout funds will be lost to you.

12.  Call your local society president, your state organization and the AOA.  They are probably organizing relief efforts.

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