Contingency planning is vital in minimising the potential for disaster. As a leading insurer of some of the world’s most glorious homes and masterpieces, we believe our job is as much about the protection of these irreplaceable assets as the compensation for their loss.
None of us would dispute the wisdom of protecting our property and possessions from misfortunes such as fire or water damage. Yet surprisingly few of us have proper emergency plans in place.
By establishing the risks, and managing them, homeowners can reduce the likelihood of a disaster. With proper contingency plans – that will save precious thinking time in the face of an emergency – clients can minimise their losses should a disaster strike.
Each home and each collection is unique, so a property will require individual analysis and a plan tailored to meet its specific needs. The aim of any form of risk management is to reduce the chances of a problem occurring. The main hazards we face in the UK and Ireland are fire, water and flood damage.
If a client owns a distinctive property or a significant collection they should carry out a comprehensive Fire Risk Assessment. This will ensure they identify potential fire risks – and ways to minimise them – as well as review fire alarms, smoke and heat detectors, fire-fighting equipment, escape procedures and personnel training.
Water and flood
A flood risk assessment is as important as a fire risk assessment. Flooding can seriously damage a property. Making a home more flood resistant doesn’t guarantee that flood water won’t get in, but it can help to limit the damage.
In the UK homeowners can get advice on carrying out a flood risk assessment from the Environment Agency (www.environment-agency.gov.uk) or commission a reputable consultant to carry out the assessment (www.floodguards.com).
The Attack Plan
Each incident is different, but having a comprehensive plan in place will save valuable thinking time if disaster strikes. The five key components of the plan are:
1. Liaison with the Emergency Services - The local fire service should be invited to visit a property. They need to understand and agree the attack and salvage plan. They can also advise on training staff and organising regular drills.
2. Facilitating easy access to a property - In the event of a fire, easy and fast access for the fire fighters and their equipment is vital. Entrances from public roads should clearly display the property name. If there are several entrances, agree with the fire service in advance which one should be used for primary access.
3. Ensuring an adequate water supply - Fire engines usually carry enough water to extinguish most small fires. For larger properties more water may be needed. If there is a public hydrant within 300 metres, the fire fighters will use this.
4. Creating Emergency Information Packs - Producing a comprehensive Emergency Information Pack for the property is a vital part of disaster planning. Several copies should be produced and kept in a number of different secure locations where they can be easily accessed.
5. Forming and training the Emergency Recovery Team - The role of the Emergency Recovery Team is to remove valuable items that are damaged or in danger to a place of safety as quickly as possible. Time spent establishing and training an Emergency Recovery Team (family, staff, neighbours, friends) will pay dividends in the event of a disaster.
The Salvage Plan
Speed is of the essence when it comes to limiting damage and rescuing and recovering valuable artefacts, but no-one should be allowed to enter a property until the Fire Service or authorities have declared it safe.
Once the Emergency Recovery Team is given the all clear to enter the building safely, the recovery operation can start. One member of the team should direct operations, maintaining contact by 2-way radio, and working in accordance with the overall plan.
The Salvage Plan should also include clear guidelines for dealing with the recovery of special artefacts and valuable possessions, including books, manuscripts, photographs, sculptures, ceramics and glass.
How can Chubb help?
Our specialist risk consultants can work with your clients to assess the risks and design a specific Attack and Salvage plan covering key areas, including the Emergency Information Pack, Emergency Recovery Plan, item and room priority lists, work guidelines and escape routes.