By Chris Mortifoglio, Senior Vice President and Director of Forensic Accounting
As we are now in the middle of the 2021 hurricane season and are witnessing the impacts that Ida and other storms are causing, it is important to understand the need to act quickly in the aftermath of a catastrophe. What happens in the hours and days following an event is critical to an organization’s ability to recover from that loss. Here are a few reasons why a rapid response is important:
- Capture Documentation
It is much easier to document the damage and impact that a catastrophe has on property in the immediate aftermath. Oftentimes, the damage is obvious and the scene is untouched by cleanup crews or contractors. During these times, it is best practice to perform a thorough walk-through of all impacted sites and document any known or potential damages through pictures and video. This will help to create a “snapshot” of the property so that the details are not forgotten months (or years) down the road.
- Prevent Further Damage
By responding quickly, an organization can often prevent further damage. In the case of water intrusion, it is prudent to quickly dry out space and remove wet materials to avoid mold growth. After an event that compromises the structural integrity of the building, it may make sense to shore up the building. It is also common to erect fences around a loss site to preserve the integrity of the scene. All of these actions can help to reduce the overall impact and speed up the recovery process.
- Set Up Your Position
Insurance companies will typically hire an independent adjuster to be their representative out in the field. The adjusters are often times some of the first personnel onsite following a catastrophe. If an adjuster or other representative of the insurance carrier wants to inspect damaged property, it is vital that a representative of the policyholder also be there. Having a joint inspection is one of the best ways to reach an agreement on the scope of damage and avoid disagreements and delays during the claim process. This will also help to strengthen the policyholder’s position if there are joint observations made during these site inspections.
- Position Yourself Ahead of Others
Finally, in the aftermath of a widespread catastrophe such as a hurricane or a wildfire, it is very common for both insurance companies and restoration firms to have their resources stretched thinly. There is usually a spike in demand and not enough supply of labor to quickly address each and every loss. By responding quickly, an organization can position itself ahead of others to expedite the insurance claim process and the ultimate recovery from a disaster.