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Water Damage: The Importance of Proper Insurance

I thought I was having a nightmare…one that I tell all my clients about but never thought would happen to me.

I received the dreaded call that no homeowner or business owner ever wants to receive.

I had just finished up a great workout and it was 7am on a Monday morning.  I was in my car, almost home when my phone rang and it was a phone number I did not recognize.  I picked up the phone and it was my business park neighbor who said “Karyn, get here quick – there is water coming out of both of your front doors at Seibert Insurance”.  I flipped a U-turn just as fast as I could and got there in under 5 minutes.  To my disbelief, my business park neighbor was not exaggerating.

I drove up to the front doors of the business and saw the water pouring out OF MY BUILDING and into the parking lot.  I then opened the front door and the water really began to gush out!  I was standing in the lobby of my office….and in 4 inches of water….at the same time!! I walked to the back of the office to see the water coming out of the ceiling like a waterfall.  Needless to say, the ceiling had already collapsed onto the floor in the back of the office.

Lesson #1 – Know where your water shutoff valve is for your building or your home – nothing is more important in this situation!

I immediately thought, “oh my gosh – how do I turn off the water to the building?”  I ran outside, found a box in front of my building that was underground and I turned off the water to the building.

Once the water was off, I went back inside and looked around.  Computers were underwater, all my furniture was soaked, stationary, all my tax receipts…so much was destroyed!  The first call I made was to my husband to have him turnaround while on his way to work to come to the office and help me.  I then called Nationwide claims (my insurance company for the building) and asked them “Who should I use to clean this up and help me?”.  Nationwide gave me the names of three different vendors to choose from immediately on the first call and the first one that answered and said “we are on the way” is the one I used.

Lesson #2 – Don’t wait for the water restoration company to get there, do what you can ASAP to start mitigating the loss yourself.

Once I knew the restoration company were on the way, I called my staff and told them to come into the office in shorts and T-shirts…my plan was to get them working to empty out the building of furniture to start the mitigation process.

My staff was great!  Within 1 hour of me finding this mess, we had all the furniture and computers out in the parking lot so they could start to dry.  We had brooms we were using to brush out the water into the parking lot.

Lesson #3 – Have a “back up” plan in case your building is destroyed.

We had already started to set up a temporary office for my staff to work from while the dry out/rebuild process started.  Our phones and extra computers were set up and running by 9am so we did not have any break in service for our clients BUT if we would not have had that other office location, how long would it have taken to set up a temporary office?

Lesson #4 – Have all your systems inspected in your home/office regularly and replace when they are approaching the end of their useful life.

The restoration folks got there around 8:30 that morning and they went right to work!  They identified pretty fast that it was my hot water heater in the ceiling (who knew offices have hot water heaters?!) that had cracked right down the side of it and was trying to refill for hours and hours and hours before we found out about it.

Lesson #5 – Review your insurance for your business now, don’t wait until after you have had claim.

So, I got my staff up and running, got the restoration folks working…what’s next…I think to myself “how much insurance do I have?”.  I tell my clients all the time, after a loss is not the time to wonder how much insurance you have but that is exactly what I was doing.  I pulled out my policy and reviewed the coverage and was instantly relieved because I knew I had the right amount of coverage for my business.

Lesson #6 – Have good relationships with vendors for everything that you need to operate in your office, you will need to pull in some major favors if something like this occurs at your place of business and you need to get up and running again ASAP.

The restoration company was very professional, efficient and well-staffed to handle my disaster. Something I never realized was how time consuming it is to coordinate the adjuster, the water restoration folks and the contractor that builds the place back again.  In addition to coordinating all of those workers, I was expected to do my normal job and re-buy all the items that had been damaged.  I needed new desks, new computers, new bookcases, new chairs, new vanities in the bathrooms, paint colors, etc…all of these decisions needed to be made quickly because any delay on my part would just push back the move-in date on the damaged building.

In summary, some important points to think about are…

  • Have a disaster plan in place – who calls who, where you will temporarily work and how – make sure that is all set up in advance.
  • Review your current insurance policy now, make sure you have enough property coverage, liability coverage, business interruption, etc.  This review should happen BEFORE you have a claim to ensure that the right coverage is in place to respond to a disaster.
  • Do business with a reputable carrier AND call that carrier for a contractor recommendation when you do have a loss.  They deal with contractors every day so they know who the “bad actors” are.  Let them refer you to their preferred vendors.  Not only do you get a longer warranty on the work when you use their vendors, they typically have a good relationship with the adjuster so checks get cut faster.
  • Call your agent for guidance and if you have any snags in the claims process, they can help you through it!
  • Be ready to make decisions!  The contractors will ask you all kinds of questions like paint colors, flooring and furniture purchasing.  The longer you wait to make a decision, the longer the re-build process will take!
  • Inspect all systems in your office every 5 years.  You want to know how old the A/C, water heater, electrical system, roof and plumbing systems are and that they are in good working order.  It is not a waste of time or money.  Had I inspected the systems in my office, I would have realized that I had a hot water heater, that it was in my attic AND that it was very old.  No doubt, I would have replaced it upon seeing the results of the inspection and I would have prevented this loss from occurring.
  • Make the best out of the situation.  My staff members were used to having their own offices with doors but for more than a month many were in cubicles or conference rooms and were operating without all of their materials at their desk.  We called it summer camp and had a “bet” on who could guess the move-in date.  The person who got closest to the date, won a fire pit from our summer camp area in the office.  We brought in donuts, lunches and snacks to try to keep everyone positive.

The happy ending… 51 days later we are back in our office…it is like brand new so please come and check it out…  Also see our pictures of the process….from the day of the flood to the dryout to the restoration and now we are all put back together!

  1. Encarnacion Hennessey Reply
    Thank you for sharing your misfortune and steps to prevent it for happening to home owners and business.

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