Mitigating Risk: Protecting Your Valuables

The fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral has left a scarred skyline in Paris after one of the country’s most iconic structures, the church’s soaring 300-foot spire, collapsed in the flames. Fortunately, some 90 percent of the priceless relics and artworks housed at Notre-Dame were saved because of a contingency evacuation plan that was in place allowing for the immediate evacuation of the treasured items. According to an article published in Reuters, the cathedral’s contingency evacuation plan included putting priorities on objects for removal, which was followed to the letter by firefighters.

The contingency evacuation plan in effect at Notre-Dame underscores the importance of disaster preparedness and planning – for buildings of historic and cultural value, local landmarks in our communities and, on a personal level, the valuables and collections in our homes that may include family heirlooms and other items of value. Disaster preparedness for homeowners includes a number of critical measures, including the following:

  • Know what you own. Keep an accurate record of your assets and possessions  — including all furniture, electronics, appliances, tools and keepsakes, jewelry, collections, artwork, etc.
  • Conduct a household inventory. Make a list of your possessions and include model and serial numbers when available, and store these lists in a safe place away from your home, such as a safe deposit box at a bank located away from disaster-prone areas.
  • Update your inventory annually.
  • Create a photographic record. This involves having a photograph or video record of your property’s exterior, your vehicles, your large furniture, collectibles and the contents of your garage, closets, basement and attic.
  • Keep receipts for valuable items and get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles and artwork. Valuable items should be reviewed and updated with your insurance broker and carrier when significant changes occur in market valuation of those items.
  • Secure proper insurance coverage. Some disasters will damage property regardless of how prepared you are. This is why having insurance that fits your risk profile is so critical:
    • Consider a guaranteed replacement cost policy for your property. This policy can pay to rebuild your house, including improvements, at today’s prices.
    • Purchase replacement cost coverage for your possessions. Standard coverage only pays for the actual cash value (replacement cost discounted for age or use). Typical policies cover personal property at 50 percent of dwelling coverage, so you may need to purchase more coverage.
    • Carry scheduled (itemized) coverage or an individual floater for items like jewelry, wine collection, fine art, etc. Standard policies provide minimum amounts of coverage for these types of items. For example, under a standard Homeowners policy, jewelry may be covered only up to $1,000. A Jewelry floater can be obtained to provide coverage for the value of each item based on appraisals.  This floater can also be designed to provide immediate coverage of new acquisitions at the time of purchase; reimbursement up to 150% of an item’s scheduled value if it needs to be replaced; and coverage during re-setting, polishing, professional repairs and restoration, among other features. A Fine Arts floater can be designed to provide worldwide coverage regardless of location; vulnerability assessments, including collection-specific site surveys to identify potential threats to your collection, along with solutions to minimize the likelihood and severity of future damage; and the option to place blanket coverage over an entire collection or itemized coverage for each individual item, insuring each to a specific dollar amount.
  • Work with insurance carriers that offer risk-mitigation services, particularly germane for high-net-worth individuals. Services include:
    • A privatized wildfire protection unit charged with keeping a home safe should a fire occur.
    • Collections management software designed to help manage any collection. If a valued possession is lost, stolen, or damaged, detailed records about the item can aid in the recovery or insurance claim process. Often, services include professional guidance to assess vulnerability to loss, including proper storage, display conditions, and advice on shipping, securing, and protecting the collection.

Owens Group is available to assist you with the insurance coverage you need to adequately protect your valuables. We also partner with insurance carriers that provide risk-mitigation services for high-net-worth clients. To learn more about our products and services, please contact Michelle Clark at 201-408-3510, or Victoria Cioce at 201-408-3509.