Canadian Underwriter

How to speed up claims response for NatCats

May 25, 2022   by Yasser Korany, Mario Delorme and Mazen Habash

Delta flooding after hurricane.

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Extreme weather events have become common, some bringing unprecedented levels of destruction to structures and facilities, overwhelming owners, property managers and insurers. In response, nearly all major insurers have created centralized Cat units dedicated to handling claims arising from extreme weather events.

But while these units have improved coordination, the industry’s event response continues to follow the traditional claim-based model; that is to say, multiple claims are adjusted one at a time. When rural areas and smaller towns and cities are hit by extreme weather events, the sheer volume of insurance claims can overwhelm the capacity of local engineers and contractors.

To speed the process, we propose development of rapid response integrated teams (RRITs) to handle multiple claims from a single extreme weather event. Teams would consist of a forensic structural engineer, a drone pilot, an estimator and a restoration project manager.

RRITs provide:

  • Prompt initial assessment reports on property condition to determine whether a structure is repairable or must be demolished and reconstructed.
  • Preliminary environmental assessments to identify hazardous building materials.
  • Immediate emergency and mitigation instructions to restoration crews, and on-site, hand-drawn schematics for temporary shoring and weather-protection enclosures.

Drones can be used to inspect and digitally document properties since extreme weather events often render buildings unsafe to access. Drone pilots can maneuver into confined spaces, such as attics, and photograph areas of interest. This speeds damage assessments by sharing real-time broadcasts with the handling adjusters.

Likewise, tethered underwater drones can safely inspect and document flooded basements and damaged shore properties.

Applying an RRIT to a cluster of losses can maximize benefits. Some advantages are:

  • Insurance carriers’ national Cat units would identify their respective insured risks within the area impacted by the weather event.
  • Rather than waiting for individual insureds to report damage, each Cat unit would proactively contact their insureds to identify the initial scope of damage.
  • Coordination and communication among insurance carriers is increased so that buildings on the same street, semi-detached dwellings, and row houses can be quickly assessed by one team, instead of separately.
  • Once cleared to enter, the team can provide initial damage assessments, loss mitigation and safety measures.

Key preparedness measures must be coordinated between the restoration contractors and forensic engineering firms. They should:

  • Use government and media reports to identify the front load of the response, assess site access and determine the scale of the incident.
  • Analyze mobilization logistics and costs, including airfare, ground transportation, etc.
  • Anticipate the need for professionals, supplies, equipment and assistance from service providers.
  • Ensure pre-packed supplies, including clothing, non-perishable food items, power banks and first aid kits are consistently replenished.
  • Designate administrative personnel to coordinate the rapid-response team.
  • Alert IT providers to ensure access to services such as file transfer, photo sharing and real-time broadcast of drone inspections.
  • Determine how many professionals are needed.

This approach benefits carriers by proactively processing claims and speeding decision-making. It also lowers the cost per file by grouping multiple losses together and harnessing efficiencies provided by advanced scanning equipment.


Yasser Korany is founder and practice lead of Origin and Cause Structural Forensics Practice. Mario Delorme is Origin and Cause vice president for central and eastern Canada. Mazen Habash is the president and strategic lead of Origin and Cause. This article is excerpted from one that appeared in the April 2022 issue of Canadian Underwriter

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