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Hurricanes - Prepare Your Club For The Worst Case Scenario

The 2017 and 2018 Atlantic hurricane seasons have been among the worst in history.

In 2017, four hurricanes – Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate – were so costly in terms of death and destruction that the U.N. World Meteorological Organization, which since 1979 uses a six-year naming rotation, will no longer assign those names to hurricanes. They join the list of retired exceptional hurricane names such as Katrina, Sandy, and Isabel.

The 2017 hurricane season was not only the most active storm season in U.S. history, it was the most expensive, with the final tab estimated at beyond $200 billion. Chances are good that Florence and Michael could very well be on par, following their rampages through the Southeast and Florida panhandle coasts this hurricane season.

Golf Courses Face Higher Risk

Tropical storms and hurricanes are a real risk for golf courses in coastal areas. By their nature, courses are at higher risk for damage than many industries.

Even small storms pose a threat to your most important asset - your course. Your club is dependent on your ability to offer well-maintained, playable greens. When it comes to natural disasters, club owners struggle with unique issues.

Golf courses are often excluded from federal help like tax exemptions for damage. Owners and advocate groups have had to fight to make sure they get the same help as other businesses.

Some insurance carriers have raised premiums or limited coverage for golf courses. All the while, you have a business to run and protect as best you can.

Your club faces a wide array of risks in the case of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Your operation may include a restaurant, hospitality, and retail elements. Emergency planning and insurance coverage are complex issues.

Prepare – Don’t Be Left Vulnerable

Without preparing for the unexpected, your club is left vulnerable to financial disaster. According to the Insurance Information Institute, up to 40 percent of businesses that are forced to cease operations for any length of time because of a natural disaster NEVER reopen. Even if your club is able to physically recover, without appropriate planning to weather a disastrous circumstance, your club could still face litigation from members, guests, vendors, or even employees seeking damages for negligence.

As unfortunate as it is, not all threats to your club can be avoided. However, by diligently preparing in advance for the POSSIBILITY of the types of threats that could harm your club, you can mitigate many of the risks you face.

Preparing for a Hurricane

Hurricanes can develop any time, with the peak season running from June through November. Torrential rains and devastating winds roar along coastal areas causing massive damage to property and trees, and injury and death to those caught in their path.

Preparation is the key to minimizing the damage from a hurricane. Unlike other natural disasters such as tornados and earthquakes, hurricanes are slow to develop. Fortunately, the National Hurricane Center is able to identify and monitor tropical storms that could evolve into hurricanes, giving people plenty of warning and time to prepare.

  • Ersi is a world leader in geographic information system (GIS) for gathering and analyzing all types of geographic and spatial data. You can go to www.esri.com/services/disaster-response/floods/latest-news-map.html to monitor flooding in your area.
  • Have your building(s) inspected regularly to ensure they comply with local wind loading requirements.
  • Have impact-resistant film installed in all windows.
  • Prepare a list of contact information for all vendors and individuals who you rely on to operate your club. Consider adding entities outside your area to serve as backups.
  • Develop a list of organizations that can help you following the storm, including debris removal and computer recovery.
  • If you have not already done so, establish off-site computer backup procedures, and back up your data frequently. Move all critical hard copy documents to a secure, off-site location.
  • Develop a chain of command and list of responsibilities in case of emergency and share with all employees.
  • Prepare a list of employees and their contact information, including their locations should they need to evacuate to another city.
  • Notify all employees of a remote phone number and email address to use in emergency situations.
  • Install emergency backup lighting in all structures that could lose power due to a storm.

You’re Not Alone – Ensure You Have the Proper Insurance Coverage

Imagining your club shutting down for any length of time is not something you care to think about, but reality says it can happen. Preparing for such an occurrence can be a daunting task. But, you don’t have to prepare alone.

In addition to preparing your property, your employees, and your business operations for disaster situations, the ultimate preparation is proper insurance. When purchasing coverage, remember that your damaged stock and property won’t be the only setback you suffer in a disaster—interruption to your club’s business continuity can be catastrophic. Purchase a comprehensive policy that accounts for business interruption and is tailored to your location. Taking risk-reduction measures may help cut down your premium or excess coverage.

Government resources (such as ready.gov/business, OSHA, Red Cross) are available to help with emergency planning. Generic business emergency checklists are available online, and local extension offices may provide tips and help for agricultural damage prevention.

For course managers, the best source of hands-on help is a risk management professional. Insurance providers or brokers with a golf industry specialty are ideal partners. Working together allows you to make sure your insurance policy protects your club when natural disasters strike.

David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL, is a proud employee owner of Affinity Club Underwriters, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs and may be reached at (319) 800-6676 or at david.harnois@affinityclubs.com.

ABOUT AFFINITY

Affinity Club Underwriters, a division of VGM Insurance Services, is a wholesale program insurance provider specializing in the club, golf and hospitality sector. The exclusive provider of the Affinity Club Program for private and semi-private clubs. An industry-leading insurance program administrator led by club industry experts, and the endorsed program of VGM Club.

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