You might have heard it, thought it or said it out loud yourself in frustration – something like, “2020 is a disaster.” In real terms, this year has thrown more at us than usual, and for many it’s presented an unimaginable combination of hurdles to overcome with a global pandemic looming over an already-intense storm season.
But we continue to remain calm during the storms. Sedgwick’s property teams are demonstrating steadfast commitment and ongoing resilience day in and day out. We are ready and supporting individuals and organizations impacted by the many catastrophes of 2020 – from hurricanes and tropical storms to wildfires and a derecho – causing significant property damage in many regions across the nation and the world.
A challenging year
No matter how we’re feeling, the facts stand. Natural disasters are – statistically speaking – getting both worse and more frequent, with many experts pointing to global warming as a contributing factor.
- Wildfire season grows longer and more intense. After bushfires scarred Australia to usher in the year, the U.S. is now seeing an especially active start to the season. Wildfires accelerated by extreme high temperatures and drought conditions are currently causing historic devastation in the West.
- Across the U.S., more homes sit in flood zones than ever before. The risk is felt elsewhere around the world; challenges mounted earlier this year as the Far North in New Zealand struggled with flooding and landslides following a once-in-500-years storm and Cyclone Amphan wrecked regions in India and Bangladesh.
- Around the world, drought conditions are projected to intensify.
- Hurricanes are striking with more destructive power.
So far this year, the world has seen a record-setting Atlantic hurricane season with the NOAA reporting that it expects the rest of the year to be more active than usual. We’ve already seen 17 named storms and hurricane season will stretch through November. It’s unsettling to think of what else may still be in our future.
The number of people and properties impacted by disasters this year alone is staggering. But through it all, our colleagues are there – staging in advance and then putting boots on the ground even the same day a storm has hit. Pooling resources to speed recovery. Caring for people in their time of need. It makes working for Sedgwick a reassuring thing, knowing that everyone is primed to respond as soon as a catastrophe happens, with tools, materials and teams staged effectively and supported from within.
Among the most recent weather-related disasters was Hurricane Laura, one of the strongest storms to hit the United States in a long time. This CAT 4 hurricane made landfall in Louisiana early in the morning on August 27 and Sedgwick teams responded immediately. The storm brought 120 to 150 mph sustained winds that damaged homes and businesses on the northwest Gulf Coast, and many people in the region are still without power.
The town of Lake Charles, Louisiana is dealing with extensive damage and our colleagues are assisting clients in the area with thousands of losses, some include property damage to multiple structures. Despite 2.5 hour commutes, limited hotel availability and food sources, environmental challenges and lack of power, our claims colleagues are there helping clients with losses from the storm. Sedgwick’s repair solutions contractors are also doing restoration, repairs and mitigation. We supplemented the resources available in the local market, dispatching contractors to take care of thousands of families and business owners in the wake of this storm. Combined, we are supporting claims and restoration for more than 10,000 structures in the region.
Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has had to be factored into our preparations. Sedgwick’s COVID-19 safety committee has been proactive in its preparedness, with personal protective equipment and supplies on hand and ready for distribution to catastrophe areas like the Gulf Coast. When we deploy our teams to help people in their time of need, Sedgwick has an efficient process that ensures they have all of the necessary gloves, masks, etc. in addition to their typical supplies. The committee also monitors state and local guidelines and quarantines, and state travel restrictions, keeping our colleagues and clients safe.
In the aftermath of Laura, for example, New York was restricting travel from 35 states, so adjusters could only be brought in from 15 states without having to self-quarantine for 14 days. Also, some states would not issue emergency adjuster licenses based on COVID-19 concerns, which created additional challenges. The rules and laws have changed constantly and this impacted all aspects of our response efforts. Our established processes ensure our team is aware of the latest regulations and maintains compliance; without a consistent system to monitor these changes, it’s easy to make a mistake.
Multiple disasters and overwhelming volumes
Laura came on the heels of multiple tropical storms, hurricanes Marco and Isaias and the derecho that swept across the Midwest U.S. – a once-in-a-decade storm. Derecho claims, many focused in hard-hit Iowa, were only 30% completed when Laura made landfall. Added to this, growing losses are anticipated from the ongoing wildfires in California, Oregon and Washington.Fortunately, with a depth of resources and a flexible network of administrative, desk and field support, we remain agile and stable. In the face of a catastrophe, we can mobilize variable resources quickly to meet the claims volume.
When an unexpected catastrophe occurs and the claims volume suddenly overwhelms a client’s ability to service its customers or constituents to their established standards, they look to the market. We are there with unmatched resources to support clients that need to outsource their CAT response services. Our integrated claims services help us go beyond the traditional loss adjusting and TPA services and surround a client with the solutions they need. After the derecho, one client came to us with 1,800 claims in two days and they asked for our help. By picking up their claims management needs, we were able to support a high level of service for their customers.
What it comes down to is that, in this job, even in the toughest of times, we are here to help people. One of the most rewarding ways we do this is by helping them through the claims process, restoring and repairing property, and putting their lives and businesses back together. Our response to catastrophes like Laura includes a coordinated and orchestrated effort to ease people’s burdens a little bit during very difficult times. Whether it is providing claims adjusting, building consulting, engineering or any of our other integrated and specialty services, it's all about helping people.
We love our first responders – police, firefighters and emergency personnel – but the folks that come in in the wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters – claims adjusters, examiners, engineers, environmental experts, building consultants, drone pilots, restoration contractors – they’re the second responders, deserving of as much respect for their role in recovery. They’re there in the flooded areas and difficult conditions, helping people rebuild and rebound. At Sedgwick, we are so fortunate to have colleagues that truly embody our caring counts spirit as they dedicate their energy and effort to restoring people’s lives and livelihoods.
Through whatever 2020 throws at us, we will be ready. An active part of the storm season is still ahead and we are positioned to help clients, no matter what challenges it brings. Stay informed through our CAT resource center, and please contact us if we can be of support.
Additional contributors to this article:
- Beau Bishop, Operations Management, Catastrophe Administration
- John Gragson, SVP, Catastrophe Operations
- Danny Miller, EVP, Loss Adjustment Property, Specialty Services
- Gail Oliver, SVP, Sales and Marketing, Property