By Lenore Fedow
A September 2017 satellite view of Hurricane Irma, which reached maximum sustained winds of 185 miles per hour at its peak. Jewelers Mutual suggests retailers install impact-resistant window systems to protect against strong winds. (Image credit: NOAA)
New York— The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency noted last week that the first of June marked the official beginning of Atlantic hurricane season.

Last year, two major hurricanes hit the United States—Hurricane Florence, which made landfall in September and caused widespread property damage in the Carolinas, and Hurricane Michael, which obliterated entire towns along the Florida Panhandle. 

And the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 left lasting marks, particularly in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where recovery efforts continue two years later.

“With hurricane season running June 1-Nov. 30, it’s never too early for jewelers to start planning and preparing,” said Jessica VandenHouten, brand communication manager at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group.

The insurance company has compiled a Hurricane Preparedness Guide, sharing tips and tricks with jewelers about how to best protect their stores and themselves.

1. Put together an emergency kit, including hard-to-replace, important documents.

A first aid kit is a must-have in an emergency. The same goes for flashlights, extra batteries, a battery-powered radio, and a generator.

The emergency kit should also have copies of important documents jewelers may need for insurance claims, including current income tax records, monthly or quarterly sales tax returns, and sales records, all going back at least two years.

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Jewelers should make note of their physical inventory as well, including items such as showcases, desks, chairs, and computers, and keep a copy in a safe place.

For electronic files, back up the computer system using external storage or a cloud service so that files are accessible even if physical machines are damaged.

2. Reinforce windows and showcases.

Even a Category One hurricane could mean winds up to nearly 100 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Service, posing a serious threat to homes and businesses.

Jewelers Mutual suggests retailers reinforce show windows or showcase glass with a plastic or polyester film.

The company notes that the proper application of the film to a window is crucial, so be sure to follow the instructions from the manufacturer.

If remodeling is in the cards, the insurer advises business owners to consider replacing traditional windows with impact-resistant window systems.

3. Keep communication lines open.

Keeping in touch during a natural disaster can be challenging, but it’s even harder if retailers don’t have contact information readily available because all their phone numbers are stored on computers that aren’t accessible or smartphones that are dead.

Have contact information for employees and vendors on hand, especially shipping companies that may need to re-route deliveries.

Keep a customer list with phone numbers and addresses, including a separate list of customers who brought in jewelry for repair or consignment or have jewelry on layaway.

Jewelers Mutual also advises doing some research beforehand to choose a cleaning service or contractor; having their contact information on-hand before they are needed can speed up the process.

4. Don’t forget the basics.

The calm before the storm is rarely calm as jewelers prepare their stores for a storm, but Jewelers Mutual warns retailers not to overlook the most basic precautions.

It’s important for retailers to keep in touch with their employees and note where they are, but only use your cell phone for emergency calls to conserve battery life.

It can be tempting for retailers to check on their stores as soon as possible, but be mindful of road conditions and don’t return until it’s safe to do so.

Once the storm has passed, Jewelers Mutual recommends retailers give their insurance adviser a call.

For more information about hurricane safety, visit the National Weather Service website.

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