In this May 22, 2011 photo, a destroyed helicopter lies on its
side in the parking lot of the Joplin Regional Medical Center.
(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)
G MERCY FIELD HOSPITAL
The fatally wounded St. John’s medical center has not yet
been torn down because it sits atop the mining tunnels
that made Joplin an early 20th century boomtown. The
hospital has been operating out of a succession of
temporary facilities while construction continues at its new
permanent location, where it will reopen under the name
Mercy Hospital Joplin.
From Joplin with Love: Lessons in
Large-Loss Catastrophe response
when a catastrophe oc- curs, significantly more focus, oversight, and emands are placed on
all parties involved, from medical practitioners and rescue workers to insurance
claims professionals and politicians.
For insurers, there is arguably no better time to demonstrate one’s value and
commitment to policyholders and the
community as a whole. Being able to
make good on such a promise hinges
upon proper preparation and precise
coordination of resources. Conversely,
a misstep or seemingly innocuous oversight can yield disastrous results, especially during this time of heightened
need and tension.
The mile-wide, EF5 multi-vortex tornado that collided with Joplin, Missouri
on May 22, 2011 created unique challenges for claims professionals, some of
whom share their stories in this article.
Even the most accomplished engineers
and claims directors found the aftermath
before them disorienting.
ple and injuring hundreds more. Winds
peaked at 250 miles per hour, and the
storm destroyed more than 7,500 homes
and apartments as well as 550 commercial
properties. When the twister finally dis-
sipated, 25 percent of the Joplin had been
decimated, amounting to insured losses of
at least $1.9 billion.
In the wake of the deadliest tornado
since 1950, as with any large-scale catastrophe, people were left to cobble together resources as best they could, all while
contending with utility outages and assisting the wounded. Catastrophes teach
us many lessons—empathy, courage, resilience, to name just a few. In the claims
realm, they teach us how to optimize response, and by extension, the quality of
service to policyholders.
“It Looked Like Hiroshima”
“Upon our arrival, the damages looked
like an atomic bomb had been detonated,” says Todd Klingaman, director of
general adjusters at CNA, who arrived
that very night to begin handling a substantial commercial claim. “I worked the
Andover, Kansas tornado outbreak and
this was entirely different. The sheer force
of the storm allowed it to level buildings.”
“The utter scope of the damages was
surreal,” adds Eric Dempsey, an engineer
who would arrive several days later to
investigate damages to machinery and
electrical components at a Joplin manufacturing plant. “Everywhere I looked,
buildings were flattened to the ground.
The tornado had carved a path of destruction three quarters of a mile wide and six
miles long through the heart of the city.”
The tornado had struck the city of 50,000
that Sunday evening with unrelenting force,
killing 161 peo-
As Klingaman reveals, the commercial claim his team of experts handled for
Freeman Health System underscores how
proper planning and optimal catastrophe
management minimizes both monetary
and human loss. It began when St. John’s
Hospital became one of the casualties of