Insurer Helps Develop Hurricane Plan for Newport’s Picturesque Mansions

May 25, 2007

Perched on the picturesque Rhode Island coastline, the 11 Newport Mansions are a national treasure. Once a summer getaway for the country’s wealthiest industrialists, today the historic mansions are a tourist attraction for 750,000 visitors each year.

Yet, as lovely as the mansions are, they are in prime hurricane territory and at risk should a hurricane threaten the Eastern Seaboard. To lessen the risk of damage to these grand houses, as well as ensure the safety of tourists visiting the mansions, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co., the insurer of the Newport Mansions, has worked with the Preservation Society of Newport County, the non-profit organization that owns, preserves and operates the mansions, to devise a hurricane preparedness plan.

The Preservation Society’s hurricane plan is detailed and extensive, but contains many tips that can be implemented in private residences that are in hurricane zones. According to Fireman’s Fund, it is a three-phase plan, breaking down as follows:

Phase One – Observation and Communication

During the first phase, the Preservation Society’s staff monitors the weather, including the direction and magnitude of the storm. State-of-the-art communication technology ensures that the Preservation Society staff is kept up-to-date on the conditions of the storm. Each of the 11 mansions has its own disaster list that details the structure’s valuables and how to properly secure them to minimize loss. During phase one these lists are brought out and reviewed. As an added precaution, all outside furniture and statuary are brought indoors.

Phase Two – Secure the Property

Phase two occurs when the storm is approximately 24 hours away. Of particular concern is the 1748 Hunter House, located just steps away from the water’s edge. Experts review tide charts to gauge ocean levels, while the staff moves furniture, fine arts and other valuables to the second floor or removes it from the house, according to the disaster list. Prefabricated storm shutters are installed on all windows and doors to protect the building during severe wind conditions. During the late stages of phase two the property is evacuated of all personnel.

Phase Three – Evaluate and Clean Up

Phase three occurs after the storm has passed. The Preservation Society’s staff takes photos to document damage; makes insurance claims; cleans up debris and water damage; and then re-evaluates the individual disaster lists. During hurricane season it’s not unheard of for storms to hit one after another. As a result, there may be little time between phase three and gearing up for phase one again.

According to Mike King, vice president of marketing for Personal Insurance at Fireman’s Fund, there are many key elements in the Preservation Society’s disaster plan that are applicable for homeowners.

“In essence, the Newport Mansions are very large private homes. They are, without a doubt, special properties with unique circumstances we must consider, such as the preservation of historic architectural elements and antique furniture. However, there are fundamental components to the Newport Mansions hurricane preparedness plan that homeowners can – and should – implement in their homes.”

Although a typical homeowner might not need such an extensive plan, the structure of the Newport Mansions hurricane plan can be universally implemented, the insurers says.

Source: Fireman’s Fund

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