Are You Ready for a Crisis?
By Michael Swain, Senior Loss Control Specialist, Markel Insurance
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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
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.
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
The Agricultural Extension Service of the University of Tennessee provides
- 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
- 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
For more information about emergency management planning, go to
Insurance for B&Bs and Country Inns
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
- 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
Contact Markel at 866-603-8470 or
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