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Life Insurance Providing Little Protection from Terrorism


Recent statements by the City of London Police Commissioner James Hart that future terrorist attacks in London's financial centre are, "a matter of when, rather than if", will increase already serious concerns over issues of personal and business financial protection.

Mr Hart's statement pointed out that, "if you want to hurt the government, hurt people at the same time, and you want to cause maximum disruption...where better to hit than at the financial centre?"

Mr Hart also echoed a report by the insurer Axa which warned that just under 50% of small firms do not have a plan in place to ensure that their business could survive should they be hit by an emergency or disaster. Axa highlighted that many businesses, especially in the South East danger zone, are not even covered against general risks such as fire and flood, which have a much greater chance of hitting a business than the now high profile terrorism threats.

The research carried out by Axa found that almost one in five small to medium-sized firms had been hit by some form of disaster and about 5% of them took more than a year to get their businesses back on track. Any company that does not have cover against potential future disasters could stand to lose large sums of money, or even go out of business, if the Commissioners warnings go unheeded.

Emergency services workers are also experiencing additional worries about their financial protection in light of the terrorist attacks. Somerset fire-fighters have recently temporarily called off threatened industrial action amid claims they may not be insured for dealing with terrorism. In a postal ballot, Union members had previously overwhelmingly voted in favour of taking some form of industrial action short of a strike, such as refusing to train on specialist equipment which can be used in response to terrorist incidents. The actions have been called off pending a report due next month from a working party which has been set up with the Somerset Fire and Rescue Service to study the fire-fighters' personal insurance.

Adrian Woollaston, of the Somerset branch of the Fire Brigade Union said: "Somerset fire crews want our employers to address our very real concerns and this gives an opportunity for them to do so."

The fears experienced by the fire-fighters revolve around exclusions which added to many group life insurance policies that prevent pay-outs being made should the policy holder be injured or killed as a result of a terrorist attack.

The Association of British Insurers has sought to reassure emergency workers who may die as an indirect consequence of terrorist events by stating, "exclusions do not generally apply on stand-alone life assurance policies, regardless of the occupation of the policyholder", however, they also indicate that "other personal insurance cover" such as personal accident, mortgage protection, income protection and critical illness cover are usually subject to exclusions.

This would mean that many existing insurance policies held by emergency workers to protect their future and that of their family, such as mortgage payment protection, may not provide any cover in the event of a terrorist attack.

Searching through all the available insurance policies using information sites like Moneyfacts or Moneynet can go some way to helping by providing guide information and price comparisons, but more needs to be done.

Sam Oestreicher of Unison said, "We are asking all insurance companies to look at their policies and if they have such exclusion clauses to drop them".

Carefully checking through the various complicated clauses inherent in financial policies is something many consumers prefer to ignore, but as the fire-fighters are currently finding out, it is vitally important in order to ensure the protection is there.

Useful Resources:

Insurance information Association of British Insurers

Insurance comparisons - Moneynet

Bio:

Richard lives in Edinburgh, occasionally writing for the personal finance blog Cashzilla, and reciting Vogon poetry.


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