7 Dangerous Natural Catastrophe Risks
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Crisis Management Coordination
Hurricane Sandy hit Jersey City, N.J., hard in 2012, but thanks to four days of intensive advanced planning, PREIT Services LLC’s Director of Risk Management Richard Pcihoda and his team were able to get a reconstruction crew deployed at its Hudson Mall the morning after the storm struck.
“The night before the storm was underway, we had continuous communication with all of our properties in the mall and our service providers,” said Pcihoda. “We also had a command group that stayed here in Philadelphia within the corporate office overnight.”
Once the storm struck, it was important to have someone in a forward position who could relay information back, Pcihoda said.
“I immediately jumped in my truck and ran up to Jersey City and got there early enough in the day that a lot of people were still hunkered down from the night before,” Pcihoda said. “I was there in advance of formal travel bans.”
By the time community panic grew, about 18 hours later, PREIT had a truckload of fuel on-site, and dumpsters, food and sanitation facilities in place, Pcihoda said. Remediation work began within 72 hours.
In the end, the mall suffered millions of dollars of damage, but because of the advance planning and swift set-up, PREIT was able to reopen the Hudson Mall 17 days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall.
An enormous amount of construction was completed in that period, via a trusted vendor with whom PREIT, a real estate investment trust specializing in differentiated shopping malls, had extensive prior dealings.
As a result, the mall and its tenants had a successful holiday season.
Michael Tiagwad, president and COO of Conner Strong and Buckelew, PREIT’s insurance broker, said Pcihoda is “very big on preparedness and anticipating issues and problems, and having a game plan and how to deal with a variety of situations.”
“I’d say, in general, Richard is a consummate risk manager. He has experience with all sorts of risks and exposures.
“He also has a very deep background in safety and claims,” Tiagwad added. “So he really is diverse in terms of his skills. He’s a good quarterback and he is a very engaged person, very proactive.”
PREIT’s insurance claim proceeded swiftly and smoothly, with Pcihoda coordinating with the national flood insurance program as well as PREIT’s property carrier, Fireman’s Fund.
Fireman’s provided a senior adjuster with whom Pcihoda had worked with in the past, and the 10-year relationship paid off nicely.
There was also a public adjuster to help catalog the damages, and handle a massive documentation effort, which freed Pcihoda and his team to focus on recovery.
Pamela Hans, managing shareholder in the Philadelphia office of Anderson Kill P.C., and PREIT’s insurance coverage counsel, said the business income loss at the mall was much smaller than anticipated.
The large upfront investment in reconstruction, facilitated by prompt advances from the insurance company, paid off for all parties in the form of a smaller long-term loss and claim, Hans said.
The claim was completed and paid in full by May 2014, a tight timeframe for a claim of that scale, she said.
Richard is also being recognized as a 2014 Responsibility Leader.
Running to the Fight
Maybe it’s his history in emergency management and current service as a volunteer firefighter that gives Richard Pcihoda the reflexes to run to the fight, because that is what he did as Superstorm Sandy threatened in October of 2012.
Not only did Pcihoda conduct the necessary planning and preparation to reduce his own company’s business interruption, he went out of his way to counsel his company’s Jersey City (N.J.) Hudson Mall tenants on coverage and recovery methods after the mall suffered millions in damage.Pcihoda, the director of risk management for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, based in Philadelphia, wasn’t the only risk manager whose job got a lot tougher when Sandy hit, but it looks like he outperformed many of his contemporaries.
Pcihoda looked at the whole picture and acted on it. The day after the storm struck, Pcihoda jumped in his truck and drove to Jersey City, getting there before formal travel bans were in place to jump start the recovery process.
He had his contractors in place ahead of the storm to get a jump on reconstruction. He had the adjuster relationships to pull it together seamlessly.
Pcihoda is a Risk All Star because he possesses passion, creativity and perseverance. He’s a Responsibility Leader® because through his actions, he shows others how it’s done.
Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.
Responsibility Leaders overcome obstacles by doing the right thing over the easy thing to find practical solutions that benefit their co-workers and community.
A Dreaming Team
Chris Thorn is known as one of the most creative risk managers in the business. After all, his risk management program hit the cover of Risk & Insurance® in March, 2012.
Now the senior manager, payments and risk, for Southwest Airlines is working with Riskonnect, a technology partner that he thinks can take his program to new heights.
“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it,” said Thorn.
Thorn ditched his legacy risk management information system in 2012 and started working with Riskonnect, initially using the platform solely for liability claims management.
But the system’s “do-it-yourself” accessibility almost immediately caught the eye of Thorn’s colleagues managing safety risk and workers’ compensation.
“They were seeking a software solution at the time and said, ‘Hey, we want to join the party,” Thorn recalls of his friends in safety and workers’ compensation.
“For us, it’s a platform that gives you so many different tools that if you can dream it, you can build it.”
–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines
What was making Thorn’s colleagues so jealous was the system’s “smart question” process which allows any supervisor in the company to enter a claim, while at the same time freeing those supervisors from being claims adjusters.
The Riskonnect platform asks questions that direct the claim to the appropriate category without the supervisor having to take on the burden of performing that triage.
“They love it because all of the redundant questions are gone,” Thorn said.
The added beauty of the system, Thorn said, is that allows carriers and TPAs to work right alongside the Southwest team in claims files while maintaining rock-solid cyber security.
“This has sped up the process,” Thorn said.
“Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims,” he said.
Since that initial splash in claims management, the Riskonnect platform has gone on to become a rock star at Southwest in a number of other areas. And as Thorn suggests, the possibilities of the system are limited only by the user’s imagination.
With a little creativity and help from Riskonnect as needed, a risk manager can add on system capabilities without having to go on bended knee to his own information technology department.
In the area of insurance policy management, for example, the Riskonnect platform as built by Thorn now holds data on all property values and exposures that can in turn be downloaded for use by underwriters.
Every time Southwest buys a new airplane, the enterprise platform sends out a notice to the airlines insurance broker, who in turn notifies the 16 or 17 carriers that are on the hull program.
Again, in that “anything’s possible” vein, the system has the capability of notifying the carriers, directly, a tool Thorn said he’s flirting with.
“It is capable of doing that,” he said.
“We’re testing out this functionality before we turn on it loose directly to the insurance companies.”
In alignment with the platform’s muscle in documenting, storing and reporting liability and property exposures, the system monitors and reports on insurance carrier financial strength.
If a rating agency downgrades a Southwest program carrier’s financial strength, for example, the system “pings” Thorn and his colleagues.
“Not only will we know about it, but we will also know all programs, present and past that they participated on, what the open reserves are for those policy years and policies,” Thorn said.
“That gives us even more comfort that we have good, solid financial backing of the insurance policies that are protecting us,” Thorn said.
Like many of us, Chris Thorn didn’t set out to work in risk management and insurance. Thorn is a Certified Public Accountant, and it’s that background that allows him to take creative advantage of the Riskonnect platform’s malleability in yet another way.
With the help of the Riskonnect customer service team, Thorn added a function to the platform that allows him to calculate the cost of insurance policies on a monthly basis, enter them into a general ledger and send them over to his colleagues in accounting.
“It’s very robust on handling financial information, date information, or anything with that much granularity,” Thorn said.
The sky is the limit
Thorn and Southwest are only two years into their relationship with Riskonnect and there are a number of places Thorn thinks the platform can take him that have yet to be explored, but certainly will be.
“It’s basically a repository of anything that’s risk-related, it continues to grow,” Thorn said.
“This has sped up the process. Any time you can speed up the process, the more success you’re going to have when you make offers to settle claims.”
–Chris Thorn, senior manager, payments and risk, Southwest Airlines
Not only have Southwest’s safety and workers’ compensation managers joined Thorn in his work with Riskonnect, business continuity has come knocking as well.
Thorn met in July with members of Southwest Airline’s business continuity team, which has a whole host of concerns, ranging from pandemics to cyber-attacks that it needs help in documenting the exposures and resiliency options for.
That Enterprise Risk Management approach will in the future also involve the system’s capability to provide risk alerts, telling Thorn and his team for example, that a hurricane or fast moving wildfire is threatening one of the company’s facilities.
Supply chain resiliency and managing certificates of insurance for foreign vendors are other areas where Thorn and his team plan to put the Riskonnect platform to good use.
“That’s all stuff that’s being worked on by us,” Thorn said.
“They’ve given us the tools, but we’re trying to develop how we’re going to use it,” he said.