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Solar activity means a lot more than catching a tan during the summer. Some experts claim we now have a more active sun, and businesses may soon be dealing with the fallout of solar flares and EMP blasts from our closest star.
By Randy Sadler
According to Robert von Fay-Siebenburgen, a professor at Sheffield University specializing in solar physics and space weather, and other experts in the field, the sun is expected to be the most active it has been in nearly 100 years. While that sounds like it simply means there will be more heat emitted from our solar system’s star, there’s a lot more at play. In fact, a more active sun can be detrimental to expensive electronics should a solar flare be emitted. In a period of a more active star, solar flares are much more common, frequent and powerful.
Truth is stranger than fiction has been a popular colloquialism for some time now. In the case of the sun and its potential for having negative impacts on our global environment, it’s time to start planning for what could be around the corner.
Why does solar activity matter and what should we look out for?
The sun is an incredibly powerful body and the radiation and light it emits are felt all 92.8 million miles to Earth. In NASA’s definition, a solar flare is an intense burst of radiation coming from the release of magnetic energy associated with sunspots. Flares are the solar system’s largest explosive events. Flares are seen as bright areas of the sun and can last from minutes to hours. Apart from these flares, there are also CMEs, or coronal mass ejections, which NASA defines as magnetic clouds that emerge via eruptions from the sun and send charged particles toward the Earth if properly aligned. Both solar flares and CMEs can act like intense electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) and damage or destroy electronic devices from the inside. If a solar flare or CME is powerful enough, the EMPs could cause processors and microchips within expensive devices and equipment to be rendered useless. Additionally, solar events can disrupt radio communications and power grids.
While it isn’t time to ring all the alarms and prepare for an apocalypse, it is important to stay aware of solar activity and ensure your business can best mitigate the effects of a solar flare or CME should they occur.
Preparing your business for a more active sun
Protecting your business and its power source is an important starting point in mitigating a solar event’s potential effects and damages. In terms of physical implements to protect your business, industrial-grade electronics safeguards for a circuit can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. While capable of protecting your business against EMPs and any potentially devastating solar activity, industrial-grade electronics safeguards for a circuit can be expensive.
In the event of a solar event, standard property insurances are not specifically triggered by the possible damages of a solar flare or CME, however, if your business has solar energy devices incorporated into its infrastructure you likely qualify for solar property insurance. In that case, you can recoup the money lost on damaged solar devices such as solar panels and also cover the technology instruments damage caused by the solar event through the solar device. For example, if your business has dozens of desktops installed for employees’ workstations, a power surge from a CME or solar flare could destroy these devices. Under solar property insurance, solar panels have partially transferred this energy to desktop computers and other electronics, which would trigger the policy and cover damaged computers.
If your business does not have solar panels or solar energy transference equipment that would be covered by this type of policy, there may be limitations or total exclusions in the event of a solar EMP blast. In that instance, captive insurance may be a good option. With captive insurance, your organization creates, sets up and then wholly owns an incorporated insurance subsidiary. While not practical or affordable for most micro-businesses, a captive may be an optimal solution for small to mid-cap businesses since policies and pay premiums can be written based on the specific coverages your business needs. Say goodbye to large corporate insurers dictating what coverages you can and can’t have. Captives allow immediacy in policy writing that commercial insurers can’t compete with.
Captive insurance is not a good fit for some businesses, so consulting with an experienced captive insurance company is paramount to determining if a captive insurance program is appropriate for your specific business needs.
Randy Sadler started his career in risk management as an officer in the U.S. Army, where he was responsible for the training and safety of hundreds of soldiers and over 150 wheeled and tracked vehicles. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point with a B.S. degree in International and Strategic History with a focus on U.S.–China relations in the 20th century. He has been a principal with CIC Services, LLC for seven years. In this role, he consults directly with business owners, CEOs, and CFOs on the formation of captive insurance programs for their businesses. CIC Services manages more than 100 captives.
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