As Storm Desmond blasted the United Kingdom and Ireland last week, Crawford & Company was on the scene to help those suffering property damage and losses.
The following is a first-hand account shared by Paul Lofkin, Crawford & Company (UK) head of agricultural Rural Industries & Estate Losses team.
I’ve spent some time over the last couple of days working around Appleby-in-Westmorland. The road right by the river was hit very badly. There’s a pub, a church, a builders’ merchants and curry house that experienced significant damage, and they are all being completely cleared out.
There are also several shops where all the damaged contents have just been thrown out on the street, so there’s stock and carpets in piles out on the street. I’m 6-feet tall, and piles of stock as high as me are being thrown out and ready to be collected. Some of those businesses have been through this before. Bear in mind it’s only 48 hours since the water receded, and they appear to be making good progress.
As I was walking along, quite a few residents were out and about, looking dazed. I started chatting to some of them, and it turned out a few of them had no flood coverage. So we spent some time giving them advice on charities to which they could turn.
Overall though the spirit in Appleby is just outstanding. I was in the church, and two volunteers offered me a cup of tea and a sandwich. The community is pulling together and just cracking on clearing out their properties so we can start the process of drying them out.
Crawford has a significant team of adjusters and surveyors in the area. The teams are heading out on the road close to 7 a.m. daily and depending on distances, each adjuster visits six or seven properties a day. We are “batching up” postcodes to maximise visit numbers and are prioritising vulnerable customers.
We’ll keep a continual presence up here until we have helped all the people in the communities affected. We’re mindful of Christmas, and we know that everybody wants to see progress before Christmas. The first priority for us, really, is to make sure that affected people have adequate accommodation for the foreseeable future. Many people will be out of their properties for months rather than weeks.
The drying process very much depends on the property. Interestingly, quite a few people affected have been flooded before. So they knew what to expect and were able to move a lot of contents upstairs to prepare for flooding when the warnings went out.
A lot of their properties have also had flood-resilient-type repairs carried out before. This means the plaster is going to be quicker to dry and won’t need to be stripped out. Our adjusters are aware that people may want to utilise flood-resilient rather than standard repairs.
Access is Key
From an adjusting perspective, the first challenge is access. Some areas are still hard to get to, and in Appleby the bridge is structurally damaged. So you can see properties on the other side of the river, but you must drive for about an hour to get to them. The second challenge is managing the availability of contractors—drying contractors, building contractors and accommodation suppliers.
One of the issues recently raised in Prime Minister’s Questions was the need for early interim payments. Certainly the insurance clients I deal with are very customer-focused and encouraging early payments. Some of our clients issue emergency payments straightaway, even before they have visited, so policyholders have the funds for emergency accommodation and supplies.
The media are everywhere. It’s now become political with the government pledging a £50m-fund today, which will no doubt be of great help. We are mindful of all of that but our priority is simple: We’re just trying to get people back on their feet.