Surviving civil unrest

Tips to protect your business from rioters and looting.

In today’s unsettled times and unpredictable actions of John Q. Public, rental businesses and tool/supply houses are sitting ducks for vandalism and looting. Eric Stiles, account executive at Sentry Insurance, shares the following tips to businesses through the Specialty Tools and Fasteners Distributors Association (STAFDA).

“I’ve had several inquiries concerning the recent civil unrest both from a safety and insurance coverage standpoint. In these difficult times, it’s more important than ever to plan for emergencies and protect a business to the best of your abilities," he says. 

He reports that safety measures businesses take today can help prevent or at least reduce a loss in the future. He suggests: 

  • Maintain your awareness. Staying knowledgeable will help you understand where crowds are currently and are projected to gather in the near future. Local law-enforcement may be your best source for this information, which can help you plan the urgency of your response accordingly. This information can help you determine if a real risk of damage exists to your business or assembled groups have been largely peaceful events.
  • Consult your emergency response and preparedness procedures. The current civil unrest is the reason that businesses develop these plans. Review them now and be sure to follow the pragmatic procedures outlined in the plan to protect your employees/customers, inventory and property (in that order). It’s best to ensure a lead coordinator is designated for managing responses and related communications.
  • Avoid becoming a target. Don’t publish remarks or responses on social-media channels that could be perceived as inflammatory, racial or insensitive to the ongoing situation. Social media provides the medium for these groups to organize and identify potential target areas for their activities. Keep a low-profile. Although business owners can’t prevent employees from making comments or actions, explain how refraining from such actions can help protect the business and their place of employment.
  • Monitor business hours. Evaluate the presence and movement of crowds that are causing damage and adjust business hours accordingly. It may be most prudent to keep the business closed to allow the risks to subside.
  • Protect essential assets. Essential assets include data and critical records necessary to support daily business operations. As the risk to looting and safety subside, have data and systems secured so the business can reopen promptly.
  • Actively manage inventory. Stay actively aware of the presence and projected movement of these groups and plan how to actively protect inventory, especially assets located on exterior lots or inside the showroom. Temporarily move assets away from hot spots of active unrest. At a minimum, move higher value inventory indoors and secure it from sight.
  • Maintain a strong exterior premises. Keep a strong perimeter including outdoor lighting that should be kept on around the clock. Ensure alarms and surveillance systems are operational. While they may not be a front-line deterrent, they can capture evidence for possible prosecution later.
  • Secure the premises if you must vacate. Secure the facility as best as possible including locking all doors and windows and safely storing flammables.
  • Refrain from hiring a private security service. While it may be tempting, hiring private security comes with several risks and could actually worsen the situation by creating liability concerns or damage your reputation if a physical altercation takes place. Employees should not be allowed to serve as protection for the facility. It’s possible that looters may avoid a confrontation with a security firm, but the potential for negative outcomes outweigh likely benefits.
  • Contact the police immediately. If looters or crowds begin gathering near your location, contact law enforcement. While response will likely be delayed, timely calls to authorities may help slow an deescalate a developing situation. 

The following article from Security magazine also includes some helpful information:

Risk management and sound loss control practices may not prevent a loss, however it could help reduce the impact of the loss. If there is a loss due to civil unrest, a business insurance policy may provide coverage.

Each insurance company is different. Not all insurance policies will respond to a loss in the same way and not all businesses will have a policy with complete coverage. Additionally, some claims may not be covered due the nature of the loss. Contact your insurance agent to fully understand what your policy covers.