How to protect your property during civil unrest

Tokio Marine America's mission as a Good Company is to provide Anshin (safety, security, and peace of mind) to our clients and the public during these challenging times.

The right to peaceful protest is one of the cornerstones of the United States’ democracy. Unfortunately, at times even the most peaceful demonstrations can turn into civil unrest, whether it is caused by bad actors taking over peaceful protests or emotions hitting a fever pitch between opposing groups. We have seen this happen throughout our country's history and more recently in 2020.

Insurance costs for business property damage from civil unrest incidents in 2020 were estimated somewhere between $1 billion to $2 billion across 140 cities within the United States - the most in American history.

Unfortunately, we can expect that civil unrest will happen again in the future. There are ways you can protect your employees, business, and property by assessing your property vulnerabilities and determining if there are gaps in your security that need to be addressed.

Consider the following recommendations:

  1. Anticipate civil unrest by keeping up to date with current events and local news.
  2. If civil unrest is anticipated within your local area, consider employee safety first; encourage employees to:
    • Be aware of the changing situation, and follow company guidelines and/or communications to ensure employee safety.
    • Avoid local areas where civil unrest is targeted.
    • Promote virtual meetings to avoid nonessential travel to the facility.
    • Be aware of travel issues such as road or bridge closures.
    • Be alert for unusual activity in and around the business property and communicate it to management as soon as possible.
  3. Test building protection systems including:
    • Burglar alarm systems
    • Fire protection systems
    • Fire detection systems
    Exterior sprinkler risers should be chained in the open position and monitored remotely.
  4. If you have onsite security at your facility, discuss the situation with them and plan their response. If you don’t have onsite security, consider hiring security guard(s) through a reputable security company.
  5. Having good exterior lighting on the building and in the parking lot helps deter bad actors.
  6. Secure or conceal exterior trash receptacles that could be set afire.
  7. Plant thorny bushes or thick hedges in strategic locations to prevent trespassers from coming onto your property.
  8. Cover all windows and doors with exterior grade plywood (CDX) 5/8 inch or thicker.
  9. Consider placing water or sand-filled barrels in front of building entrances or store fronts to prevent vehicles from ramming through.
  10. Secure commercial glass, such as for storefronts, with burglar-resistant materials meeting UL 972 standards. Options include:
    • Bars and gates
    • Roll-down shutters
    • Security window film
    • Laminated security glass
    • Polycarbonate glazing shields
  11. Remove valuables and money beforehand from the premises, as well as high valuables from store front display windows.
  12. Post signs that indicate that there is nothing of value on the premises.
  13. Make sure roof access ladders or roof access hatches or stairwells are locked from the exterior but be careful to not block escape from the building during a fire emergency. Assure panic bar hardware is installed so that emergency exit doors can be opened easily from the inside during an emergency.
  14. Make sure adjacent trees to the building are trimmed to prevent looters from getting access to your roof.
  15. Relocate or conceal company or privately owned vehicles either inside or to a safe place away from the premises.
  16. Last but not least, don’t approach looters on your own. Leave it to the professionals and call the authorities immediately if you or your employees feel threatened.

Developing and maintaining an Emergency Response (Action) Plan for your business can help you be prepared for hazards like civil unrest.

Additional Resources

Risk Assessment | Ready.gov

Riot Control Agents/Tear Gas - CHEMM (hhs.gov)

Emergency Response Plan | Ready.gov

Keeping Your Business Safe During Riots And Looting (offdutyofficers.com)


About Author

Gerry Sammarco, CSP
Manager, Web Based Client Solutions, Loss Control Department at Tokio Marine America
Gerry is the Manager of Web Based Client Solutions but also a Senior Lead Consultant with our Casualty Loss Control Group. His focus is in general safety and casualty related loss control. He has 34 years of experience in the insurance industry and has been with Tokio Marine America for 26 years. Gerry is a member of the American Society of Safety Professionals.

About Tokio Marine America

Our Loss Control Department’s mission is to assist our policyholders in their efforts to maintain a safe and healthy workplace, and to deliver cost sensitive solutions in an effort to maintain profitability.

With over a 100-year history in the U.S., Tokio Marine America (TMA) offers tailored products to a diverse range of customers – from small to large-sized global businesses seeking traditional multi-line coverage, to larger private and public companies requiring full risk management solutions. Our commitment to providing the highest level of service is paramount. More than 93% of our customers recommend TMA based on our superior claims service. TMA is one of only three insurers with an A++ (Superior) XV rating from A.M. Best. With a solid foundation of financial stability, our strength lies in understanding your business and working in partnership to exceed your expectations.

By offering fully integrated solutions to meet our customer’s needs, we endeavor to deliver ANSHIN – safety, security and peace of mind to all our customers.

Tokio Marine America (TMA) is the marketing name for Tokio Marine America Insurance Company (TMAIC).