Surviving the Storm: How to Keep Your Art Protected in the Wake of Disaster

Aug 30, 2018

By Diane Jackson, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Finance at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc., a division of Aon

With the 2018 hurricane season upon us and the most damaging California wildfire blazing – not to mention the prospect of winter weather around the corner – it’s more important than ever for art collectors to create a plan of attack for how to keep their collection safe if a natural disaster were to occur. Failing to have a proactive plan in place leaves collectors vulnerable to having to react quickly in dangerous situations, upping the chance art may be damaged in hasty transit or, worse yet, have to be left behind at a moment’s notice.

To prepare for a natural disaster, collectors should consider the following:

  • Make a video of your collection. Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but fires can be especially devastating. If you can show your insurance company a video of your collection inside your home, it will help the insurance company process your claim more quickly.
  • Reserve space in a fine arts storage warehouse, ideally a warehouse with staff trained to handle fragile artwork. These facilities, which charge a monthly rent to reserve your space, tend to be located in large cities.
  • Find out how long it would take the warehouse to get a truck to your residence and how much time would be needed to carefully pack and ship your artwork.
  • Think about what you should do in the event a fire or flood moves into your area. Wind makes a fire situation ever-changing and you may need to evacuate sooner rather than later. Your personal safety comes first. Should you be faced with the need to evacuate as soon as possible and it is safe to do so, pack as much of your collection as possible into your car and hope for the best. If you’ve planned for an emergency evacuation ahead of time, you will have prioritized what pieces are most valuable to you.
  • Maintain lush, green landscapes on your property, particularly if you are the owner of a large, high value collection. Consult with landscapers and fine arts specialists about the types of vegetation that best impede a fire’s progress.
  • Some homeowner insurance companies provide a service to have your home sprayed with fire retardant materials to prevent the house from burning. Find out if the service is available for you. These companies use GPS systems to monitor the locations and direction of wildfires and are able to gauge how long it would take for them to safely reach a home and treat it with retardant sprays.
  • Not all collectors have the resources to contract with storage facilities or fire retardant contractors, but taking obvious precautions are essential. Close windows and any outside air vents. Smoke damage is typically treatable but will depend on the extent of the damage. It is important to have the items given to professional conservators as soon as possible.

When it comes to treasured art collections, collectors should expect the unexpected. Natural disasters can happen anywhere and can impact anyone, yet having a plan in place will give you peace of mind that your collection is protected.

Diane Jackson is Chief Operating Officer and Director of Finance at Huntington T. Block Insurance Agency, Inc., a division of Aon, the world’s premier insurance broker. With more than 1,200 museums, 800 art galleries, and some of the largest universities and Fortune 500 companies’ art collections insured, HTB is the world’s leading provider of insurance to the fine art community.

This article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to provide individualized business, insurance or legal advice. You should discuss your individual circumstances thoroughly with your legal and other advisors before taking any action with regard to the subject matter of this article. Only the relevant insurance policy provides actual terms, coverages, amounts, conditions, and exclusions for an insured.