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North Bay Fires: Navigating the Recovery Process

Dear Friends,

As we begin the long road to recovery from the devastating wildfires in Sonoma, Napa, Lake and Solano Counties, I want to take this opportunity to assure you of Bank of Marin’s commitment to you, your families and your businesses.

We are extremely grateful that all Bank of Marin and Bank of Napa staff are safe. I fervently hope that the same can be said for you and your families. All of our branches are open and our staff is ready to help you with your immediate banking needs.

The loss of home and property as a result of these fires seems overwhelming. We want to help you navigate the recovery process by sharing the information below. You’ll also find links to other organizations helping with recovery in the affected areas.

In the near term, if there is anything Bank of Marin can do for you, like giving you access to your cash and safe deposit boxes, recovering account information or statements, changing your address or any other personal or business banking needs, please reach out to one of our branches.

I have great faith that over time, we will get through this tragedy together.

Russell A. Colombo
President & CEO
Bank of Marin

 

Five essential strategies to get your business back on track after a natural disaster

Emphasize safety first

Before you begin the process of protecting your business, it’s important to reinforce life safety for employees, tenants, residents and visitors. Following a disaster, buildings must be confirmed safe for occupancy before any employees, residents, tenants or visitors can reenter. The following are some key considerations, although there may be others as well:

  • Provide regular, written communication identifying existing hazards and controls necessary to keep people safe.
  • Provide notification and warnings like signage, caution tape, cones, and wet floor signs in areas where hazards exist but access is necessary. As appropriate, provide security to control and monitor access.
  • Control access to areas with existing or potential hazards making the area(s) unsafe. Identify, contain and control leaks or spills of hazardous materials. Control exposure to broken glass, downed power lines, exposed wiring, falling tree limbs, damaged façade or exposed nails, among other things.
  • Maintain proper access and egress from sites and buildings, and establish safe pathways, roadways and parking areas. Provide proper illumination in work zones, pathways and occupied areas.
  • Maintain proper housekeeping during restoration and recovery. Clean all hard surfaces such as concrete flooring, wood and metal furniture with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • If damage is water-related, turn off the power at the main breaker. Don’t turn the power on or off or use electric tools while standing in water.
  • Place generators and associated fuel storage outside buildings
  • Contract with experienced, reputable and insured contractors to complete work beyond your company’s areas of expertise.

Before you begin the process of protecting your business, it’s important to reinforce life safety for employees, tenants, residents and visitors. Following a disaster, buildings must be confirmed safe for occupancy before any employees, residents, tenants or visitors can reenter. The following are some key considerations, although there may be others as well:

  • Provide regular, written communication identifying existing hazards and controls necessary to keep people safe.
  • Provide notification and warnings like signage, caution tape, cones, and wet floor signs in areas where hazards exist but access is necessary. As appropriate, provide security to control and monitor access.
  • Control access to areas with existing or potential hazards making the area(s) unsafe. Identify, contain and control leaks or spills of hazardous materials. Control exposure to broken glass, downed power lines, exposed wiring, falling tree limbs, damaged façade or exposed nails, among other things.
  • Maintain proper access and egress from sites and buildings, and establish safe pathways, roadways and parking areas. Provide proper illumination in work zones, pathways and occupied areas.
  • Maintain proper housekeeping during restoration and recovery. Clean all hard surfaces such as concrete flooring, wood and metal furniture with hot water and laundry or dish detergent.
  • If damage is water-related, turn off the power at the main breaker. Don’t turn the power on or off or use electric tools while standing in water.
  • Place generators and associated fuel storage outside buildings
  • Contract with experienced, reputable and insured contractors to complete work beyond your company’s areas of expertise.
Focus on your finances

Call your financial service providers. This includes your bank, auto lender, insurance company and credit card providers. Like Bank of Marin, these organizations are here to help and can offer support. Without information, they will continue to enforce their contractual obligations, including payment due dates, as they normally would.
Ask for flexibility in payment terms and loan options. Many of these institutions will offer financial assistance, including flexible payment terms and interest rate relief, in addition to new loan options to help you manage your business during a crisis.
Focus on your credit report. For businesses affected by natural disasters, it is important to maintain a healthy credit report. Keep an eye on your credit to ensure that when you need to apply for a loan or other assistance, your score is in good shape.
Reconstruct records, as needed. After a disaster, many business owners might need to reconstruct records to prove a loss. This may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement. The IRS provides these tips for businesses, including:

  • To create a list of lost inventories, business owners can get copies of invoices from suppliers. Whenever possible, the invoices should date back at least one calendar year.
  • For information about income, business owners can get copies of last year’s federal, state and local tax returns. These include sales tax reports, payroll tax returns, and business licenses from the city or county. These will reflect gross sales for a given period.
  • Owners should check their mobile phone or other cameras for pictures and videos of their building, equipment and inventory. Business owners who don’t have photographs or videos can simply sketch an outline of the inside and outside of their location. For example, for the inside of the building, they can draw out where equipment and inventory was located. For the outside of the building, they can map out the locations of items such as shrubs, parking, signs, and awnings.

Additional resources and information from the IRS can be found here:

Assess and manage the damage

Walk through the premises

  • Exercise caution while entering the premises for any hazards, including downed electrical wires.
  • Enforce “No Smoking” rules and curtail the use of heat- or spark-producing equipment until you’re sure there are no flammable liquid or gas releases.
  • Use caution before turning on electricity where equipment may be damaged or wet.
  • Use caution in opening fuel control valves. Check to ensure that piping and equipment is intact, properly supported and not leaking.
  • Make temporary repairs to the structure and property to prevent further damage.
  • Cover machinery, equipment or materials that may be exposed to the elements.
  • Check fire protection equipment, such as fire pumps, alarm systems and automatic fire suppression, to ensure it’s working correctly.
  • Take photographs and video of damages, and maintain an itemized listing of materials and labor used to repair the property and restore operations.
  • Separate undamaged stock from damaged stock.

Manage the damage

  • Take inventory of damaged goods. This can be done with the insurance adjuster, and those photos and video you took will come in handy. Purchasing and sales records may assist in identifying what stock or materials were on hand.
  • Assess the value of damaged property.
  • Assess the impact of business interruption.
  • Contact your suppliers and key customers to determine the extent of their damages, so that you can determine the impact to your operations and whether you might have a potential contingent business interruption claim.
  • Keep damaged goods on hand for the insurance adjuster, but protected from further damage in the event the carrier wishes to salvage any property.
  • If you release goods to the adjuster or salvage, obtain a signed inventory, with pictures, detailing the type of goods and quantity.
  • Establish special job and charge codes for purchases and repairs.
  • Track the hours spent by your employees who are engaged in loss mitigation as opposed to normal business activities.
  • Document all expenses directly related to the storm, secure invoices and track any expenses related to the preparation of your claim.
Start the recovery process
  • Notify employee families about the status of personnel on premises.
  • Notify and meet with your insurance carrier to discuss claim and restoration plans.
  • Request an advance payment from your carrier if needed to resume operations.
  • Contact federal, state and local government agencies for assistance (for example, permits, inspections, certification of occupancy, and debris removal, transport and disposal.) Inform these agencies of major restoration plans.
  • Activate pre-loss agreements such as those with restoration companies.
  • Obtain repair estimates from reputable building contractors.
  • Contact vendors for records preservation, equipment repair, earth moving or engineering. Determine outsourcing needs, if any.
Resume operations
  • Determine the need for an alternate facility, if necessary, and arrange to move your equipment.
  • Coordinate power restoration with utility companies. Don’t energize on your own, or you could cause damage and injury.
  • Restore sprinkler systems and other fire protection equipment.
  • Restore equipment and property for critical operations.
  • Move backup power and equipment into place. This includes backup communication systems.
  • Ensure personnel safety and security through ongoing communication and employee briefings.
  • Provide employees with material safety data sheets (MSDSs) to keep them aware of potentially hazardous materials.
  • Maintain transparency by ongoing contact with customers and suppliers.

How to Help Others
Amid all of the fire devastation hitting Northern California, many are searching for ways to help. While the scope of the destruction will become clearer in the coming days and weeks, here are some of the foundations and non-profit organizations helping those in immediate need:

  • Sonoma County Resilience Fund: Specifically addresses the mid to long-term needs of the community.
  • Northern California Fire Fund: Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties’ community foundations have jointly mobilized this fund housed at Silicon Valley Community Foundation to respond to the devastating fires that have displaced thousands of residents and destroyed vast numbers of homes and businesses in their region.
  • Redwood Empire Food Bank: In constant need of cash for food supplies.
  • United Way Joint Fund: This is a joint fund between the United Way of the Bay Area and United Way of the Wine Country.  The goal of the United Ways’ Northern California Wildfire Relief and Recovery Fund is to provide immediate and long-term recovery assistance to North Bay residents affected by the wildfires that have spread throughout the region.
  • Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership: CVNL serves as an Emergency Volunteer Center, overseeing volunteers and donations for Napa and Marin Counties in the event of a disaster.
  • Salvation Army: designate donations for “Northern California Fires”
  • Red Cross: designate donations for “Northern California Fires”