Preparing your public entity for a catastrophe? Here’s where to start.

November 28, 2022

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By Meredith Campbell, executive general adjuster

In part one of this blog series, we discussed the importance of preparing for a disaster before it strikes — which takes thorough review, reevaluation and replanning. For some public entities (PEs), the topic sparked conversation but was unintentionally forgotten about.

The consequences of foregoing preparation

“As long as there’s a policy in place, everything will be fine, right?” Then you turn on the news: the meteorologist is talking about a potential storm with a 20% chance of development. While the chances are slim, several days later, it’s a category two hurricane gaining strength as it crosses the ocean. Projections show landfall all along the Atlantic and Gulf shores. Again, you don’t worry since it’ll be a coastal event. Not a problem for a public entity several hundred miles inland. Or will it?

As the hurricane intensifies to a category four, models started to tighten — maintaining a strong force until it reaches Canada. A wave of panic and regret starts to set in as you remember the roundtable that should have taken place weeks ago. By this point, the time to properly strategize has passed. Any increases or additions to coverage or statement of values (SOVs) may not be accepted if a peril is already looming. The governor has issued a state of emergency ahead of the storm, and businesses are starting to close and board up, including the local agent’s office.

A last-minute plan is better than no plan

Between trips to the grocery and home improvement store, build in time to reconvene with all available internal stakeholders. Last minute planning is better than none at all. If nothing else:

  • Take any necessary preparations for building structures, such as boarding up or placing sandbags.
  • Power down and unplug electronics and large electrical components to prevent surge damage.
  • Move high-value items away from windows.
  • Identify an insurance point of contact. This will be the person to file the claim and interact directly with the adjuster and team. All information will go to and through this person, eliminating a game of telephone.
  • If possible, divide major properties into smaller triage teams. Once the storm passes, complete drive-by inspections of key properties to immediately alert the adjuster of any serious problems.
  • Establish a shared drive for staff photos. Plan to take more than you think you’ll need.

Had there been a planning committee established to review the current policies ahead of time, the plan would differ slightly. Sure, the above physical preparations would remain the same, but instead of rushing to create a strategy, organizations could:

  • Host a meeting with the nominated adjuster, restoration project manager, and designated point of contact.
  • Make copies of the restoration service agreement for the adjustment team, addressing any pricing issues ahead of the event. That way, restoration teams would already be familiar with the overall potential exposure, allocating and staging equipment.
  • Alternative methods of contact (beyond office phone or email) can be established with the adjuster, perhaps by keeping an open line of communication through text messages throughout the event.

The time to prepare for a potential disaster is now; it’s not a matter of if, but when a catastrophe will strike. Preparation sounds like a daunting task, and sure, it will take some time (and perhaps money) to ensure success. However, while there’s always hope that it will be time wasted, it’s much more likely to be time well spent.

This blog is the second installment in a series where our experts highlight actionable pre-event, event and post-event adjustment and reconstruction for public entities. Stay tuned for the third blog, which is coming soon.

Tags: CAT Claim, Cat Insights, CAT response, Catastrophe, catastrophes, Disaster Planning, Disaster Recovery, Disasters, Property, Property claims, Property damage, Property loss, Public entities, View on property