July 13, 2011

Swansea Tyre Blaze

Written by Sophie Pincott

Remember this headline?
“Fire crews warn Swansea tyre blaze could burn for weeks”
The former Mettoys factory fire in Fforestfach, Swansea was the feature of a BBC News bulletin in June 2011, which described in detail conditions at the burning tyre storage facility in Swansea.
On the 8th of July the fire was finally extinguished, but the impact on local residents, taxpayers and indeed businesses was devastating.
Recent council forecasts predict a bill for tackling the fire in excess of 2 million pounds, which the Swansea Taxpayer will have to fund!
These are shocking headlines and depressing reading at a time when the economy is already extremely fragile and public funds at breaking point, but what makes it worse is the obvious health and housing/property issues affecting local people and the indirect impact that the fire has had on businesses within the local vicinity. Indeed within a week a second fire less than 4 miles away destroyed a Cycle & Motor Cycle Retail outlet in Gorseinon and created similar challenges for residents, services and businesses.
Such incidents thank goodness are very rare but what happens to residents and businesses in the aftermath of disaster?
Leading City Lawyer Peter Lynn of Peter Lynn & Partners makes a living through providing advice to people facing the consequences of adversity, but more importantly he stresses the need for individuals and businesses to protect themselves against risk by seeking early professional advice.
With regard to residents and what they should do in the aftermath of the fire Peter says, “Check out your rights with a solicitor if you are injured or are suffering loss or damage to your property and consult carefully with your insurance company to discuss your own situation. Liaise with your GP (medical) and the City Council (environmental) who may also provide free and good advice to those people directly affected by the fire”.
However, Peter also points out that not every situation is straight forward. “In cases where there may be dispute and legal advice is required then as a firm we will provide a free 30 minute consultation to any person wishing to discuss the legal options available to them where there has been injury, damage to property or damage to business continuity”.
With regard to businesses Peter passionately believes that it is essential to seek the correct advice at the outset of a business, which should include information on business disruption and disaster planning. He says, “We see it all the time, where business owners think that they have the appropriate levels of insurance cover, only later to find out that they don’t and in some cases cover is excluded because of the Terms and Conditions which the insured failed to read”.
“As a Legal Team with client responsibilities we always advise our clients to seek professional advice from a Chartered Insurance Broker, so that the needs are carefully assessed and the appropriate cover put in place. Indeed we work closely with local Insurance Brokers to ensure our clients get this essential advice”.
“Where appropriate we help force insurers to stick by their contracts”.
Peter says, “It’s impossible to come up with a general one fix solution because every individual case is different, but there are obvious practical steps to think about and I urge anyone in business to consider the following to help deal with potential future risk”:

  1. Always seek professional advice at the outset of business and ongoing thereafter.
  2. Prevention is always better than litigation – employ a good lawyer to review your essential paperwork.
  3. Speak to a Chartered Insurance broker to assess needs and risks.
  4. Consider Business disruption and disaster planning – the above examples show anything can happen when you least expect it.
  5. Consider your internal agreements & staff contracts and protect your business.
  6. Beware of Health & Safety and stay safe and legal.
  7. Accountants are essential during good and challenging times – make sure you have a good one who is fully qualified.
  8. Learn from the real life experiences that happen and remember it could be you that’s affected in the future.
  9. Always have a contingency plan.
  10. Don’t trust your luck; be sure you’re best prepared for all eventualities.