Built-in fuel tanks with enough capacity for 10 hours of operation are standard features. With an external fuel tank, some diesel generators can run up to five days without a refill. Another accessory called an automatic transfer switch will start an electric generator as soon as Florida Power & Light service ends. Lopez said the switches are sold separately at prices starting around $600 and ranging up to $2,500 for medium-size models.
A cheaper tactic is sending employees to restaurants, libraries and other public places where electricity and wireless Internet access may be available after a hurricane. If Doral-based Compuquip Technologies loses power in a hurricane, some employees are instructed to go to specific Starbucks coffee shops to try to use their cell phones and laptops.
In a widespread power outage, Florida Power & Light routinely restores electricity first in areas where public safety facilities are located.
"We have to get hospitals back on, we have to get police and fire, we have to get water and wastewater facilities back on. They do receive priority," said Keddy Bostic, an FPL spokesman. "Wilma also taught that we have to get [electricity] back on major thoroughfares. We bring up those quickly. We bring up grocery stores, gas stations, in order to give the community a chance to start rebounding."
Some companies count on generators in a power outage as a supplemental source of electricity, not the sole source. One of them is Frank H. Furman Insurance, which lost power but not customers during Hurricane Wilma. Within 24 hours of Wilmas landfall, Furman Insurance took pre-arranged delivery of a trailer with a portable office inside, enough seats, desks, telephones, electrical outlets and Internet connections for 19 employees. While some employees processed claims in the trailer, others next door in the home office gradually brought the insurance agencys computer system, phones and copiers back to life with two small gasoline-powered generators.
That plan allowed Furman Insurance to handle a mountain of post-hurricane work, not only processing claims from owners of damaged properties but also issuing new coverage for contractors to rebuild, and the agency is prepared to do so again with the help of its disaster recovery service, Agility, said Dirk DeJong, the companys president and chief operating officer. "We pay them a monthly fee, a very minimal fee, to be on a disaster call-up list, so in the event we cant operate, theyll come in and get us operational within 24 hours."
Multi-risk commercial policies for smaller companies known as BOPs, short for business owners policies, usually combine property and liability coverage with business income insurance, also known as business interruption insurance. This type of insurance covers the loss of business income, which can be worse than property damage for a hurricane-struck enterprise. But it may be unavailable, depending on a companys location.
Business interruption insurance reflects the lofty price and limited availability of windstorm insurance in South Florida, especially coverage for companies near the coast. "West of I-95, I can get business income insurance much easier," DeJong said. "If Im east of Federal Highway, and I have a BOP policy with ABC Insurance, theyre going to cover me for business interruption, but not for wind if a hurricane comes."
Companies can hold down their premiums for business interruption insurance by limiting the maximum payout. Some smaller businesses, for example, are content with coverage in the range of $250,000 to $500,000. Another way to hold down BOP premiums is increased fortification against hurricane damage, which also reduces the risk of a business interruption.
"Would putting on a new roof be beneficial? Chances are that would be, because thats one of the key things that underwriters are going to look at," said Christina Royer, a vice president in the Fort Lauderdale office of Seitlin Insurance and Advisory Service. "Any betterments you can make will influence how you look to an underwriter."
Royer, who heads the risk management unit at Seitlin Insurance, also recommends that companies negotiate expanded terms for business interruption insurance to cover costs not generally included in standard coverage, like claim preparation fees.
"If you have a loss and youre going to need forensic accounting experts to prove up your loss, that is coverage that you make sure you address in the policy," she said.
Royer, who advises keeping current insurance policies for property, equipment and vehicles in a dry location, said her personal insurance policies at home are secured and set for travel: "I keep those in a plastic container, and I keep all of the information Im going to need in a suitcase, so if I have to go, its ready to go."
Royer said property insurance commands plenty of attention, but too many South Florida businesses do piecemeal planning for a hurricane.
"Insurance is certainly an important component, but I think where most businesses, both large and small, go wrong is not really mapping out a disaster plan and business continuity plan, she said. They havent internally, from an operational standpoint, determined how theyre going to do that."
An advance hurricane response plan for employees will maximize efficiency and promote recovery when one actually hits, note business leaders. Set up emergency delegation of duties to handle such storm-related issues as damage to business premises and contents, including computers and phone systems, and external communications with customers, suppliers, vendors, lenders and insurance agents.
Management should share personal contact details with employees to ensure post-storm communications. "Make sure they have your mobile phone number so they can text you back," said attorney Kevin M. Levy, who moderated a panel discussion on hurricane preparedness at a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce event on June 14.
Encouraging employees to make their own personal preparations for a hurricane should be an integral part of a companys hurricane plan as well.
"Disaster recovery is about: How do we get back to where we were before? " said Levy, of the law firm Gunster, Yoakley & Stewart. After all, no employee of a storm-battered business can contribute professionally, Levy said. unless personally "youre under control and youve got yourself taken care of."