Newport Mansions Set Example with Hurricane Preparedness Plan.
NOVATO, Calif. -- Perched on the picturesque Rhode Island coastline, the 11 Newport Mansions are a national treasure. Once a summer getaway for the country's wealthiest industrialists, today the historic mansions are a tourist attraction for 750,000 visitors each year.
Yet, as lovely as the mansions are, they are in prime hurricane territory and at risk should a hurricane threaten the Eastern Seaboard. To lessen the risk of damage to these grand houses, as well as ensure the safety of tourists visiting the mansions, Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, the insurer of the Newport Mansions, has worked with the Preservation Society of Newport County, the non-profit organization that owns, preserves and operates the mansions, to devise a hurricane preparedness plan.
The Preservation Society's hurricane plan is detailed and extensive, but contains many tips that can be implemented in private residences that are in hurricane zones. It is a three-phase plan, breaking down as follows:
Phase One - Observation and Communication
During the first phase, the Preservation Society's staff monitors the weather, including the direction and magnitude of the storm. State-of-the-art communication technology ensures that the Preservation Society staff is kept up-to-date on the conditions of the storm. Each of the 11 mansions has its own disaster list that details the structure's valuables and how to properly secure them to minimize loss. During phase one these lists are brought out and reviewed. As an added precaution, all outside furniture and statuary are brought indoors.
Phase Two - Secure the Property
Phase two occurs when the storm is approximately 24 hours away. Of particular concern is the 1748 Hunter House, located just steps away from the water's edge. Experts review tide charts to gauge ocean levels, while the staff moves furniture, fine arts and other valuables to the second floor or removes it from the house, according to the disaster list. Prefabricated storm shutters are installed on all windows and doors to protect the building during severe wind conditions. During the late stages of phase two the property is evacuated of all personnel.
Phase Three - Evaluate and Clean Up
Phase three occurs after the storm has passed. The Preservation Society's staff takes photos to document damage; makes insurance claims; cleans up debris and water damage; and then re-evaluates the individual disaster lists. During hurricane season it's not unheard of for storms to hit one after another. As a result, there may be little time between phase three and gearing up for phase one again.
According to Mike King, vice president of marketing for Personal Insurance at Fireman's Fund[R], there are many key elements in the Preservation Society's disaster plan that are applicable for homeowners. "In essence, the Newport Mansions are very large private homes. They are, without a doubt, special properties with unique circumstances we must consider, such as the preservation of historic architectural elements and antique furniture. However, there are fundamental components to the Newport Mansions hurricane preparedness plan that homeowners can - and should - implement in their homes."
Although a typical homeowner might not need such an extensive plan, the structure of the Newport Mansions hurricane plan can be universally implemented. Below are tips that homeowners can integrate into their own disaster preparedness:
1. When devising your household preparedness plan, make lists of what needs to be moved or tied down before a storm hits. Divide the lists by family member, so that everyone is assigned their duties before a storm approaches. Fireman's Fund also recommends taking pictures of your valuable items and keeping them in a safe place; this will help expedite claims in the event of a loss.
2. Once a storm is identified, family members should keep in close communication with one another. All family members should meet at the house and start reviewing the lists and overall plan. Secure all outdoor items or move them indoors. Unsecured outdoor furniture and other objects become dangerous projectiles in hurricanes.
3. Assign one person to check tides and monitor the strength and direction of the hurricane. This person should regularly report back to the rest of the household, and if the storm is getting near, everyone should evacuate.
4. If your home has been damaged by a hurricane or other strong storm, conduct an inspection within 24 hours or as soon as this can be done safely. Upon returning to the house, each person should go back to their list and check the items they were assigned. Take inventory, report damage for claims, and remember, keep monitoring the weather for new storms.
5. Contact your insurance agent immediately if there has been any damage. If you can't get through, contact the insurance company directly. Most have toll-free numbers for catastrophe situations.
6. If your home is damaged, you'll want to be prepared so your insurance claim can be handled quickly and smoothly. Work with your insurance agent to determine the best coverage for you and understand exactly what your insurance covers - flood damage and storm surges are not usually covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy. Fortunately, insurance companies such as Fireman's Fund now offer optional, private coverage solutions for floods that go beyond coverage available through federal flood insurance.
7. Fireman's Fund policyholders have access to a national network of service providers that can assist homeowners with inventory documentation, evacuation planning, the installation of an emergency generator, or a variety of other services to protect your property and family in the event of a catastrophe.
About Fireman's Fund
Fireman's Fund Insurance Company is a premier property and casualty insurance company providing personal, commercial and specialty insurance products nationwide. Fireman's Fund is a member of the Allianz Group (NYSE: AZ), one of the world's largest providers of property and casualty insurance and other financial services. For additional information, visit www.firemansfund.com.
About the Preservation Society of Newport County
The Preservation Society of Newport County, Rhode Island is a non-profit educational organization accredited by the American Association of Museums and dedicated to preserving and interpreting the area's historic architecture, landscapes, and decorative arts. Its 11 historic properties - seven of them National Historic Landmarks - span more than 250 years of American architectural and social development.
(c) 2007 Fireman's Fund Insurance Company, Novato, CA 94998