I’ve seen my share of disasters — either covering them as news or experiencing them as an insured. My first memorable storm was Hurricane Hugo, where the National Guard was stationed along the beachfront in Myrtle Beach, S.C.,
checking the identification of homeowners who were trying to get into the area
to see if their homes were still standing. I remember climbing an extension ladder
up to the first floor of my parents’ beachfront home to see what was salvageable.
Most of our contents were undamaged, but the home on the lot next to ours had
been washed away and not even a stick of wood remained to indicate a house
had once stood there.
Property damage can be caused by many different perils. Tornadoes,
hurricanes, wildfires, fires and flooding can all cause devastation with little or no
warning. It is how insurers and vendors respond in the wake of those calamities
that provides the opportunity for policyholders to really see how a company
can shine (or doesn’t).
During a catastrophe, there is extensive damage, but determining what may
or may not be covered is an entirely different story. Insureds rarely understand
what their insurance covers and may not have the policies or limits in place
required to make them whole, leading to unrealistic expectations when a loss
Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy were excellent examples of catastrophes
that highlighted issues not just with homeowners, but insurers, vendors and
local, state and federal government. FEMA was vilified for its lack of immediate
response after Katrina and now other questions regarding insurance payments
following Sandy have arisen.
Each catastrophe provides an opportunity to learn and improve for the
next one. This month’s cover story looks at a host of problems arising after
Hurricane Sandy decimated much of the East Coast in 2012. Three years later,
there are still homeowners who are trying to rebuild and collect the money
from their National Flood Insurance Program policies. It has been a challenging
process for all involved.
If one was to only listen to the soundbites and talking heads sharing their
opinions, then it would be easy to miss what noted commentator Paul Harvey
used to say was “the rest of the story.” Many individuals did things well or with
good intentions, others were woefully unprepared, and still others used the
situation to their advantage. All of these factors combined to create a perfect
storm with some hard lessons. The question is — are we smart enough to learn
Patricia L. Harman, Editor-in-Chief