Create a Catastrophe Checklist

Don't Wait for Disaster - 'Spring' Into Action with a Plan

Floods, tornadoes, wildfires, hail and lightning storms typically begin to rear their ugly heads in March and April. By preparing now for the worst, your business can "spring" into the season safely, reducing the likelihood of facility damage, employee injuries and other losses associated with business disruption.

To help prepare your business before disasters strikes, here are some tips from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS).

flooded city street


  • Make sure you fully understand your area's flood exposure. You can do this by comparing your finished floor elevation with the most up-to-date local flood map. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers Community Flood Insurance Rate Maps. (Tips and step-by-step instructions are available on the IBHS website.)
  • Use a high-quality, urethane-based caulk to seal cracks in the exterior walls of your building.
  • Make sure the ground slopes away from your building, and consider adding a waterproof membrane to the wall where the leaks occurred.
  • Install watertight shields over all openings (including windows and doors) to a height above the anticipated flood level.
  • Install drain plug devices in the interior drains on the ground level or a sewage back flow preventer device on the building's main sanitary sewer line. Drain plugs and backflow valves are designed to prevent return flow into the building.
  • Install a sump pump and foundation drain system.
  • Raising electrical system components and outdoor air conditioning systems above the anticipated flood level will help prevent damage. Properly anchoring fuel tanks will help prevent them from breaking free and contaminating the building.
  • Prepare an evacuation kit with important papers, insurance documents and other things you may need if you are forced to be away from your business for several days.
  • Talk with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate flood insurance.
tornado shelter sign

High Winds and Tornadoes

  • Identify and remove trees and branches that could fall on nearby power lines, building walls or the roof.
  • Repair loose or damaged building components such as siding, soffits, fascia, roofing materials and wall-mounted equipment.
  • When re-roofing, take additional measures to meet high-wind guidelines.
  • Replace entry doors with solid metal ones; reinforce the frames or install window/door shutters.
  • In tornado-prone areas, consider building a safe room to protect employees during tornadoes.
  • Purchase a weather radio to receive severe weather warnings.
  • Create an emergency plan so all employees know what steps to take during inclement weather.
three large hail stones

Hail Storms

  • For roofs with steep slopes, install high-impact rated roof covering (class 3 or 4).
  • For flat or mono-slope roofs, install a roof covering that includes a "moderate" or "severe" hail impact rating.
  • Provide a covered location for company vehicles when hail is predicted.
lightning strike over large city

Lightning Storms

  • Consult your local utility company or licensed electrician to install a whole-building surge protection system to reduce the risk of damage.
  • For added protection, have a lightning protection system installed by a qualified professional.
  • Install localized surge protection for important or expensive electronic equipment.
firefighters battling fire at a business


  • Make sure combustible items are placed at least 30 feet from your buildings.
  • Choose non-combustible landscaping materials such as rock or gravel.
  • Clean building gutters so accumulated wind-blown vegetation doesn't act as fuel to fire.
  • Some roof coverings, like tile and metal, may have gaps between the covering and roof sheathing at the roof edge or ridge. Any gap that isn't functioning as a vent should be plugged to prevent embers from entering.
  • Cover vents with one-eighth-inch noncombustible screens.
  • When replacing the roof cover, install a Class A fire-rated roof cover.

Develop a Plan

Being prepared helps you stay safe during a crisis. As an American Family commercial business customer, you have access to the IBHS Open for Business® tool, a no-cost online resource for creating a disaster preparedness and crisis recovery plan.

For details, contact your American Family Insurance agent today.

These recommendations were developed using generally accepted safety standards. Compliance with these recommendations is not a guarantee that you will be in conformance with federal, state or local regulation regarding safety or fire, or with any building codes. Compliance with these recommendations does not ensure the absolute safety of your occupation, business or residence. It is the property owner's duty to warn any tenants or occupants of the property of any safety hazards that may exist.

Special Program Helps You Stay 'Open for Business'

Every business is different; a one-size-fits-all disaster plan simply doesn't exist. With the Open for Business® program, you can custom design a plan to reduce the potential for loss and recover more quickly should a disaster strike.

Open for Business®, available through the Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), gives small business owners like you step-by step instructions on how to develop recovery and property protection plans specific to your needs.

The program is free to American Family Insurance customers. Contact your agent for your access code and get started.

Open for Business® helps you look at your business (people, location and technology/data), identify what can go wrong and develop a plan to reduce those risks.

Benefits of planning include:

  • Protecting your assets and investments.
  • Reducing interruption and down time.
  • Fulfilling legal, regulatory, financial and contractual obligations.
  • Maintaining your business' reputation and competitive advantage.
  • Peace of mind.