If you want to distinguish your insurance agency from the competition and demonstrate added value to your landscaping and tree care clients with exposures to wildfires, developing deep expertise in specialized insurance from an MGA like NIP Group, as well as risk management are very effective. Customer surveys demonstrate that business and personal clients alike seek more from their brokers than simply quoting and policy management. They look for expertise and help to mitigate their exposures.
If your agency insures businesses in any of the 38 US states at elevated risk for wildfire or any state experiencing drought conditions, a wildfire specialization is a great opportunity for additional revenue. To properly protect your business clients, agencies need to offer such value-added services as risk consulting, loss mitigation, and recovery assistance.
Here are ways that insurance agents can help commercial clients with wildfire protection:
- Conduct annual reviews to ensure the right insurance coverage. Educate your clients about their commercial policies and what is and isn’t covered. Look for any gaps or uncovered exposures. Review any facility additions, renovations, or upgrades that were made to the property since the last policy. Discuss any equipment, fleet, or costly acquisitions, change in staff levels, and inventory levels. When assessing for coverage adequacy, don’t forget to factor in the current costs for repairs and rebuilding. Discuss potential endorsements and supplementary coverages.
- Educate your clients about how they can protect their business by creating defensible zones around their property. This guide on Protecting Your Business from Wildfire from the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) offers several concrete suggestions for steps that you can take to improve the defensibility of your property. This includes developing Fire-Resistant Landscaping for their business properties. Also see Selecting Firewise Plants.
- Encourage your commercial clients in high-risk areas to consider fitting or retrofitting their businesses with features that deter fire. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) encourages an upgrade to a Class A fire-rated roof, noncombustible and fireproofed materials, and blocking openings that could be ember entry points. Direct clients to the Regional Wildfire Retrofit Guides by IBHS, which include risk assessment checklists and a cost estimator to help both businesses and homeowners prioritize necessary retrofit projects.
- Hold wildfire protection webinars for commercial clients and prospects in advance of wildfire season. It’s easy and cost-effective to hold remote webinars for large numbers using web conference software. Seek partners and experts to participate, such as forestry and wildfire protection experts, insurance company representatives, and members of emergency management services. Promote webinars on your website, on social media, and in community news sources.
- Help your clients learn how to work with others in their communities to build Fire Adapted communities and to become a certified Firewise USA site. This is particularly pertinent to condominium and homeowners associations, but also valuable to business parks, retail centers, urban centers, and neighborhoods in high-risk areas.
- Supply your business clients with checklists for what to do before, during, and after a wildfire. Publish these lists on your blog and link them on social media. Tap into and distribute freely available handouts from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other public sources. Taxpayer-funded government resources are generally fair use and free from copyright but check for permissions to be certain.
- Learn about the different types of warning systems you can subscribe to from authorized federal, state, and local public alerting authorities, such as FEMA, the National Weather Service, and local Offices of Emergency Management. Encourage your commercial clients to subscribe to and follow alerts, particularly in peak fire season. During peak wildfire season, keep an eye on regional reports from the S. Drought Monitor.
- Ensure your commercial clients develop an emergency plan for their business that includes preparedness for wildfires and other disasters. In fact, any business with 10 or more employees is mandated by OSHA to have a written Emergency Action Plan. Teach your clients the importance of creating and practicing multiple evacuation plans and routes. The free Ready Rating Program from the American Red Cross will help businesses conduct a readiness assessment and build an emergency plan, as well as other services to enhance preparedness. Also see Wildfire Pre-Evacuation Steps For Your Business.
- Encourage businesses you insure to establish a disaster crisis team. One model for this is the Incident Command System (ICS), a widely accepted emergency framework that encompasses specified roles, responsibilities, and accountability from the incident commander down to the front lines and among the groups and organizations involved. (See Lessons from a Wildfire)
- Use your social media channels and blogs to share news, risk management tips, and helpful resources before, during, an after emergencies. Be sure you collect cell numbers and get text permission from clients. Don’t abuse this access, use it for emergencies and key notices only.
Being an active partner in helping your clients to protect their employees and valuable business assets, prepare for business continuity, and build business resilience will go a long way to ensuring a long-term relationship. Highlighting and sharing your expertise will also strengthen community ties and help build a great brand for your agency.
Check out these other articles on prevention and wildfire protection: