The weekend freak snowstorm has left a record number of Connecticut businesses and residents without heat and electricity, and in many cases resulted in structural damage to businesses and homes.
As employers attempt to get back to normal, there are a number of areas concerning business management that must be attended to.
- CBIA has posted several items about pay obligations to workers who do or do not work during this weather related business interruption event:
- The State of Connecticut website has comprehensive information on Disaster Preparedness and Recovery. While some of the information on this page is targeted to recovery after Hurricane Irene, much of it is still relevant regarding other similar disruptive events such as snowstorms.
- In particular, there is an excellent checklist of Consumer Tips for Filing Storm Claims for homeowners, but most of the points are equally applicable to business owners facing damage and disruption to operations.
Key points to keep in mind are personal safety, emergency repairs, preventing further damage, security, communicating with employees, customers, suppliers, and public safety authorities, if necessary. Your insurance representative will want as much detail as possible including backup data on the financial consequences of the storm, costs, lost business, etc., so that you can take full advantage of business interruption coverage you may have.
As much as possible, document events: what happened, how did it happen, suspected cause, any civil authorities or private contractor response. Photos can be critical in recording for insurance purposes the state of circumstances before, during and after cleanup operations that cannot be delayed.
Please be particularly attentive to worker safetyas you assess your facility and resume operations. Portable generators must have adequate ventilation and proper electrical grounding equipment. Structural elements, power and security systems may have been compromised due to the storm, so all precautions must be taken to evaluate potential new hazards before proceeding to reengergize equipment or use areas of your facility that may have been damaged. For example, last winter, many businesses faced OSHA citations as a result of workers clearing snow off of unsafe roof surfaces, or doing so without adequate fall protection safeguards. Leave the tree and electrical work to professionals. And don't be shy about insisting on seeing credentials of those you hire to assist, including adequate proof of liability insurance.
Unemployment benefits: If your company had to temporarily shut down or reduce operations, affected workers may file for jobless benefits for several days or a week or more of storm related "lack of work." If possible, you should give affected workers an unemployment notice or separation packet which will have important information enabling them to file for benefits online or by phone. The separation packet has all the labor department contact information to assist filing, and the unemployment officials will evaluate whether or not they are eligible for benefits, and if so, how much.
Assistance: Governor Dannel P. Malloy has requested an emergency declaration from President Obama to assist with clean up and recovery efforts for the record storm that hit the state yesterday. It appears FEMA assistance will be forthcoming, providing the state access to direct federal assistance, as well as reimbursement for 75 percent of certain emergency protective measures. Additional aid resources will be posted on the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security website as soon as it is available.
And once everything is back to normal, you should review your Disaster Planning and Business Continuity Strategy, or create one if you don't already have one in place. It will not prevent the next event, but will minimize the loss, cost and headache in getting through it.
CBIA can assist in steering you to a variety of resources on the subject, so please do not hesitate to call us at 860.244.1900 if you need further information.