The scorched and smoldering aftermath of a fire, the soaked and mouldy interiors after a catastrophic flood – when devastation stares commercial property owners in the face and emotions are high, it’s extremely difficult to think about next steps. 

That’s why Paul Davis recommends thinking ahead. Before the disaster occurs, build an “In Case of Emergency” documentation file to assist with claims. “The better your documentation,” says Paul Hillier, President of Paul Davis of North Houston, “the faster and easier the claims process goes. Create a file and label the categories now. Pull out the file if the unthinkable happens and you’re already on the road to recovery.”

In a fire-proof file box – or a digital folder of computer files backed up offsite – label slots for documents in each of these categories:

Policies – Many business owners have multiple policies in force in addition to property insurance, such as business interruption coverage. Locate and file copies of all policies. 

Proof of inventory: File current inventory records, including but not limited to date-stamped video surveys, receipts for equipment and supplies, bills of lading for stored goods and raw materials, date-stamped photos and so on. Update this file quarterly.

Damage documentation: Designate a file for videos and photographs of the damage – this file will be empty unless a disaster occurs (or until – most commercial properties sustain disaster damage at some point). Do not endanger employees or enter unsafe areas to capture this documentation, however.

Receipts for immediate mitigation: This file also remains empty unless a disaster strikes but most likely will receive copies of receipts post-event. Most insurance policies will not pay for subsequent damage if owners don’t take reasonable steps to prevent further loss. 

Incident or police reports: This file will be empty now, too, but if local officials become involved post-disaster – when a structural fire is suspected arson, for example – file copies of incident reports in this section. 

Proof of loss: File a blank proof of loss form in the file now – many insurance companies will provide standard forms. Owners complete this form after a disaster, support it with documentation and file it with the insurance carrier. Many carriers give 60 days to file proof of loss; failing to meet this deadline can result in denied claims.

Claims process documentation: Set aside a section of the file for recording every step of the claims process: notes about conversations and actions taken that include time, date, name, affiliation and contact information. The first items in this section will likely record details of the initial calls to insurance companies to inform them of the loss.

Restoration partner contact information: Finally, secure a trusted restoration contractor like Paul Davis before disaster strikes. File contact information in this section for easy reference.
Need help preparing for or recovering from a disaster at your commercial property or business? Paul Davis, which excels at coordinating with insurance carriers, promises to be on site quickly to help. Call your local Paul Davis office or 1-844-215-7898 to learn more about the company’s commercial services.