Still Time for Last Minute Hurricane Preparations

Hurricane Joaquin is threatening to hammer the East Coast this weekend. Joaquin reached Category 3 status late Wednesday and is expected to strengthen to a Category 4 on Thursday. Even if the storm veers from the East Coast, it is still expected to bring strong winds, pounding surf, heavy rain and flash flooding.

Joaquin track

While it may be late to start contingency planning, there is still plenty that can be done to minimize damage to property. For example, rooftops can be checked and needed repairs made, and fuel tanks and generators can be readied.

Zurich offers these tips for protecting commercial property. They are broken down into “easy actions” 48 hours from landfall and “tough actions”  36 hours from landfall.

Zurich preparation

Easy actions – 48 hours from landfall

About two days before a hurricane is expected to affect your location, begin implementing the easy actions. Easy actions include:

  • Review the hurricane emergency action plan with all involved personnel
  • Check building roofs. Make repairs to coverings and flashing as time allows
  • Remove all loose items from the roof, secure equipment doors and covers, and remove debris
  • Verify roof drains are clear of trash and other obstructions
  • Fill fuel tanks serving emergency generators and other vital services

Verify dewatering pumps are in service and working.

  • Verify outside storm drains and catch basins are clean
  • Remove debris from outdoor areas that may become “missiles”
  • Remove loose, outdoor, inactive equipment
  • Back up computer data
  • For healthcare, verify 96 hours of supplies are on hand
  • For manufacturing:
    • Ship out as much stock as possible
    • Verify all stock is skidded at least 4 inches above the floor
  • For new construction projects:
    • Remove loose equipment
    • Secure and protect material storage
    • Temporarily brace new construction
    • Secure roofing and items on the roof
  • For heavy industry (chemical and petrochemical):
    • Inventory tanks and vessels with enough material to secure them against the forces of buoyancy should they be exposed to flooding, surface water runoff or storm surge.
    • Maintain contact with suppliers of pipeline delivered materials. Those suppliers may also be making shutdown preparations.
    • Verify you will have the necessary supplies to safely shut down your process. This is especially important for processes such as olefins units, which take several days to bring down. Natural gas and oxygen are just two pipeline supplied materials to consider.
    • Verify compressed air supplies needed for control purposes.
    • Remove any accumulated rain water from storage tank spill containment areas.
    • Allow time for Emergency Response Team members who will remain on site to go home and take care of their personal needs. Based upon your specific needs, add to the list of easy actions, as these are just general concepts and every facility has its own requirements.

Tough actions – 36 hours from landfall

At 36 hours before anticipated landfall, time will be limited. Make sure you will have the staff needed to complete all of the tough actions, and leave plenty of time to evacuate personnel who will not be remaining on site (reference jurisdiction and/or authority’s announcements and requirements). The tough actions may include:

  • Protecting or relocating vital business records
  • Removing all loose outdoor storage or equipment
  • Anchoring portable buildings or trailers to the ground
  • Securing outdoor storage or equipment that cannot be moved
  • Installing manual protection systems (such as shutters, plywood covers and flood gates)
  • Raising critical equipment off floors (such as PC towers)
  • Moving critical equipment from basement and other below-ground areas
  • Covering critical stock and equipment with waterproof tarpaulins
  • Initiating an orderly shutdown of production equipment and systems that rely upon normal power
  • Turning off fuel gas services
  • Turning off non-essential electrical systems
  • Verifying all fire protection systems are in service (such as water supplies, fire pumps, sprinklers, fire alarms and special extinguishing systems)
  • For manufacturing:
    • Stopping incoming shipments of raw materials that will be exposed to damage
  • For heavy industry (chemical and petrochemical):
    • Removing and securing cable tray covers and controlling wiring radiant barriers. These are features that frequently become wind-borne debris when exposed to high winds.
    • Removing or securing scaffolding

Add to the list based upon your specific needs.

Tough-tough actions

There can be a few tough actions that take so long to complete they need to be started during the easy action period. Exceptional discipline will be required to make the decision to implement these very tough actions. These actions may include:

  • Setting up flood barriers at all first floor doors and entrances
  • Temporarily closing up buildings under construction to avoid entry of wind-driven rain
  • Installing manual shutters on multi-story buildings
  • For manufacturing, shutting down processes that will be exposed to damage
  • For heavy industry (chemical and petrochemical), shutting down processes that take several days to bring to a safe shutdown (such as olefins units)

It is absolutely essential to recognize when you have a tough-tough action. The overall plan must recognize their existence. And, the needed guidance and authority must be provided to those who will be charged with making the decision.

Hank Greenberg Shares Concerns for Insurance Industry at RIMS Canada Conference

Hank Greenberg RIMS canada

QUEBEC CITY, CANADA—Currently on the mend from Legionnaires’ disease, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg appeared via live video stream to deliver the keynote address to the 2015 RIMS Canada Conference. The chairman and CEO of the Starr Companies and former chairman and CEO of AIG gave a frank and diverse address highlighting a number of concerns about potential impacts to the insurance industry due to the current climate.

“We’re living in a very troubled time on a global basis,” he said, emphasizing geopolitical instability. While such geopolitical uncertainty demonstrates the need for political insurance, other widespread conditions do not necessarily have such favorable implications for the industry.

“Clearly commercial insurance rates are under pressure,” he said. “The absence of catastrophes has masked that rates have gone down so much, and that has allowed some companies to survive.”

He also noted that investment income is suffering because of interest rates, and expressed concern that many companies are turning to long-tail reserves for income. What’s more, he said, accident year results for many companies are turning negative, and many are finding their reserves inadequate, particularly as expense ratios are frequently increasing rather than remaining steady. Companies that aren’t very efficient will find it very hard to be competitive and show returns this year, he cautioned.

Further examining the industry, Greenberg criticized insurers for “not doing a very good job of training underwriters,” seeing a stark comparison to the rigorous, diverse experience previously customary in the London market, for example.

“It takes years of experience to train an underwriter—they are not just qualified because of a college degree,” he said. “It takes years of work and a lot of common sense to develop the wisdom to know what can be underwritten and at what price.”

When it comes to this talent concern, he noted, it is not a question of which companies are doing better, but a problem across the board. “I don’t think we have the discipline, as an industry, to do the job properly,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg also shared some of his political opinions, both international and domestic. Of China, the US-ASEAN Business Council chairman emeritus and vice chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations said he does not share the widespread dubious feelings on China. “They’ve had some missteps. What country hasn’t?” he said.

He spent some of his time addressing the burgeoning 2016 U.S. election. Greenberg noted Donald Trump’s campaign as part of what he views as growing dissatisfaction – and perhaps inadequacy – of the current political system. “People are fed up with the political system as it currently exists. Why else would somebody like Trump, who has no experience but is speaking about things people care about be doing so well?” he said.

He also told the crowd that Jeb Bush would personally be visiting him Wednesday. Greenberg does not yet endorse any particular candidate, however, and expressed some concern about the Republican party’s position amid acute socioeconomic changes and resulting political demands nationwide.

“You have to give people the opportunity to succeed—that’s the American Dream. That’s why people came here,” he said. “If we’re going to deny that opportunity, the Republican party will have to change its name.”

Risk Managers’ Role in Addressing Climate Change


QUEBEC CITY, CANADA—Salutations de la ville de Québec! At the first day of this year’s RIMS Canada Conference, climate change quickly emerged as one of the key challenges facing risk managers—and an area with tremendous potential for risk professionals to effect change.

Government clearly has a role to play, but the slower pace and greater number of obstacles they face lessen some of the possible impact. According to Tim East, director of risk management at the Walt Disney Company, that is where businesses come in. Every one of the Dow 30 companies has created environmental and sustainability initiatives, but only 12% of companies have a C-suite or other top-level executive charged with leading action on this front. The clear trend of embracing corporate responsibility stems from a moral obligation businesses all have, and corporations must take initiative in changing how people think, East said.

Addressing sustainability and other climate change concerns cannot be done in a silo, and efforts must focus on building resilience in all of the assets a business has: facilities, systems and people. Risk managers should be taking a leadership role, using their perspective of corporate objectives and performance to help identify and execute the most impactful change.

Risk professionals can particularly help drive this objective to boost awareness within the organization and in the broader community, while also ensuring the business itself is performing in line with sustainability goals. “Risk managers can help become part of the solution by helping to close the gap between the desires and intentions of our organizations and the performance and impact they have,” East said. “This is part of our moral obligation to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Why should companies act? “Not just because it’s good business—although it is, and not just because it’s profitable—although I think it is, but because it’s the right thing to do in the world and for the communities they serve,” East said.

To maximize the impact of these initiatives, East urges risk managers to set and pursue to reduction targets, otherwise they stand little chance of truly achieving change. Then, he advises they commit to a process of assessing, identifying opportunities, and measuring impact annually.

On the organizational level, changing mindsets extends beyond having employees recycle or monitoring water use. Business continuity planning is a critical task at Disney, East said, and they were always good at crisis management, addressing urgent problems over the course of a couple of days. Now, however, they are devoting more focus to planning for longer events. To that end, the company is working to delink events from their consequences—rather than focusing on discrete emergency situations, it is focusing on how the business will be impacted by the conditions that could stem from any of these specific scenarios, he explained.

Getting started and shifting to a long-term focus seem daunting, and the slow rate of observable change often means adaptation and mitigation are not top of mind for businesses, said Lou Gritzo, vice president of research at FM Global. But risk professionals cannot wait for the next disaster or policy change to prompt a more serious evaluation of exposure and strategy.

Getting started on—or further investing in—mitigation efforts may be best focused on one of the main changes we are already seeing: flooding. Existing data shows a clear increase in flooding, and due to sea level risk and increased rainfall and intensity of rainfall, there will only be more, Gritzo said. To manage this growing risk, he recommends risk managers take four key steps:

  1. Know your flood exposure
  2. Be above the water level, and ensure any new construction is as far above it as possible
  3. Have and exercise a plan for flood emergencies
  4. Keep water out – in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a number of physical protection measures have been certified and made commercial available to guard against up to a meter of water

Building a Better Continuity Plan for Hurricane Season

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster and another 25% fail within one year. As September is not only the beginning of hurricane season, but also National Preparedness Month, the Insurance Information Institute and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety have released a new infographic highlighting some of the crucial steps businesses should be taking to fortify against natural disasters.

“Businesses that plan for a disaster have the best chance of surviving, and that starts with identifying the potential risks,” said Loretta Worters, a vice president with the I.I.I. “Large businesses have risk managers, but small business owners have to be their own risk managers and, working with their insurance professional, determine the right type and amount of insurance to be able to recover from a disaster.”

“It is also critical for small business owners to create and/or update their business continuity plan and work with employees so they are prepared for the potential effects of a disaster,” said Gail Moraton, business resiliency manager at IBHS. “Taking time to do this now will save money and time later.”

hurricane preparedness business continuity