Storm Alex arrived September 30 on the coast of Southern Brittany and hit the Alpes-Maritimes department with a bang on October 2. The storms associated with the front poured large quantities of rain into the hinterland. The valleys of the Tinée, and especially the Vésubie and Roya rivers, were extremely affected. As of today, the death toll is nine and many are still missing. The damage is significant: nearly 100 houses were damaged or destroyed. Many bridges and roads have washed away, leaving the villages inaccessible by land.
This event took place over the weekend and Sedgwick immediately set up a crisis unit. In such cases, our colleagues organize themselves according to a well-defined process. As experts, mobilizing in such circumstances is part of our job. Faced with an event of such intensity, we immediately identified specific needs in terms of equipment, particularly helicopters. Fabrice took care of this as the coordinator for Storm Alex, which required extraordinary human, psychological and material resources.
We encountered three major difficulties in managing this natural disaster. The first being the intensity of the event, coupled with limited accessibility of these valleys. The roads were cut off and access was impossible. We have all seen floods that cause roof seepage or ground floors of houses or businesses to be flooded. In the case of Storm Alex, we understood there would be no small cases, but instead a large majority of high-stakes cases, with compensation ranging from 500 thousand euros to tens of millions of euros. That was the second difficulty: to bring in from the outset a sufficient number of experts capable of responding in record time to this type of disaster. We set up a team of seasoned experts to tell at a glance, in one day, how to approach these financially engaging files. Finally, the third difficulty stems from the answers we are now expecting from the state, and in particular from the Barnier Fund, to know how certain claims will be handled.
In these disaster-stricken municipalities, a classification will be made. In the black zone, it will be forbidden to rebuild. In the red zone, it will be possible to do so under certain conditions. In the green zone, it will also be possible, but under different conditions. The Barnier Fund comes to take care of the citizens according to the procedures defined for each natural disaster, which are not yet known today with regard to Storm Alex. A commission will meet to decide on the percentage of the value covered by this state fund, in the event of classification in the black zone (100%, 80%, 50%...).
Specifically, if a property is located in an area where it is forbidden to rebuild, there are two possible scenarios:
- The constituent is not insured: he or she makes a claim directly to the Barnier Fund and awaits compensation.
- The constituent is insured. The expert defines the market value of the property, minus the land. The owner is compensated via his insurer, then he makes a declaration to the Barnier Fund for the land.
Today, we are familiar with this overall process but we do not have the modalities of intervention of the state fund. For the files that Sedgwick has dealt with, the advance payments have been made, except for the properties located in the future black zones where the compensation will be complicated to calculate.
Although we are seasoned professionals, something special happened in the management of Storm Alex. We deployed huge resources to get there as quickly as possible, which was complex but made possible by our structured network with men and women capable of mobilizing themselves in truly extraordinary conditions. These experts take risks going into the field during extreme events such as this one. For those who have been in contact with the residents of these valleys, the values of solidarity and humanity have been central. Sedgwick made a donation to the fire brigade, which paid a heavy price in this storm and our colleagues were called upon to do the same.
Some policyholders were unable to go to the site to confirm if their home was still there, so we tried to be their eyes and give them news. In this natural disaster there was a chain of solidarity between brokers, agents, companies and experts. Everyone did what they had to do, as best they could.
In these extreme cases, brokers need to know that they can count on us, if they need a specific intervention for their client, they should not hesitate to contact us. That's what we're here for. And that will remain the case in the long term. From now on, it is reactivity on the payment of compensation that is expected by policyholders.
This article was originally published in Planète CSCA.