1 Before any emergency, have a written plan, keep it updated with phone numbers and personnel, and make sure everybody knows his or her responsibilities.
"As a routine part of our initial analysis of a dealership's operations, we question them about their emergency preparedness plans," said fixed ops consultant Larry Edwards. "This is usually followed by a blank stare, except in places where bad storms are common, like hail in the South and large snowfalls in the North."
2 In addition to the dealership's insurance company, the emergency phone list for hail should include a list of "storm chasers" -- contractors who fix hail damage using paintless dent repair.
Edwards said if dealership managers don't know any storm chasers, they could ask other dealers. Some insurers, such as American Road Insurance Co., have approved paintless dent-repair specialists, but dealers must choose which service providers to use, said Jim Moritz, vice president of insurance at Ford Motor Credit Co.
3 If a storm is predicted, get as many vehicles as possible under cover as early as possible.
"We always start about 24 hours ahead of time," said George Grubbs III, co-owner of Grubbs Infiniti in Grapevine, Texas. "If you wait until an hour or two ahead of time, it's too late. You've got guys running around out in the rain. It's complete chaos."
4 When moving vehicles to safety, start by getting as many customers as possible to remove their cars from your lot. Next priority: new cars, the most expensive ones first. Then used cars.
"It's all luck, but better to be prepared than sorry when they come our way," Grubbs said. In addition to cramming cars indoors when necessary, Grubbs has what he called the "luxury" of hail nets. The semipermanent fabric structures protect against hail damage and act as sunshades.
5 When insurance adjusters come to estimate the damage, make sure they check the entire lot, because damage can vary a great deal.
That's according to Tim Olson, owner of Dent Terminator in Tulsa, Okla. Insurance settlements are often based on an estimated average amount per vehicle, so it's important to get an accurate estimate upfront, instead of trying to get more from insurance later, Olson said.
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