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July/August 2008

Are You Ready for a Crisis?

By Michael Swain, Senior Loss Control Specialist, Markel Insurance Company

Fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, windstorms, earthquakes, hailstorms, gas leaksóno matter where your B&B is located, chances are good that your business will experience a crisis at some point.

Although you canít predict when a crisis will occur, you can be prepared. This article gives you tips you can use to recover from a crisis, and suggestions to enhance your property before a disaster strikes.

Create a Crisis Management Plan
A crisis management plan helps determine how you will manage during and after a crisis. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your plan.

  • Practice your plan. Assign specific responsibilities, such as evacuating guests and shutting down gas and water, to specific people. Know what you need to take with you in an emergency. Keep critical files and equipment where they can be easily evacuated.
  • Protect vital records. Preserving your records makes it easier to get your B&B up and running after an emergency. Vital records include financial and insurance information, personnel and guest files, and administrative information.
  • Improve your technology. You can store critical information on external drives or off-site backup facilities. Upload your data to offsite locations or storage facilities that are located away from coastal areas and flood plains.

Practice Fire Evacuation
Every B&B owner should be prepared for a fire, which is an all-too common occurrence in historic buildings.

  • Practice evacuating the building blindfolded. In a real fire, heavy smoke will severely limit visibility.
  • Practice staying low to the ground when exiting.
  • Learn to stop, drop to the ground, and roll if clothes catch fire.
  • Check your smoke detectors and fire extinguishers regularly.

Prevent Water-Damage Losses
Water can destroy carpets, floors, and walls, and can also ruin computers, fax machines, sound systems, and phone systems.

Water damage often occurs when heavy rain causes roofs to leak, or when pipes freeze or wear out. You can help prevent these damages by regularly inspecting your property. The Institute for Business & Home Safety provides these recommendations:

  • Check plumbing for leaks, drips (including fire sprinkler systems), clogged drains, and defective water-drainage systems.
  • Inspect foundations and exterior walls for cracks in walls and gaps in expansion joints. Have a professional building contractor inspect significant gaps or cracks.
  • Check interior walls and ceilings. Water stains on the ceiling or walls may be the sign of a big problem. If left untreated, the ceiling or wall may collapse.
  • Inspect flashing and sealants around windows, roofs and doors. If they are brittle or there are noticeable gaps in spaces, reseal them or apply new caulk.
  • Check roof drainage systems and ventilation systems. Ensure roof drains and gutters are free of debris, and that water drains away from buildings.
  • Check your roof. If it is in poor condition, you will need to replace it. Itís a good idea to hire a roofing contractor to inspect your roof on a regular basis.

In winter, a heavy load of snow and ice can damage your roof, causing water leaks inside your building. After any heavy snow, check your roof from the ground. If you see heavy accumulation, ask your snow-removal contractor to remove itódonít do it yourself!

Learn About Lightning
Lightning strikes can be devastating to your building as well as to electrical equipment inside your B&B. According to the National Lightning Safety Institute, damage from electrical surges, often caused by lightning, is one of the leading causes of electrical equipment failure. Surges can come from a variety of other sources, such as fax machines, copiers, and air conditioners.

You can protect your equipment by:

  • Installing properly sized surge protectors on all electronic equipment.
  • Keeping cable lengths short and straight to minimize the resistive path of the circuit to ground.
  • Consulting with a licensed electrician to ensure that your electrical distribution system is grounded correctly.

Check with your insurance agent to confirm you have proper coverage for your equipment before a loss occurs.

Trim Trees
Take a walk around your property and pay special attention to trees that may need trimming. Tree branches can weigh several hundred pounds and can cause extensive property damage and severe injury if a branch falls and strikes someone.

The Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Tennessee provides these recommendations:

  • Check your trees, especially the large ones. Complete one inspection during the summer while the leaves are on the tree and one in the winter.
  • Look for cracks, seams, dead branch stubs and large, older wounds. These may be signs of tree decay, which increases the likelihood of tree or branch failure.
  • Remove trees that lean more than 15 degrees from vertical.
  • Use binoculars to inspect higher parts of trees. Walk completely around the tree, and document what you see. This will help you track the treeís health and evaluate whether it should be removed.

Contact a tree removal specialist for assistance in removing any tree. Confirm they have proper insurance before hiring them.

Reduce Slip-and-Fall Accidents
Although not usually considered a disaster, slip, trip, and fall accidents are one of the most common causes of loss in B&Bs. Here are some tips to prevent these accidents:

  • Check floors regularly for spills, and clean them up immediately.
  • Remove or repair tripping hazards, such as pinecones, tree stumps, uneven surfaces, and worn carpets.
  • Increase lighting in stairways and outside your building.
  • Use a sweep schedule to document your sweep activities. These records can make or break your defense if you go to court.
  • During bad weather, place mats with a non-slip backing at all entrances.
  • Use high-traction cleaning products with a Coefficient of Friction (C.O.F) factor of 0.5 or greater.
  • Inspect stair railings frequently. Make sure they are securely affixed to the wall or in the ground.
  • Educate all employees about your floor safety procedures and expectations.
  • Add handrails and non-slip surfaces to bathrooms, especially for elevated or sunken oversize tubs and for claw foot tubs

If a slip, trip and fall accident occurs at your B&B:

  • Show guests that you are truly concerned about their well being.
  • Write an accident report. Include the guestís version of the accident, injuries, names of witnesses, and photos of the accident scene.
  • Report the claim within 48 hours. You can initially file a claim report as record only, which is used for information purposes only. This is a good practice because it shows guests you care, and helps prevent fraudulent claims.

For more information about emergency management planning, go to www.fema.org.


Insurance for B&Bs and Country Inns
Markelís inn insurance program protects B&Bs with five or more rooms and inns with 25 or fewer rooms. Hereís what you get when you choose Markel:

  • Liability coverage: In addition to general and umbrella liability, we offer coverage for special events, your gift shop, and your restaurant.
  • Property coverage: We can protect your historic building and unique property, your computer and phone systems, and your heating/air conditioning systems. We can even cover your swimming pool.
  • Specialty coverage: We offer coverage endorsements designed specifically for B&Bs and inns, such as our guestsí inconvenience expense endorsement and our specialty inns enhancement endorsement, which includes personal liability.
  • Superior claims service: Our in-house claims associates handle claims promptly, fairly, and professionally.
  • Expert insurance advisors: Our underwriters work with you to create an insurance program to protect your business and keep it running smoothly.

Contact Markel at 866-603-8470 or inninsurance@markelcorp.com.

This Month's Sponsor

Reviews = Reservations

No doubt about it: travelers want reviews, and they are more likely to stay somewhere that has reviews posted. The BedandBreakfast.com reviews program was developed specifically for B&Bs. An easy way to get more reviews on your listing is to add a badge, like the one below, to your website. Log in to your Home Base. Click Reviews, then click Links, Awards and Review Reminders to download the badge and other helpful review tools.


Summer Travel Survey Results

In late June 2008, BedandBreakfast.com polled more than 5,200 U.S. innkeepers about advanced bookings for the July 4th weekend. The 1,346 respondents reported that July 4th weekend reservations are even with or have increased over last year at more than 70 percent of B&Bs. Read more.

Online Trade Show

Visit our newest vendor members!

 Click here to view our Online Trade Show. Are you a vendor? Click here to get featured!

Gift Card Reseller Program

Could you use some extra cash? Sign up for the gift card reseller program, and make 15% on each sale! There is no cost to get started; click here for details. If you'd like to receive a free reseller kit, contact us at 800-462-2632 or Support@BedandBreakfast.com.


"As much as I would like to sell gift certificates that are exclusively for my inn, I realize that we are not the perfect gift for everybody. This year, I gave everyone who enquired about a gift certificate an option of a GC to be used exclusively with me or good at any B&B in the BedandBreakfast.com membership. Many liked the idea of having choices, and I sold them the BedandBreakfast.com gift card. I got the commission up front, and I donít have to worry about the liability. I also get most of the face value back should the gift card be used at my inn. The process was quick and easy. I am very happy with the results and will continue to offer BedandBreakfast.com cards as an option." Mike Venturini, Munro House B&B Spa, Jonesville, MI

Referral Program

Whatís better than three monthís free membership? How about six months? Or a whole year? Refer fellow innkeepers to BedandBreakfast.com, and if they join at the Silver level or above, your membership will be extended by three months for each B&B that signs up. If four B&Bs sign up, your membership is free for a year!  For details, log in to your Home Base and click Referral Program under Free Member Benefits, or call 800-GO-B-AND-B (800-462-2632).

Advertising Auctions

Featured Property and Inn of the Month auctions are easy, affordable and effective ways to drive traffic to your website.

Member Information

To update your entry, check your traffic statistics, and renew your membership, please log in with your property ID and password. Don't like your password? Once you're logged in, click "Membership," select "Change Password," and choose another that's easier to remember. More information

"I am happy to report that we have had several enquiries from your site, including one guest who is staying for five nights, so our membership cost has been covered. Thanks for your help!" Caitlin Adair, Sanctuary, Putney, VT

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