Risk Insights: Manufacturing

 Manufacturing Industry Trends to Watch

The manufacturing sector consists of businesses that utilize raw materials to generate finished products. Due to the range of items this industry plays a role in producing (e.g., food and beverages, textiles, apparel, wood products, chemicals, plastics, metals, electronics, machinery, and furniture), it contributes significantly to the overall economy. Further, this sector has experienced considerable growth in recent years, largely brought on by rising production demand for various items amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Looking ahead, certain factors indicate the manufacturing industry is poised for continued growth in the future. Professional services firm Deloitte projects the sector’s gross domestic product (a monetary calculation of the market value of goods and services generated and sold during a set time period) will increase by 2.5% in 2023. Additionally, several federal initiatives that debuted in 2022—namely, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act—have the potential to help keep costs under control and boost resiliency across the manufacturing sector, therefore fueling long-term industry growth.

Yet, some sector developments could pose challenges in the coming months and years, including labor shortages, supply chain struggles, economic issues, technology shifts, and environmental concerns. This article provides more details on manufacturing industry trends to watch.

Labor Shortages

The past few years have been met with labor shortages across industry lines. Furthermore, the pandemic motivated many employees to reevaluate their job expectations and priorities, thus prompting additional workforce shifts and compounding such shortages. The manufacturing sector is no exception to this trend. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job openings in the industry remained near record-highs in 2022, fluctuating between 750,000 and 850,000.

In light of these labor shortages, businesses within the manufacturing sector have implemented various strategies to help attract and retain talent, such as:

  • Promoting a diverse workforce—The latest BLS data shows women make up less than one-third of the manufacturing workforce, whereas Black, Asian and Latinx employees account for an even smaller proportion. As such, some manufacturing businesses have made an effort to attract these untapped demographics and expand their available talent pools by bolstering their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) measures. Common DEI measures include creating workplace policies that foster an inclusive culture and offering mentorship and career-advancing programs for diverse employees.
  • Leveraging upskilling initiatives—Upskilling refers to the process of enhancing employees’ skills and promoting continuous learning by providing ongoing education, training and professional development opportunities. Especially as manufacturing businesses hire a greater proportion of new or inexperienced employees to fill labor gaps, upskilling can make all the difference in motivating these employees to keep improving upon their abilities.
  • Offering greater flexibility, pay and benefits—In response to employees’ shifting job expectations, some manufacturing businesses have adopted more competitive workplace offerings. These offerings may include flexible hours, remote or hybrid arrangements (if possible), higher pay, improved benefits and additional well-being resources.

Supply Chain Struggles

Apart from exacerbating labor shortages, the pandemic has also contributed to supply chain struggles over the last few years. This trend has made it increasingly difficult for manufacturing businesses to secure the raw materials necessary to conduct their operations, often resulting in production delays. To combat these concerns and ensure supply chain resiliency, manufacturing businesses have utilized a number of tactics, including:

  • Strengthening relationships—By building strong connections with their suppliers, manufacturing businesses are more likely to receive additional support when navigating supply chain issues. Specifically, businesses with solid supplier relationships may benefit from solutions such as modified shipment routes and prioritized access to high-demand materials as they become available. 
  • Diversifying suppliers—Instead of relying on a small selection of primary suppliers, some manufacturing businesses have added redundancies to their supply chains by investing in multiple suppliers for the same materials. With these diversifying strategies in place, businesses can increase the likelihood of maintaining access to essential production materials even if their primary suppliers are experiencing disruptions.
  • Forming local partnerships—In addition to diversifying their supply chains, some manufacturing businesses have also begun engaging in nearshoring, which entails selecting local or domestic suppliers rather than international alternatives. This way, businesses can minimize their risk of being impacted by global shipment delays and associated supply chain disruptions. 
  • Leveraging technology—To enhance supply chain visibility, some manufacturing businesses have implemented additional workplace technology. Examples of this technology include work instruction software and digital ecosystems, which are capable of actions such as streamlining supply chain workflows, ensuring frequent communication with suppliers, providing status updates on material shipment processes and delivering notifications regarding possible disruptions.

Economic Issues

The combination of labor shortages and supply chain struggles have significantly driven up the cost of goods and services in recent years, posing widespread inflation issues across all sectors of the economy. As it pertains to the manufacturing industry, inflation issues have resulted in rising costs for many raw materials, as well as their associated shipment expenses (e.g., labor and transportation costs). Consequently, most manufacturing businesses have encountered price hikes throughout their supply chains, thus exacerbating overall production expenses and forcing them to raise the costs of their finished products to ensure profitability. 

As inflation issues press on within the sector, it’s important for manufacturing businesses to curb consumer frustration regarding rising product costs by being transparent about the reasons behind these price hikes. Maintaining open communication about the impact of inflation on production expenses and providing frequent updates on how their price tags will continue to fluctuate can help businesses maintain customer trust and loyalty during these difficult times.

To help minimize overall inflation concerns, the Federal Reserve (Fed) has steadily been hiking up interest rates. Economic analysts predict that the Fed’s efforts will eventually pay off during 2023, with inflation slowly subsiding throughout the year. However, some economic experts have forecasted that rising interest rates and prolonged labor market challenges could lead to a potential recession—a prolonged and pervasive reduction in economic activity—throughout the United States in the near future. 

To prepare for a potential recession, it’s best for manufacturing businesses to consider practices such as establishing concrete financial plans, scaling back certain operations, promoting steady cash flow, ensuring proper debt management, fostering strong connections with stakeholders and leveraging effective marketing strategies. Above all, it’s crucial for businesses to maintain ample insurance in a recession and secure financial protection against possible losses.

Technology Shifts

To help offset increased expenses and productivity concerns brought on by current sector trends, a growing number of manufacturing businesses have begun utilizing smart factory initiatives. These initiatives focus on improving operational efficiencies and mitigating production costs with various technology solutions. 

Common technology solutions introduced by smart factory initiatives include 5G, the cloud and edge computing systems. These solutions are intended to help increase network capacity, reduce delays in network communication and enable greater volumes of data to be processed at higher speeds. Such solutions often permit manufacturing businesses to minimize downtime on the production floor and elevate operational performance.

In addition to implementing smart factory initiatives, some manufacturing businesses have also started leveraging disruptive technology offerings, such as augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT) and blockchain. Both AR and AI can be used to automate production processes, enhance customer service capabilities and make data-driven decisions. On the other hand, IoT and blockchain can help manufacturing businesses closely monitor their supply chains, record essential transactions, conduct predictive maintenance on production equipment, utilize advanced analytics, track inventory and assets, and detect potential safety concerns.

In any case, both smart factory initiatives and disruptive technology can pose additional cybersecurity risks. With this in mind, manufacturing businesses that leverage such technology should review their digital exposures and make adjustments as needed to mitigate possible cyber losses.

Environmental Concerns

The environmental, social and governance (ESG) landscape continues to evolve, with both consumers and regulators placing additional pressure on manufacturing businesses to ensure eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Specifically, current ESG trends in the manufacturing industry center around:

  • Decreasing carbon emissions—According to the latest industry research, the manufacturing sector accounts for nearly one-third of total greenhouse gas emissions. As such, it has become increasingly important for manufacturing businesses to aim for carbon neutrality. Some government agencies have even started requiring businesses to disclose information regarding their carbon emissions. Common emission-reducing measures include electrifying fleets, using clean power sources (e.g., wind and solar) and implementing energy-efficient smart devices on the production floor.
  • Reducing operational waste—Many manufacturing processes generate substantial waste, thus damaging the environment. Fortunately, proper waste management practices and certain types of production technology can help mitigate these concerns, promoting eco-friendly operations. 

Conclusion

Overall, there are several trends currently impacting the manufacturing sector. By staying on top of these developments and taking steps to mitigate their associated exposures, manufacturing businesses can effectively position themselves to maintain long-term growth and operational success. 

Contact us today for additional risk management guidance.

Home Matters: Decorate Safely During the Holidays

 As the holiday season gets into full swing, many families decorate to spread some cheer and make their homes more festive. While holiday decorations can be fun and beautiful, they can also present fire hazards. To keep your home and family safe throughout this holiday season, consider the following decorating tips.

  • Follow all installation and usage instructions for lighting decorations to ensure that you are not increasing your chance of starting a fire.
  • Inspect new and used lights before using them and discard any that have cracks, exposed wires or loose connections.
  • Do not connect more than three sets of lights to an extension cord at one time.
  • Plug outside lighting only into a ground fault circuit interrupting outlet, as this will safeguard the outlet from any interaction with water.
  • Do not secure outside lights with staples or nails, and avoid placing indoor extension cords under carpeting, rugs and furniture.
  • Unplug lighting decorations before going to bed and leaving the house.
  • If you set up a Christmas tree, place the tree in a sturdy stand at least 3 feet away from heat sources.
  • Only keep your Christmas tree for two weeks, because it will dry out quickly and can become highly flammable. 

Be Careful With Wiring

If you blow a fuse while decorating, discard the faulty light string or decoration and replace the blown fuse. If the fuse blows again, contact an electrician to investigate the problem further. This might indicate a more serious wiring problem in your home. 

For more home safety guidance and homeowners insurance solutions, contact us today.

Nonprofit Sector Trends to Watch

Nonprofit organizations operate to fulfill their missions, benefit the community, and serve the public. They are essential for maintaining a thriving society and contribute greatly to health care, higher education, environmental stewardship, human services, religious services, arts and culture, and other vital services. 

However, in the months and years ahead, the nonprofit sector could face several challenges posed by industry trends, including economic uncertainty, labor shortages, and heightened cybersecurity risks. These factors may lead to a drop in fundraising and rising operational costs. 

As such, it’s important for nonprofit organizations to closely monitor these sector concerns and adjust their risk management practices as needed. This article provides more information on nonprofit sector trends to watch.  

Economic/Recession Concerns

Numerous nonprofit organizations—especially those in the health and human services sector—experienced an increased demand for their services during the COVID-19 pandemic and may have seen an accompanying surge in federal funding and private donations. However, federal support and other funding streams appear to be tapering off due to concerns about an impending recession and high inflation. 

Many economists and business analysts agree that a recession is likely to happen within the next year. As a result, many organizations will be challenged with changing consumer behaviors, increased costs, labor market changes, and increased reputational risk. For nonprofit organizations specifically, economic downturns often result in a decline in private contributions from individual, corporate, and foundation donors, decreased funding from the government, and reduced endowments.

Data from the Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the recent significant reduction in donations may signal serious financial trouble for nonprofit organizations as the recession hits. According to the report, donor numbers fell 7% in the first half of 2022 compared to the first half of 2021, with the number of people making contributions of $100 or less dropping more than 17%. In fact, nonprofits are experiencing compounding donor loss each quarter, and the most significant concern these organizations face is an uncertain economic year. 

Since U.S. nonprofit organizations are valuable contributors to society and the economy in general, it’s important they focus on innovative solutions and effective risk management to ensure short-term survival as the economic downturn leads to a loss of funding. Best practices include diversifying funding sources, aligning with partners across the nonprofit sector to maximize the pool of potential donors, and developing a communication strategy to reach target audiences. 

Labor Shortages

The nonprofit sector has the third-largest workforce in the United States, employing over 12 million people. However, employment fell by 1.6 million during the pandemic and decreased even more during the Great Resignation—an unprecedented mass exit from the workforce spurred by the pandemic. As a result, a tight labor market and a shrinking pool of workers have increased talent competition, leaving many nonprofit organizations understaffed. Since these organizations may struggle to offer competitive salaries and benefits, they often lose employees and candidates to better-paying jobs elsewhere. Even volunteerism remains below pre-pandemic levels—dropping 7% between 2019 and 2021, according to a U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps survey—as people continue to worry about their health, vaccine protocols, and sanitation practices. 

Inadequate staffing at some nonprofit organizations may lead to delays or a complete loss of needed services, causing the communities they serve to suffer. A survey from the National Council of Nonprofits found that 26% of nonprofit organizations have a waitlist more than a month-long, and 21% don’t even have a waitlist because they are currently unable to accept new clients. In addition to issues with providing services, inadequate staffing can lead to financial instability, damaged reputations, data breaches, insufficiently trained staff, and board member liability issues. 

To attract and retain staff, some nonprofits have started to offer better pay and benefits as well as improved workplace advancement opportunities and flexibility. Many nonprofits are also making an effort to increase the diversity of leadership and staff, which can have a positive impact on employee and client relationships and help attract and retain top talent. Nonprofit insurance coverage—including general liability insurance, commercial property insurance, and business income insurance—can also help organizations ensure the continued protection of people and assets while they fulfill their missions. 

Heightened Cybersecurity Risks

Cybersecurity risks are becoming increasingly severe, targeted, and frequent across all sectors. However, nonprofits are particularly at risk since many organizations don’t have the funding to implement adequate cybersecurity protocols. In addition, nonprofits often collect and store highly valuable information about their clients, donors, and employees, making them a prime target for cybercriminals. The shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic also significantly increased exposure to data breaches and cyberattacks for several reasons, including expanded attack surfaces, less oversight by security staff, and unsecured hardware and networks. 

Unfortunately, the way many nonprofit organizations conduct business makes them vulnerable to cyberattacks. For example, while technology has made it easier to accept donations online, it has also made it easier for cybercriminals to steal from them, especially if the website is unsecured. Technology has also allowed for simpler communication processes, but clicking a bad link, downloading a file, or opening a malicious PDF can result in a cybersecurity incident with potentially devastating consequences. While volunteers may have good intentions for volunteering their time, there may be cybercriminals who slip through quick onboarding processes and leave organizations at risk of a cyberattack. 

Since nonprofit organizations tend to operate on a limited budget, investing in robust cybersecurity measures or recovering from a data breach may be more difficult than it is for other organizations. However, many cyberattacks can be prevented by locking down the digital donation system, securing email communications, and obtaining a criminal background check on all staff and volunteers. 

Conclusion

Overall, there are several trends currently impacting the nonprofit sector. By staying on top of these developments and taking steps to mitigate their associated exposures, nonprofit organizations can effectively position themselves to maintain long-term growth and operational success. 

For additional, industry-specific risk management guidance, contact us today.

Shopping for Auto Rates

Before you purchase a car, it’s a good idea to understand all the costs associated with the purchase of the vehicle — including the cost of automobile insurance.

The Basics

Learning about how automobile insurance rates are determined will help you to navigate why rates vary and assist you with your auto-buying decision. Factors that impact auto rates include the following:

  • Age of Insured Driver(s) – Young drivers under the age of 25 are statistically up to four times more likely to be in an accident, so rates are typically higher than their older counterparts. Additionally, males under the age of 25 will be more expensive to insure than females of that age.
  • Driver record – Studies indicate that drivers with past claims are more likely to have future claims. Drivers with moving violations, accidents, and/or claims in the past three years will usually pay a higher price for their automobile insurance than those ensuring the same vehicle but are “loss-free.”
  • The Type of Vehicle You Drive – Both size and performance impact premium costs:
    • Size: Larger cars tend to be less expensive to insure than smaller cars because they typically suffer less damage in an accident.
    • Performance:  High-performance vehicles, such as sports cars, tend to be more expensive to insure since they are statistically driven more aggressively.  As a result, they tend to be involved in accidents more frequently.
  • Value and Age of Car – As a simple rule of thumb, the more expensive the car, the more it will cost to insure. The newer the vehicle, the more it costs to insure. 
  • Car Features – You can earn premium discounts based on the vehicle’s safety features, such as anti-lock brakes, airbags, anti-theft devices, and having more than one car on the policy.
  • Vehicle Usage and Location – Typically, the higher the mileage, the higher the premium. Additionally, the more densely populated an area is, the higher the auto premium.  
  • Deductible Choice – The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.

We’re Here to Help

Call our office today at 262.646.5777 to learn more about our automobile insurance and personal risk management solutions.

Top Ways to Save on Your Auto Premium:

  • Consider raising your deductible.
  • Keep up your good driving record.
  • Drive a car with safety features such as anti-lock brakes and airbags.
  • Install an anti-theft device.

2023 D&O Insurance Midyear Market Outlook

While the last few years in the directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance segment were met with double-digit rate increases and lowered capacity, market conditions proved more favorable throughout 2022. In particular, most policyholders experienced more moderate rate jumps, with some public companies even encountering rate decreases. As overall sentiment toward the D&O space began to shift, new market entrants also emerged, thus bolstering underwriting appetites and fostering greater competition among carriers. In light of such conditions, the first half of 2023 saw most public companies encounter double-digit rate decreases—between 10% and 25%, according to industry research—and access to more capacity. However, because private and nonprofit companies are considered a higher risk by carriers than their public counterparts, these policyholders have remained subject to additional underwriting scrutiny and less substantial rate decreases. Altogether, industry experts anticipate that favorable segment conditions will continue for the rest of 2023, paving the way for further premium deceleration.

Developments and Trends to Watch

• Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues—ESG activism has made a noticeable impact on the D&O market. Specifically, senior leaders have been held more accountable for upholding their companies’ ESG efforts by stakeholders and regulators, thus prompting increased litigation against these leaders and related D&O claims. For instance, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed new disclosure rules in 2022 requiring public companies to share more information on their climate exposures, possibly posing further D&O risks. Complicating matters, the first half of 2023 shed visibility on a divide between federal regulators pushing for ESG initiatives and some state governments and stakeholders adopting anti-ESG perspectives. This leaves companies and their senior leaders in the crossfire and forces them to make decisions that will ultimately promote their long-term interests and mitigate overall D&O risks.

• Economic uncertainty—The economy has shown signs of trouble since 2022, primarily due to high inflation issues and rising interest rates. Although worries of a recession somewhat cooled in the first half of 2023, overall economic concerns have pressed on, evidenced by a surge in corporate insolvencies and the collapse of multiple major banks (e.g., Silicon Valley Bank). Further, a recent survey conducted by insurance company Willis Towers Watson (WTW) and international law firm Clyde & Co found that 63% of global executives listed the economy as their most significant D&O exposure, carrying elevated claim risks and the potential for shrinking market capacity. Considering such trends, it has grown increasingly vital for companies and their senior leaders to monitor the shifting economic landscape and adjust their business practices as needed to demonstrate to insurers and stakeholders that they are equipped to handle their associated risks.

• Cybersecurity concerns—Cyberattacks continue to increase in cost and frequency, sometimes leading to litigation against senior leaders and related D&O claims. Potential D&O losses can arise from allegations such as senior leaders failing to take proper steps to protect stakeholders’ personal information, implement controls to prevent cyberattacks, and report incidents or notify certain parties. Amid increasing ransomware threats and rising digital warfare exposures brought on by the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, cybersecurity has become a worldwide D&O concern. According to the aforementioned survey from WTW and Clyde & Co, 62% of global directors consider cyberattacks, data loss and digital crime to be among their top D&O risks. What’s more, the SEC proposed enhanced disclosure rules in March 2023 that would require public companies to provide more in-depth documentation regarding their cybersecurity procedures, potentially exacerbating associated D&O exposures.

 Tips for Insurance Buyers
  • Assess and update your organization’s ESG initiatives in coordination with your senior leadership team. Make sure these initiatives meet federal and state requirements and reflect the company’s long-term goals.
  • Monitor your senior leaders’ financial operations to ensure they maintain safe and transparent practices.
  • Involve your senior leaders in reviewing the company’s digital risks and implementing cybersecurity protocols.

 

*This document is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel or an insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2023 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.

Cyber Update: MGM Cyberattack Emphasizes Need for Layered Defenses

The odds are stacked in favor of increasingly bold and sophisticated cybercriminals, as MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment learned this week, meaning organizations need multiple layers of defense and heightened vigilance against social engineering tactics. 

MGM Resorts, which owns and operates multiple hotels/casinos in Las Vegas, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, and Luxor, along with other properties around the country, reported a “cybersecurity issue affecting some of the company’s systems” on Sunday, Sept. 10 in a social media post. 

The issue prompted MGM to take some of its systems offline while it dealt with the intrusion and worked with law enforcement. As a result, guests could not use digital hotel room keys, casino gaming was shut down, bars and restaurants could only accept cash, and MGM hotels could not accept new reservations, per news and social media reports. 

As of Monday, Sept. 11, MGM said systems were again “operational,” but reports of business disruption—and disgruntled guests—continued.  The hospitality chain has not confirmed any additional details but filed an 8-K with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Sept. 13 alerting regulators to the event. Shortly after news of MGM’s event broke, reports emerged of a ransomware event hitting casino operator Caesars Entertainment. The company also filed an 8-K with the SEC, indicating that cybercriminals had stolen some customer data. 

What happened? 

A malware research group trusted in the cybersecurity world known as VX-Underground reported earlier this week that threat actors tied to the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware-as-a-service gang appeared to be behind the attack. This particular threat group, also known as Scattered Spider and UNC3944, is believed to have perpetrated attacks on Reddit and Western Digital and excels at social engineering. 

These tactics allowed them to trick MGM’s IT team into resetting an employee’s credentials and multi-factor authentication (MFA) keys, say security experts. 

“All ALPHV ransomware group did to compromise MGM Resorts was hop on LinkedIn, find an employee, then call the Help Desk,” said VX-Underground in an X (formerly Twitter) post. “A company valued at $33,900,000,000 was defeated by a 10-minute conversation.” 

The threat actors themselves claimed responsibility for the MGM attack on Thursday, Sept. 14. They announced they gained access to MGM’s systems on Friday, Sept. 8, and that they were able to deploy ransomware despite MGM taking the systems offline on Monday, Sept. 11. They also alleged MGM had not been responsive and warned they still “have access to some of MGM’s infrastructure” and would carry out additional attacks if MGM refuses to deal with them. 

While MGM’s several days of downtime may seem like a worst-case scenario, the hospitality giant’s predicament could have been much worse had they not detected signs of an intrusion and begun remediation quickly by taking systems offline. 

“MGM was probably ahead of the game,” Jason Rebholz, chief information security officer (CISO) with Corvus Insurance, told Front Page News. “Most companies aren’t even in the position to make that decision because they’re not detecting it. If they didn’t detect this, we’d be looking at something 10 to 20 times worse.” 

MGM’s decision to take its systems offline allowed the company to recover in a more controlled environment, according to Rebholz. Though a “drastic step,” it came in response to an “almost impossible situation.” 

“The odds are stacked in the attackers’ favor. This is why cybersecurity is such a difficult game to play,” said Rebholz, adding, “In any security incident, there’s going to be something that goes wrong.” 

That said, businesses – whether they are the size of MGM or a single storefront – can’t “throw up their hands” and assume all is lost when it comes to preventing cyber events. 

“The biggest concern is that people will look at this and focus on the fact that their systems were down, and they still got infected,” he said. 

Redoubling defenses 

Rebholz urged organizations to bolster their cyber defenses as targeted attacks and more sophisticated phishing efforts appear. Organizations need to identify their most critical assets and defend them on a day-to-day basis, he said. 

“It’s an endless game of survival,” Rebholz said. “You have to continue to train your staff and employees on the current threats. It all starts with the user seeing something that’s suspicious.” 

For the insurance industry, the rise in ransomware should prompt underwriters to redouble, rather than relax, their efforts to promote good cyber hygiene for insureds. 

“This is going to be an impactful event,” Rebholz said. “Ransomware is increasing in velocity. When we start seeing the severity, we have to ask – are we requiring the right controls?” 

Weaker forms of MFA can be bypassed, necessitating multiple layers of security and verification, he noted. 

“Defense-in-depth is key here. You can’t rely on a single control. Assume at least one of these is going to fail,” said Rebholz. “Then you’re in a better position to prevent, mitigate or at a minimum respond to an event like this.” 

 

Are You Prepared? Severe Thunderstorms

Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which is extremely dangerous. Though lightning fatalities have decreased over the past 30 years, lightning continues to be one of the top three storm-related killers in the United States. Although most lightning victims survive, people struck by lightning often report a variety of debilitating symptoms. 

Other associated dangers of thunderstorms include tornadoes, strong winds, hail and flash flooding. Flash flooding is responsible for more fatalities—more than 140 every year—than any other thunderstorm-associated hazard. Dry thunderstorms that do not produce rain that reaches the ground are most prevalent in the Western United States. Falling raindrops evaporate, but lightning can still reach the ground and can start wildfires. In any case, review this guidance to properly prepare for a thunderstorm.

Before a Thunderstorm and Lightning

To prepare for a thunderstorm, do the following:

  • Build an emergency kit and make a family communications plan.
  • Remove dead or rotting trees and branches that could fall and cause injury or damage during a severe thunderstorm.
  • Postpone outdoor activities.
  • Remember the 30/30 lightning safety rule.  That is, go indoors if—after seeing lightning—you cannot count to 30 before hearing thunder. Stay indoors for 30 minutes after hearing the last clap of thunder.
  • Secure outdoor objects that could blow away or cause damage.  
  • Get inside a home, building or hard top automobile (not a convertible). Although you may be injured if lightning strikes your car, you are much safer inside a vehicle than outside.
  • Remember, rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide no protection from lightning. However, the steel frame of a hard-topped vehicle provides increased protection—so long as you are not touching metal.
  • Shutter windows and secure outside doors. If shutters are not available, close window blinds, shades or curtains.
  • Unplug any electronic equipment before the storm arrives.

Facts About Thunderstorms

  • They may occur in a single spurt, in clusters or in lines.
  • A single thunderstorm affecting one location for an extended time can be more severe than other storms.
  • Thunderstorms typically produce heavy rain for a brief period, anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Warm, humid conditions are highly favorable for thunderstorm development.
  • About 10% of thunderstorms are classified as severe. These storms generally produce hail at least an inch or larger in diameter and have winds of 58 mph or higher. They can also produce tornadoes.

Facts About Lightning

  • Lightning’s unpredictability increases the risk to individuals and property.
  • Lightning often strikes outside of heavy rain and may occur as far as 10 miles away from any rainfall.
  • “Heat lightning” is actually lightning from a thunderstorm that’s too far away for thunder to be heard. However, the storm may be moving in your direction.
  • Most lightning deaths and injuries occur when people are caught outdoors in the summer months, usually during the afternoon and evening.
  • Your chances of being struck by lightning are estimated to be 1 in 600,000, but could be reduced even further by following adequate safety precautions.
  • Lightning strike victims carry no electrical charge and should be attended to immediately.

During Thunderstorms and Lightning

If thunderstorms and lightning are occurring in your area, do the following:

  • Use a battery-operated National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for updates from local officials.
  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices, including those plugged into electrical outlets for recharging. Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are safe to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items, such as computers, and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as tall, isolated trees in open areas.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach and boats on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal, such as tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs and bicycles.
  • If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.
  • After a Thunderstorm or Lightning Strike

    If lightning strikes you or someone you know, call 911 for medical assistance as soon as possible. The following are things you should check when you attempt to give aid to a victim of lightning:

    • Breathing—If breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
    • Heartbeat—If the heart has stopped, administer CPR.
    • Pulse—If the victim has a pulse and is breathing, look for other possible injuries. Check for burns where the lightning entered and left the body. Be alert for nervous system damage, broken bones and loss of hearing and eyesight.

    After the storm passes, remember the following:

    • Never drive through a flooded roadway. Water can damage your vehicle and poses a drowning hazard.
    • Continue to listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or to local radio and television stations for updated information or instructions, as access to roads or some parts of the community may be blocked.
    • Help people who may require special assistance, such as infants, children and the elderly or those with access or functional needs.
    • Stay away from downed power lines and report them immediately.
    • Watch your pets closely. Keep them under your direct control.

    Midwest Insurance Group, LLC is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. For additional risk management guidance, contact us today.

Know the Terms

Familiarize yourself with these terms to help identify a thunderstorm hazard:

  • Severe thunderstorm watch—Such a watch tells you when and where severe thunderstorms are likely to occur. Watch the sky and stay tuned to your cellphone, the radio and the television for more information.
  • Severe thunderstorm warning—Such a warning is issued when severe weather has been reported by spotters or indicated by radar. Warnings indicate imminent danger to life and property to those in the path of the storm. In these instances, seek safe shelter immediately.

Lightning Safety When Outdoors

If you are:

Then:

In a forest

Seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of small trees.

In an open area

Go to a low place, such as a ravine or valley. Be alert for flash floods.

On open water

Get to land and find shelter immediately.

Anywhere you feel your hair stand on end (which indicates that lightning is about to strike)

Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet. Place your hands over your ears and your head between your knees. Make yourself the smallest target possible and minimize your contact with the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.

Contractors Pollution Liability Insurance

Contractors, no matter what industry they work in, face environmental risks stemming from operations on a daily basis. For most contractors, a single pollution incident or loss can seriously damage their reputation, operations and even their balance sheet. Making matters worse, pollution incidents can be sudden or occur gradually over time.

While many contractors assume that environmental claims will be covered under their commercial general liability (CGL) policy, the unfortunate reality is that most CGLs contain pollution exclusions that leave contractors uninsured in the event of a pollution incident. 

Thankfully, contractors are increasingly turning to contractors pollution liability (CPL) insurance to ensure they have the right coverage in place to remain secure and profitable.

CPL Coverage Basics

CPL policies provide contractor-based insurance for third-party coverage for bodily injury, property damage, defense, and cleanup as a result of sudden and gradual pollution incidents arising from contracting operations performed by or on behalf of the contractor. CPL insurance is intended to provide coverage to all types of contracting operations, including contractors who are involved in building construction and environmental firms that remediate polluted sites.

CPL policies are offered on either a claims-made or occurrence basis. What’s more, CPL policies are nonstandard, meaning each policy is different and can be modified to cover the various needs of the contractor purchasing the policy. Policies can be offered on a project or blanket program basis. 

In some instances, CPL policies can also be used to cover losses from civil fines, penalties and punitive damages.

Covered Pollution Incidents

Contractors should keep in mind that CPL insurance policies differ in regard to the types of pollution incidents that are covered. Two important considerations when evaluating CPL insurance policies are: 

  • Whether or not the policy will respond to gradual releases of pollutants, as opposed to sudden and accidental releases
  • The types of substances that are considered “pollutants” under the terms of the policy 

Generally, policies that cover both gradual and sudden releases of pollutants provide contractors with a broader scope of coverage. In addition, policies that provide a broad definition of pollutants are considered superior to those that contain a narrow definition. Accordingly, it is important that contractors work with their broker to find a CPL policy that is tailored to their needs.

CGL Pollution Exclusions 

A primary reason why contractors obtain a CPL policy is due to the various pollution exclusions contained in most CGL policies. The pollution exclusions found in most CGL policies take one of two forms, either “absolute” or “total.”

CGL policies with an absolute pollution exclusion remove coverage for most pollution events that would occur in the course of an insured’s business operations. However, despite its name, an absolute pollution exclusion may preserve coverage for certain incidental pollution damages, products and completed operations liability, and certain off-premises work.

However, more commonly, CGL policies include a more restrictive “total pollution exclusion.” This type of exclusion effectively removes coverage for any event the insurer characterizes as a pollution incident. 

Contractual Requirements

Contractual requirements serve as another motivating factor that lead many contractors to obtain a CPL policy. In many instances, project owners and general contractors will require contractors to obtain pollution insurance that meets certain, predetermined standards. 

From this perspective, having a CPL insurance policy in place can serve as an upfront sales tool during the bidding process that enables contractors to qualify for opportunities when such coverage is required.

Finding the Right Policy

Regardless of specialty, all contractors should be mindful of the pollution risks associated with their work. A CPL insurance policy can provide much-needed security in the event of a pollution incident, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. 

Let Midwest Insurance Group, LLC work with your organization to find the CPL coverage that is right for you. 

  Strategic Benefit Planning

Competitive employee benefits packages are essential for attracting and retaining quality employees, but continuing to offer them can be tough with the rising cost of health care squeezing an already tight budget. Cutting benefits may seem like a necessary reality for some companies, but could have serious long-term consequences. 

Retaining employees throughout these rocky economic times is vital so that your company remains competitive and positioned favorably in its industry when the economy rebounds. One remedy could be implementing a strategic benefit plan, which will help you find ways to contain or even cut costs while still offering competitive benefits.

What is a strategic benefit plan?

A strategic benefit plan is a three-to-five-year plan crafted by you and your Midwest Insurance Group, LLC representative that outlines goals, strategies, and action plans in regards to your employee benefits program. In creating the plan, you and your broker will strategically analyze ways to contain costs through various plan improvements. This approach is a methodical and logical long-term approach to benefit planning, as opposed to making decisions year to year, and will provide a thought-out road map for your future benefits.

What are the benefits of implementing one?

At the company level, creating a strategic benefit plan will help greatly with internal budget planning and can also be incorporated into your corporate strategic plan. This will bring HR and employee benefits into larger strategic conversations and ensure that a competitive benefits package continues to be available.

Employees will also see the benefit from a strategic benefit plan in many ways. First of all, by finding ways to cut and contain costs for the company, the employee will likely reap some of the savings as well. In addition, this type of plan will provide assurance for employees worried about their benefits. Next to job security, employees worry most about their benefits and compensation, namely that they could be reduced or cut at any time. 

Studies have shown that workplace morale is strongly linked to the quality of employee benefits, so reassuring employees that their benefits will continue is a beneficial move for companies. The strategic benefits plan can include an employee communication initiative, which will keep employees informed and assured on the future status of their benefits package. 

Cyber Risk & Liabilities: The 3-2-1-1-0 Data Backup Rule

It is essential to effectively back up data since its loss can have significant financial and reputational consequences. Yet, as technology advances, backup strategies also evolve. For example, the 3-2-1 rule, a long-held data backup standard, has developed into the 3-2-1-1-0 rule that provides businesses with more robust guidance on mitigating the risks associated with data loss.

This article provides information on the 3-2-1-1-0 rule and its advantages.

The 3-2-1 Rule: A Brief Overview

The 3-2-1 rule was originally created for backing up photography files but grew to encompass safeguarding various types of information. The technique directs data users to do the following:

• Make three copies of data on a regular basis
• Store the data on two different types of media
• Maintain one copy offsite

There are attractive features of the 3-2-1 rule. It provides an easy-to-remember strategy that reduces the risk of catastrophic data loss by diversifying data storage locations and eliminating a single point of failure.
However, the rule also has its limitations. It may not provide effective protection against cyber criminals’ increased use of ransomware and backup file targeting. Additionally, it lacks a step to ensure the backup data does not contain errors. These shortcomings create gaps that could leave systems vulnerable, reduce efficiency in data restoration, and lead to increased costs and reputational damage.

The 3-2-1-1-0 Rule: Summary and Advantages

The 3-2-1-1-0 modernizes the 3-2-1 rule and addresses its weaknesses. It aims to provide more robust data protection along with more efficient recovery after a data loss event. Here’s how the updated 3-2-1-1-0 rule compares to the 3-2-1 rule:

• The original “3” referred to having three copies of data available, meaning the original and two backups. With the updated rule, the “3” now refers to three backup copies of the data in addition to the original copy.
• The “2” still directs businesses to store data on two different types of media, but as technology has improved, ways to accomplish this have expanded (e.g., cloud storage, solid state drives).
• The first “1” still refers to maintaining a backup copy of the data offsite. This reduces the risk of data loss if the primary physical location is compromised or destroyed (e.g., in a fire or flood).

The updated 3-2-1-1-0 rule also adds two steps to the original rule:

• Store one (“1”) copy of the data offline
• Ensure there are zero (“0”) errors in the backup copies

These revisions provide several advantages when compared to the 3-2-1 rule. For example, storing a copy offline mitigates risks associated with ransomware, malware designed to deny access to data unless a ransom payment is made.
Ransomware attacks have been increasing in number and sophistication, and cybercriminals have begun targeting backup data. Ensuring a copy of data is stored offline creates an “air gap,” meaning the data is not accessible through the internet and the information is not available for hackers to access remotely.
Users can also utilize cloud storage that operates on a separate system to accomplish this goal. When this method is utilized, it is advisable to make the data immutable, or unable to be changed, and to encrypt it.
Additionally, following the 3-2-1-1-0 rule and verifying there are zero errors in backup copies helps ensure that restoration occurs properly and efficiently. With the amount of data needed in operations, restoration processes can be hampered by corrupted data. Businesses should regularly perform restore tests to promptly find and correct errors. They also should ensure backup systems are updated and patched to help streamline the restoration process.

Conclusion

While the 3-2-1 rule offers some protection for a business’s data, the 3-2-1-1-0 rule provides guidance on how to implement more robust safeguards. These prescriptions can help protect against data loss due to hackers, viruses, physical damage, stolen devices and human error. The 3-2-1-1-0 rule can also help businesses restore data efficiently and more cost-effectively while addressing modern needs.
By following the protocols in the 3-2-1-1-0 rule, businesses are better prepared to mitigate evolving cybersecurity risks that can lead to financial or reputational harm.
For more risk management guidance, contact us today.