Booksellers Overcoming Disaster

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Here, the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation and LIBRIS insurance encourage booksellers to review a disaster checklist created to help stores and staff be prepared for disasters natural or otherwise. BTW will be checking in with stores affected by Hurricane Michael; let us know if you have updates to share about your store.

Every year, Mother Nature finds ways to remind us of her power. Wind, water, fire, and ice all combined to make 2017 one of the worst disaster years in recent memory. Getting through a disaster, natural or otherwise, whether as an individual, a family, or a business requires planning and the help of your community, both local and industrywide. While we hope 2018 will not be a repeat of last year, LIBRIS and the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation have put together a disaster checklist to help you be better prepared in case the worst happens.

Having provided insurance services to the book industry since 1997, LIBRIS knows a lot about the claims process after disasters and, more importantly, how to prepare your business beforehand. Whitney Balaun, business development specialist with LIBRIS, advises you first to know your policy: make sure you understand what is covered and not covered. For instance, many bookstores often have special events, she said, adding that LIBRIS’ policy has outstanding special events coverage, where some carriers have events exclusions. At the holidays, the LIBRIS policy flexes to cover your seasonal increase in merchandise, whereas many other policies do not.

Most policies also exclude Flood and Earthquake. If your bookstore is in an area where this is a concern, you need a standalone policy for this coverage. Does your policy have a waiting period on business interruption or a wind and hail deductible? That knowledge is helpful in your disaster planning. Save contact information for whom to call when you need to file a claim.

“FEMA says more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster,” said Balaun, who recommends that booksellers start by identifying and assessing their hazards: How old is your building? How up-to-date is your fire sprinkler system? How many exits do you have, and are they clearly marked for customers?

“Another area to consider is how you can strengthen your supply chain,” said Balaun, adding that business disruptions will break the chain: You may be cut off from book suppliers. You may be unable to open for business due to building damages. All create a critical issue, quickly draining your financial reserves and weakening your customer relationships.

“What’s your Plan B, in case of an emergency?” she said. “That’s why we’ve created this checklist — so you can think through all these potential issues and prepare before there’s any threat of danger. Don’t wait until the threat is imminent — under the pressure, you won’t be able to think clearly and may forget important steps.”

Even with the best of planning, a natural disaster can create a critical financial hardship for booksellers and bookstores. In those cases, the Binc Foundation serves as a safety net to help aid in recovery. Last year, the Binc Foundation assisted a record number of stores and booksellers impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. Whether a bookseller’s home was destroyed by fire, a store was forced to temporarily close after a damaging storm, or a bookseller’s family couldn’t pay their bills because the wage earners were not able to work after a disaster, the Foundation was able to step in and help.

In one instance, a bookseller’s home was severely damaged in the flood waters following Hurricane Harvey. With no family living nearby and all hotel rooms within commuting distance filled to capacity, the family was forced to move back into the damaged home as soon as the waters receded. Binc helped purchase cleaning and building supplies to help make the home livable again. The bookseller was able to continue working at the bookstore by day, while working each night to repair their home. Kit Steinaway, program manager of the Foundation, marveled, “The resilience and determination of these booksellers facing unbelievable loss was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Their desire to help the bookstore stay open and staffed while struggling with their own personal losses speaks volumes to the dedication of booksellers.”

We all know that in the book world, “community” is more than just a catchphrase; it’s a way of life. The bookselling community shows its true character during times of greatest need. Last year we saw it manifest in many ways, with publishers helping damaged stores restock, booksellers offering up spare rooms in their homes to displaced colleagues, and communities digging in to help repair and reopen stores. Booksellers look out for each other and are always concerned for someone who “has a greater need than I do.” When we all pitch in to help each other, we strengthen the entire book industry and create a caring community of book people.

With another disaster season underway, both LIBRIS and Binc have already heard from booksellers who have weathered Hurricane Lane, Hurricane Florence, and the ever-present California wildfires. In our wish for every bookstore and every bookseller to make sure that they are prepared, Libris and Binc have put together this Disaster Checklist. Please download the checklist, store it on your computer at work and at home, and use it to make sure your shop and family are prepared when Mother Nature decides to strike again.