Hurricane Irma's landfall in the Florida Keys wreaked destruction up and down the Sunshine State and took the lives of at least 47 people in the Caribbean, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. Churches and ministry organizations throughout the southeastern United States are on the front lines of the relief, rebuilding and recovery efforts, but many of those same groups have damage of their own with which to contend.
To aid churches as they face the daunting tasks of rebuilding, GuideStone® offers tips for churches and ministries faced with property damage and claims.
Gaelen Cole, senior manager of risk and compliance for GuideStone's Property and Casualty™ area, said churches should consider four main steps:
First, promptly report the claim, even though the extent of the damage may not be fully known. Those churches affected by Irma that are insured through GuideStone’s Property and Casualty partner, Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company, in Georgia, the Carolinas and Alabama should call Brotherhood Mutual at 1-800-333-3371.
Second, Cole said almost every policy requires that reasonable steps be taken to protect covered property to avoid further loss. The costs may be covered under the policy, so prompt reporting of the claim can allow for discussions of that coverage with your insurance carrier.
Third, it's important to have a thorough review of the property, looking for damage that may not be as evident.
"Some churches, especially those dealing with so many pressing needs, delegate this task and don't give it the attention it deserves," Cole said. "It's important that this be done thoroughly, by a professional whenever possible."
Fourth, providing proof of loss is also an important step, Cole said. Most insurance companies require that this be provided within 60 days of the insurer’s request for it. Churches have to consider everything from audio/visual equipment to chairs to nursery gear to office furniture in their losses. Pictures, videos and inventories are useful for determining loss.
Cole said it’s important for churches to speak with their property and casualty insurance agents, as there may be coverage for ministry interruption that can help churches who miss offerings as well as to be able to continue to meet in temporary facilities. This coverage is offered to churches using Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company.
"We have seen evidence that most churches are able to maintain their giving during the weeks after a disaster, but churches must consider the expense of renting temporary quarters while they rebuild," Cole said.
GuideStone is also standing by to assist churches and ministries with questions about their retirement or life and health benefits. Retirement questions can be directed to 1-888-98-GUIDE (1-888-984-8433), and questions about life and health plans can be directed to the new dedicated line: 1-844-INS-GUIDE (1-844-467-4843). Additionally, GuideStone has reached out to Mission:Dignity® recipients in the Harvey-related locations in Texas and Louisiana to ensure their safety and that their needs are met and have begun doing so as communications are restored in Florida and the Southeast.
"GuideStone remains committed to all of the churches we serve during these days following the one-two punch of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana and Hurricane Irma in Florida and the southeast," said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. "We are working daily to live out our vision to be a lifelong partner with our participants in enhancing their financial security."