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Insuring Against the Weather

While it's impossible to predict the exact damage wrought by hurricanes and other weather phenomena, you can assess your risk through insurance.

Last year, four major hurricanes struck Florida, then unleashed their fury on states up the Eastern Seaboard and as far west as Texas. This year's hurricane season, which began on June 1, is already well "above average"--the devastating hurricane Katrina was this season's 11th named storm. Even if you're not in Hurricane Alley, weather can still damage your business. The best way to deal with such hazards is a combination of property and business-interruption insurance, and other risk-management strategies.

"Unfortunately, many events, whether precipitated by a storm or other catastrophe, are not covered within the basic structure of most policies, particularly commercial property policies," says Anita Setnor Byer, president of Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk in Plantation, Florida. "And the insurance, if available, is often cost prohibitive."

It's impossible to insure against all potential weather damage. Instead, Setnor Byer advises, review your policies with your agent to clarify exactly what weather-related damage is covered. Then look at what recovery alternatives, including backup systems and cash reserves, will assure your company's survival. Keep in mind that even if you don't suffer direct property damage, you could be affected by a general slowdown in the local economy. Setnor Byer suggests that you have enough cash on hand to cover at least 30 to 60 days of operating expenses.

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