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The sunset from inside the living room of Jon Hilton's home destroyed by a Nov. 4 tornado.
Photo by Audrey Jackson

Getting ahead of the storm

Some advice for churches about insurance.

These suggestions are compiled from the best advice from insurers, agents and experts for churches hoping to avoid the disaster of losing their insurance or going broke trying to pay for it.

  • Take steps to mitigate against losses. For example, in a fire danger area, create defensible space around the building.
  • Keep the property well maintained, especially heating and plumbing, roofs and wiring — anything that can lead to a fire.

    Damage to the G Street Church of Christ auditorium.

    Damage to the G Street Church of Christ auditorium in 2023.Keep the property well maintained, especially heating and plumbing, roofs and wiring — anything that can lead to a fire.

  • If you are able to keep or find insurance, plan on increases in premiums and deductibles. Build a contingency fund, and avoid making small claims that can be handled out-of-pocket.
  • Find an agent who knows what they’re doing. That may be an agent who specializes in churches, a broker who can find different insurers for different risks or a direct writer. It takes work on your part to make sure your agent has experience in writing for churches through one company or a combination of providers.
  • Start the process six months out. Don’t wait for the nonrenewal notice to arrive.
  • Anticipate risks of building use, including schools, day care, facility rental and community involvement. Train and screen staff and volunteers regarding sexual abuse and molestation.
  • Investigate FAIR plans and other insurers of last resort.

Related: Imperfect storms

FAIR is an acronym for Fair Access to Insurance Requirements. It serves as an insurer of last resort in 33 states, but not all policies are available to churches, and some are limited to only a few counties or regions. Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma are among the states that do not have FAIR plans.

Last year, Louisiana passed SB 147 to create the Louisiana Churches and Nonprofit Religious Organizations Self-Insured Fund. Members that choose to be a part of the insurance trust will be the ones funding it, not the State of Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Insurance oversees the project.

In Texas, the FAIR plan is only available to homeowners, but the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association is an insurer of last resort for fourteen coastal counties and currently insures 200 churches and 300 church buildings. Both programs are administered by the same staff.


Filed under: Church insurance disaster relief Disasters Fire damage Flood damage Insurance National natural disasters News Storm damage Top Stories

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