Protests that lead to widespread civil unrest and violence usually result in significant property damage, as evidenced by the estimated $9 million in damages sustained by businesses during the riots in Baltimore. Traditionally, domestic demonstrations of civil unrest have been localized and rare. Somewhat unusual to the U.S. and currently on the rise, is the spread of civil unrest in waves from one location to another organized around the same issue.  

For businesses to survive an episode of civil unrest, advance planning is required. Having the right insurance coverage and creating a business continuity plan will help position your business to survive, should civil unrest occur in your area.  

“We’re going to see cities starting to plan as a result of the civil unrest seen in other cities, like Ferguson and Baltimore. Just because an incident didn’t occur in your home town, doesn’t mean it can’t,” said Hart S. Brown, VP, Practice Leader, Organizational Resilience, HUB Risk Services.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll says 96% of Americans say they expect more racially charged unrest around the country this summer and more than half, or 54%, believe a similar disturbance is likely in the metropolitan area closest to where they live.

“After a natural disaster there is damage and destruction and the next day we start to rebuild, but in the case of civil unrest, there’s a lack of being able to feel safe and secure so the recovery time frame from these events is much longer and costs are higher due to loss of businesses, property values and tax revenue. Some issues can linger for years to come,” said Brown.

Insurance considerations for civil unrest

Well before civil unrest develops, businesses should review applicable insurance coverage options that apply, such as property, auto, business interruption, political risk, supply chain and trade credit insurance.

Businesses should start with a standard property policy that will cover fire, riot, windstorm, hail, collision and auto. This policy protects against direct physical damage and loss of
 income. However, it is important to know that most middle-market policies aren’t triggered until there is direct damage to the building. “If the riots are two blocks away and your business is physically fine, but no one is frequenting it, you’re still going to have a loss of revenue,” said James Stuart, Hub International Chief Sales Officer (California).

Therefore, you may want to confirm that your policy has ingress/egress coverage in your standard property policy. This protects you in the event that customers are precluded from frequenting your business due to civil authority - either the result of a curfew or blockade. 

Another important policy consideration is your deductible, as some policies will attach a time element to the deductible where vandalism or loss of revenue is measured in 24, 48 or 72-hour increments. For example, if your building is hit multiple times, the insurance company could potentially hit you with a different deductible every 24 hours.

“You don’t know when civil unrest is going to come and what’s going to trigger it,” said Stuart. “Businesses must come from a position of strength – make sure you’ve got the appropriate coverage.”

Business considerations in civil unrest

During civil unrest, protesters may target businesses in order to steal property, gain publicity and for purposes of revenge. Curfews, cessation of public transportation, closing of main transportation corridors and loss of telecommunications or even power can occur. These can all result in a reduction in access to local businesses and therefore, planning ahead will be key to survival (see HUB Civil Unrest Risk Bulletin). 

Have a business continuity plan. By planning for possible interruptions through proactive production increases, allowing early inventory shipments, rerouting deliveries or relocating critical resources, a crisis can be managed more seamlessly. Some considerations for a business continuity plan include:  

  • Identify how to communicate updates to the workforce on government advisories, changes to business operations and payroll processing 
  • Determine critical functions that need to be sustained and identify potential workarounds 
  • Identify offsite work locations or work from home options if main office is inaccessible
  • Consider hiring security guards (review local regulations to ensure compliance) 
  • Prepare for an increase in possible cyber hacking activity, as there can be a correlation between computer hacking and local civil unrest 
  • Plan for multiple waves of civil unrest, with down time in between
Don’t forget to remind your company leaders what their roles are in regard to the business continuity, conduct a physical security audit to determine any weak points in the plan and make contact with local authorities to discuss your plan before any civil unrest.

Brief your employees. Teach your employees how to keep themselves safe at work. How can they minimize as many potential problems as possible? This could include closing early, allowing those with long commutes to leave early, identifying potential work from home options, rescheduling meetings and deliveries.

Increase your physical security. If your business is a potential direct target, increase your physical security, whether that means bringing in
 security guards or boarding up windows or doors. Brainstorm other ways to increase your physical security.

Contact your HUB advisor to assist in identifying your risks, building a business continuity plan and identifying appropriate insurance coverage to fit your needs.