HIM – Restoration on a grand scale

Harvey, Irma and Maria – certain given names go down in history when they’re attached to a hurricane. Collectively known as HIM, this trio proved a severe test for the leisure and hospitality industry.

Tonya Sewell, executive general adjuster (EGA) in Crawford’s Global Technical Services® (GTS) large loss division, has seen some historic storms in her career – but HIM was unprecedented. “In 2005 with Katrina in August, Rita in September and Wilma in October, we were still working on one event when the next struck. But they were spread across nearly two months. HIM was three major hurricanes in just 30 days,” she recalls.

Richard Lafayette, chief technical officer, SVP Crawford GTS works with a number of hotel operators in Florida and the Caribbean. A well-known, high-class hotel in Miami was among several very large losses notified to Crawford. With loss reserves estimated at around $65m, the hotel, which was built in the 1920s and has original era-correct décor, is set to face a very complex restoration.

Hand-painted plaster walls and ceilings in luxury suites as well as common areas have to be reconstructed and Crawford brought in specialist artists to quote on the job. “An added complication was that the hotel owner found it difficult to shut down because of its clientele and scheduled events – they run weddings every weekend,” explains Lafayette.

“Employees went from room to room to redecorate. The hotel’s busy conference facilities, golf course and huge swimming pool complex were all badly damaged.”

Gaining access to hotels in the Caribbean was a particular challenge. Sewell was forced to make use of helicopters and all-terrain vehicles to reach hotels in her portfolio, some of which had entire facades blown away. The immediate loss control was complete within 30 days, but Crawford experts are still on the ground assessing and quantifying damage.

“Some of the hotels are big resorts including country clubs and golf courses and they have very large deductibles which will be exceeded,” she says. “There’s a lot of detailed work around structures, fittings and equipment such as elevators.”

“The construction schedule is key because it’s important to know how long repairs will take, how we can expedite them, if can we do a soft opening while repairs are underway,” she adds.

Lafayette agrees that a timely response was essential. “The end of the year deadline was critical for insurers and for their clients. Insurers wanted to know what their reserves might be, post-loss; the policyholders themselves wanted some payment before the end of the year,” he says.

It is unlikely this will be the last time businesses face a series of major windstorms and everyone involved can learn from HIM. “Insurers need to make sure that as well as having their adjusters lined up they also have other mitigation and reconstruction contractors in place,” advises Lafayette. “After Harvey there were enough to go around but when Irma hit it became more difficult for many carriers to find sufficient consultants with spare capacity.”

To learn more about Crawford’s response to the HIM weather events and impact on the hospitality and leisure sector, please sign up for our soon to be published special On the FrontLine report – http://onthefrontlinemagazine.com/about/

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