Is your art business prepared for flood? Fire?

Today is MayDay, a day that has been set aside in the U.S. to encourage those in the cultural communities to prepare for disaster in order to protect our heritage.

CERF+(*) encourages all artists to consider taking these 5 steps toward peace of mind.

1. Read your insurance policy and take notes.

Homeowner’s and renter’s insurance almost never covers business-related losses or liability. If you are reading this, you probably are in business (at least by an insurance companies’ definition). Know where you stand and seek supplemental business insurance if you’re not covered.

Tip: Insurance policies make good airplane reading.

2. Assess your risk of floods and look into flood insurance.

It is important to be aware that serious flooding sometimes occurs in areas that are not designated as flood zones. Hurricane season is a month away and spring rains and thaws are happening right now. Serious flooding can result not just in coastal areas but far in-land in low-lying areas and near rivers and streams.

While insurance normally covers water damage from burst pipes or leaking roofs, neither business insurance nor homeowner’s insurance covers damage from “rising water.” The National Flood Insurance Program has been set up to sell insurance to cover these risks. You would need separate policies to cover your home and your business assets, even if your art-related business operates from your home.  Renters can also buy this insurance.

3. Back up your computer and store a backup in a safe place.

Find a Safe Offsite Location to store copies of your images and critical records such as business documents, sketches, glaze formulas, and process notes. A SOL is a place 50-100 miles away from your studio that is unlikely to be affected by the same disaster.

A safe deposit box in your community, while useful, may not be the best place to put this material. Read Safekeeping Your Business Records.

4. Get a weather radio.

While weather radios have been strongly promoted in “tornado alley” and other areas that are prone to weather-related disasters, shifting weather patterns make this inexpensive warning system a good investment anywhere.

A NOAA Public Alert™ certified radio activates automatically when a warning in your area is issued by the National Weather Service, even if the radio is turned off. This is especially important if you are asleep or working in the studio and not tuned to a local radio or television station that carries the alerts.

5. Get the Studio Protector.

CERF+ has created the Studio Protector–a terrific and inexpensive tool to help you prepare for an emergency. (One side is shown here.) At only $16, it’s affordable, it will help you be more savvy about your assets, and the sales support a good cause.

(*Craft Emergency Relief Fund + Artist Emergency Resources–an unwieldy name change–but that’s a different subject)

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11 comments to Is your art business prepared for flood? Fire?

  • Great post! One of the things I do for backups is have a physical backup but also a virtual one. An online backup system is usually slower and more limited, but I use it for my most vital documents (accounting, consignment notes, art database) in the case that everything physical might get lost. (my main worry with that is theft rather than disaster) If the worst should happen I could access my files from anywhere – and those documents not only let me keep working from scratch but would also be evidence of stock and value for insurance claims. There are tons of online companies for this. I use me.com with Apple, which is not the cheapest, but because I already use it for other features too.

  • Severe weather in the south is not uncommon. However, this year has brought several rounds of extreme weather. Some record-breaking outbreaks have even been given storm of the century status. The floods in Nashville over the weekend have given me even more reason to make the issue of protecting my art and my art business in case of a weather disaster.
    Your blog is always inspiring AND pertinent to the success and well-being of artists everywhere. I am getting my Studio Protector today!

  • Mayday must be the day for thinking about this, I guess; I posted a similar line of thought on our website (which is just getting started with blogging). :-)

    I’m working on an idea for my artists that are part of the WorkingArtist community. Disaster planning, with the added measure that we can integrate some of WorkingArtist right into it, eliminating some of the work.

    The main thing is, as artists, or as any businessperson, you need to think not only about how to prevent disaster, but how to respond after the disaster if/when it happens. A catalog of your work, contacts, and suppliers are all critical. You also need to know what to do with it after the disaster. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years working on business continuity planning, and what most folks will tell you is that the last thing you want to do immediately following a disaster is have to think about “now what?”. A well formed business continuity plan can really take some of the worry out of it.

  • Several things regarding insurance that I’ve learned the hard way and most people will never think of regarding business insurance.

    1. CASUALTIY LOSS & DIVORCE: If you’re married and have a business policy though your house policy and it’s in both your names, in many states your significant other is entitled to half of the proceeds from a causality loss in case of a divorce, even if it’s your exclusive business. You want your business insurance policy to be completely separate and only in your name. It will cost you more. If you’re about to get married, make sure you have a prenuptial that addresses this situation. Regardless, see a lawyer to explain this in more depth, even if you’re currently in wedded bliss.

    2. CASUALITY LOSS & CAPITAL GAINS: Not all accountants are well versed in insurance and causality loss. By relying on an accountant early on when the insurance company paid out, I made some purchasing decisions that I wouldn’t have made if I had a better understanding. It was my fault-should have had a tax attorney from the get go. I’m not going to attempt to explain depreciated value and capital gains but you need to have your tax attorney inform you what will happen if for example the depreciated value of your studio and equipment is $200,000 and the insurance payout is $300,000.

    Other issues to have a tax attorney and a good BUSINESS insurance rep explain to you are “replacement value” and “content”. Replacement value isn’t what it implies, but you’ll want it in your policy and it’ll cost extra. What the insurance company considers to be “content” isn’t necessarily what the IRS will consider to be “content”. It could all be a George Carlin routine.

    Here’s the link for the IRS Publication 547, Casualties Disasters and Theft http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p547.pdf. It’s an eye opener.

  • Tina: I love me.com–especially for syncing to my iphone. I love that I don’t have to hook my iphone up to the computer to sync the calendar or email.

    Dian: Yes, the floods! And then the oil slick! I’m from Tornado Alley, but now it’s wildfires I fear more.

    Ron: I’ll be interested to see how you integrate disaster preparedness into Working Artist.

    Mark: Holy cow. Never thought about divorce as a disaster, but if it isn’t, nothing is. I hope this wasn’t something you had to experience first hand. Regardless, I’m grateful that you shared your advice here. We can all learn from it.

  • I just now saw this today. Ironically you posted this on the day that Nashville, Tennessee (and most of the rest of the mid-state area as well as some of Kentucky) experienced the worst flood in recorded history. I have a friend whose basement studio was flooded, and he lost all his paper art (drawings and the like) and had to scrap a lot of wood and plywood he used in the studio. I feel really badly for him; he had finally gotten his own studio area and was really starting to build up a new body of work.

    What started out as #MayDayDeluge quickly became #NashvilleFlood. So sad.

  • Brad: Yes, I didn’t realize that until much later because I was kind of out of pocket and the post had been in the works for weeks. I’m so sorry for your friend. I hope everything is okay with you. Has your friend thought about what he would have done differently?

  • You know, I haven’t talked to him, but I have talked to his wife a little. She said he had to throw out a bunch of drawings, but was able to keep a bunch of preparatory drawing material that is now wrinkly. So I’m not sure what he would’ve done differently. Probably store stuff higher!

  • Having lost my studio to Hurricane Irene, I can say that the risk of flood is serious. But I don’t think there was anything I could have done. Flood insurance is quite expensive and there were a number of examples of flood insurance failing to pay claiming that the damage was from a hurricane not a flood–seriously. A weather radio would not have helped. There was not sufficient notice of the flood for my husband to do anything to help–luckily I was at a craft show.

    Yes, do keep all your records separate from the studio. I lost some but many were on my computer which I had with me.

    The other advice I would give is to take full advantage of the resources offered by social media. You are going to need help dealing with this. Many were willing to help if I could tell them what to do. As a friend told me, take it one day at a time–you can’t do everything at once. Stay focused. Learn to ask for and accept help. And remember that this too is a process that takes time.

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