CAT, Civil/Structural

CAT Season: Are You Ever Truly Ready?

23 July 2019

Shortly after a catastrophe, organizations begin their lesson learned sessions and discuss what can be done differently when the next one inevitably comes. If you have ever experienced a CAT personally, such as a hurricane, earthquake, tornado, or wildfire, you know the challenges and anxiety that come with handling these complex claims.

In dealing with thousands of losses over the last 15 years (and some extremely significant ones in the last two years), we created a list of the top five lessons learned to help make sure we are all as prepared as possible when 2019's season begins.

Learn Through Experience: Hurricane Michael

Following Hurricane Michael in 2018, Envista Forensics was retained to scope and estimate damages to the Tyndall Air Force Base in Panama City, Florida. Given the magnitude of the damage and the draw on contractors, materials, and labour, Envista was challenged to provide quick scopes and estimates of damage to validate against the actual contractor's bids. Damaged facilities included aircraft hangars, hospitals, housing, training facilities, and flight line areas. Each building varied in damage, age, and finishes, which posed multiple challenges. Like many complex losses, speed was crucial to the recovery and funding efforts. In this case, having a multi-disciplinary team ready to deploy was essential to quickly prepare estimates for market adjustments in material, labour prices, general conditions, and overhead. Drone technology and software application were used to quickly transmit information to the adjuster.

Envista was also retained to provide engineering and building consultant services for a loss involving each complex owned by the Port of Panama City. Along with forensic consulting services, the Port was also in need of technical equipment restoration to get back in business—which was the case for many other businesses as well. For adjusters and service providers alike, being able to know who can assist with all aspects of a loss is a huge value add for the policyholder during a very stressful time.

In this case, we had continuous on-site engineering of a number of disciplines such as marine, mechanical, electrical, structural, building consultants, and more, along with many very specialized engineers and our technical equipment restoration specialists. We comprehensively scoped the extent of damage to each building, provided a detailed cost estimate of damages, and expedited the funding and recovery effort for the Port facilities. With a couple of the new buildings, only months or days old, the time to repair was critical. One of the new structures was displaced by the wind, and it was leaning approximately five inches. Envista's engineering staff was able to develop a plan to restore the building's structural integrity, saving time and money for both the Port and their insurance provider. Being on-site daily provided a level of comfort to all the parties as it showed consistent progress and management of the claim.

Having the right experts for this job was imperative. If the job requires a certain type of specialist to complete the claim, make sure you have the ability to deliver it. If not, it just prolongs the life of the claim and won't truly meet the needs of the policyholder.

Top Five Tips for the 2019 CAT Season

  1. The use of technology in claim handling is here to stay. Drone technology will absolutely be more utilized than ever this year to survey sites quicker, safer, and easier. A variety of software exists to easily transfer site data to adjusters even before the engineer is back to the office. Apps can be utilized to survey and provide quick data and detailed drawings, depending on the size of the loss and the need. Camera technology, like 360 cameras, can speed up the time it takes to assess a site, and give a more accurate description with just one picture. We now have all of this at our fingertips. Take advantage of it!
  2. Find and vet experts ahead of time, for the fastest and most accurate results to pay the claim and get it closed. Know who are the best experts for what you need, where you need them. Schedule and plan accordingly, in case experts or engineers are working on other cases. Have a list ready.
  3. Stay in constant communication with your team and experts on the site. It's imperative to stay on the same page and get through the process, and have daily answers for the insured.
  4. Take your time, when you can, to make sure all accounts are accurate and thorough. Although there is a huge urge to be fast on all claims, make sure to cross your t's and dot your i's. Reports need to be thorough and truthful, and able to withstand scrutiny if necessary. Don't fall prey to quickness at the expense of quality and diligence.
  5. If you can create further value add during this time, do it. Your customers will be grateful and will remain loyal to you for it. Being able to know multiple experts who can assist with any aspect of a loss, not just the most common, means so much during an extraordinarily trying time. In your client's eyes, you hold all the answers. So make sure you understand which companies can help with matters that may be less common, or more complex, or can jump in and offer to restore clients' business operations. You're not only helping to pay the claim, you're helping to save their business.

Final thoughts

Any catastrophe loss is unfortunate, but prompt handling of claims, and quick and accurate assessments from experts, can enable owners and insurers to not only recover but to rebuild and strengthen themselves for the years to come. As we move into this current CAT season, the daily advancement of technology, the experiences learned from decades of working with insurers and policyholders during catastrophes, having the ability to respond, process, and close a major claim quickly, are all parts of the standard today. So, when you ask the question, "Are you ready?" you can confidently answer, "yes." Because with the right team, the right mentality, and the right technology, we are all ready for the next one.

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About The Author
Van Fisher
Van Fisher, PE, BS
Vice President, Civil/Structural Engineering

Van Fisher is the Vice President of Civil/Structural Engineering. He has over 28 years of progressively responsible supervisory, business development, complex project management, and technical design experience, and over 18 years of experience as a designated expert in structural engineering and cost estimation.

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