Managing Estate Disasters: How to Mitigate Risks with Proper Planning and Thoughtful Staffing.

When a pipe burst at the Villa Taj estate in Chicago, the 30,000-square-foot mansion flooded with six million gallons of water. The owners were away and the flood went unnoticed for several weeks. In addition to the loss of valuable art and treasures, the owners were advised to strip the home to its studs.


This is an extreme example of the impact an unforeseen situation can have on an estate, but are you prepared for a disaster on your property? Do you have the right staff to handle issues and emergencies, and are they properly trained?


Sometimes you are not prepared for major issues in your household, and other times you may not even be aware of what could go wrong. For instance, what happens if you hire a housekeeper who does not have proper documentation and then she breaks her leg while vacuuming? Or you might hire a vendor for an event who lacks the proper credentials and then has a serious fall on your property and sues you. The unwanted outcomes of these scenarios can and should be avoided.


Though it seems difficult to be ready for every imaginable scenario, there are ways to prepare for common risks and turn them into situations you can handle with help from some pros. By planning ahead to protect yourself, your staff, and your assets, you can avoid many major headaches and disasters.


Here are the top three factors to be aware of in managing risk with your staff and property:


INJURIES: As an estate owner with a residential staff, you need to be aware of risk management strategies, including workers’ compensation insurance and basic prevention. Making the investment to prevent an injury or loss saves a lot of money spent on claims.

  • Prevent serious accidents by consistently training staff in safety measures and holding them responsible to adhere to all Make one senior person responsible for ensuring that staff members are continually made aware of the need to work safely.
  • Provide workers’ compensation coverage, which covers an employee who gets injured to medical and loss of work Workers’ compensation insurance also protects you from injured staff and vendors suing for damages. Saving a small amount of money by not securing workers’ compensation insurance can lead to devastating liability losses. When you obtain workers’ comp for your existing employees, verify the classification codes for the job types.
  • Basic preventative maintenance such as keeping potential “trip and fall” areas dry and well lit, or providing handrails where needed, decreases potential issues for the future liability of injuries, medical bills, and increased workers’ compensation
  • Verify that vendors and contractors have proper liability insurance, and let them do the heavy lifting and set up (instead of your staff) at events you host on your property. If you have a certain area where numerous minor near-accidents have occurred, correct the situation at
  • Check for slippery areas outdoors that could pose a danger to staff, vendors, and guests when you entertain.
  • In addition to liability on your estate, it is important to make sure your staff is safe while traveling and covered for medical, especially while traveling


PROPERTY DAMAGE: Whether from natural disaster or damage incurred from work done on your property, it’s important to take into account what the risks are for your home and property. Consider these tips to prepare your staff and secure your home.

  • Disasters such as floods and tornadoes are typically unlikely, however they can destroy your home and mean serious injury or death for your Take the time to assess these risks before catastrophe strikes. Have the proper insurance in place for your property and where you live, and outline and practice safety measures with staff.
  • Ensure fire safety for your staff by implementing escape routes and plans, and training everyone on what to do in case of Additionally, walk through your home and property to determine the exits and make sure they are accessible for emergencies. Remove any fire hazards such as furniture or draperies too close to a fire source. Keep fire extinguishers easily accessible, and maintain fire alarms and sprinkler systems.
  • Mishaps occur with untrained staff who improperly handle your Put standards and procedures in place for cleaning and moving valuable items such as expensive rugs, furniture, and jewelry.
  • Avoid having your staff members perform activities that could lead to property damage such as hanging heavy mirrors or handling plumbing issues (unless specifically trained to do so). Leave this to professional
  • Vendors and contractors can incur damage to your property, which is another reason to verify liability



SECURITY and THEFT: Keep you and your family, your belongings, and your staff safe, not just from intruders but also from bad hires. Smart planning will help prevent future problems.

  • Implement a security plan, including an alarm system to prevent theft and potential injury from
  • Choosing your staff carefully can prevent many issues later on. Take the time to go through proper hiring procedures, including: reviewing staff credentials and references, doing background checks, and verifying proper
  • Review background checks annually to ensure your staff is clear of criminal
  • Place a senior, reliable staff member in charge of important tasks involving banking, handling money (including credit cards and checkbooks), as well as valuables such as
  • You might not think someone you hire or trust would steal from you, but it happens so be proactive and prevent theft by putting valuables such as jewelry in a safe place, especially when hosting an
  • When entertaining you may want to hire security for added protection of guests and
  • Obtain insurance for your valuable belongings. Some items are not covered under certain insurance policies and must be insured separately. Take photos and have items


Risk transfer is always a good idea, whether through workers’ compensation, obtaining the proper insurance, or enlisting the help of a professional staffing resource.


Don’t let minor issues blow up into nightmare situations. Risk Management Expert James Pavoldi ARM, ALCM, says, “Insurance companies have a unique way of predicting the future. They know that frequency leads to severity. A series of small mishaps, accidents, or minor injuries are a forewarning of a more serious loss coming in the future.”


Risk transfer consultation can be acquired for no cost. A good insurance company will be happy to explain how to protect against possible losses. Also, choose a staffing company to help you vet and investigate any potential new estate staff. Knowing when to get advice and who to turn to equals the difference between a disaster scenario and a great staffing experience.