What do you do when the Department of Homeland Security calls with a "request" for you to host the voting for the Iraqi out-of-country elections? You spring into action, of course, because you only have a few hours to secure the liability insurance you need. It's a "yes, sir" kind of situation.
"We got the call from the county executive's office that we have to host the Iraqi elections somewhere in the county," recalled John Anderson, currently risk manager of Macomb County, Mich., and assistant risk manager in Michigan's Wayne County at the time of the elections.
Wayne County, where Detroit is located, is home to the largest number of American Iraqis in the country. Roughly 80,000 people were eligible to vote.
"When the nationally designated (federal) official called, he said they needed two items--a suitable facility and the proper liability insurance," he said.
So as Anderson zeroed in on the right location--an empty warehouse in Southgate, Mich.--to house the election machines, related equipment and security forces, he quickly dashed off a fax to Marsh's Detroit office, which handles the county's insurance needs.
"We got the fax from John on Friday, Jan.14, 2005, at 1:05 p.m.," said Cheryl Smith, reading from the fax sheet, who at the time was the assistant client executive for Wayne County.
The county had to make sure the Iraqi citizens who wanted to vote in the Iraqi National Assembly elections could do so safely while protected by insurance coverage. At the same time, for security reasons no one could know the exact location of the voter registration and election until the day before. That meant Wayne County had to secure general liability coverage, including Terrorism Risk Insurance Act coverage, in only two days while keeping the reason for the insurance confidential.
"There was no publicity, and we were not allowed to divulge the location until it was announced publicly," Anderson said. The 14th was a Friday, and the following Monday, Jan. 17, was the Martin Luther King Jr. birthday observance. So Marsh's and the county's offices would not be open. And the insurance had to be in place by Tuesday, Jan. 18, when registration was scheduled to begin, and continue through the close of elections on Jan. 30--meaning the coverage was needed for two weeks.
So instead of relaxing on a Friday afternoon, the Marsh team grabbed the phones and called four wholesale brokers who, in turn, contacted as many as 10 markets, including Lloyd's of London, looking for the right coverage at the right price.
"We knew it was specialized coverage (for the county), including terrorism, so we couldn't just call the standard markets. For this type of event, it was a prime terrorist target," said Katie Olesky, assistant to the placement broker, Barbara McManus. When the Marsh team members first called the wholesalers, "they laughed at us and asked, 'Are you serious?' " Olesky said.
The county also needed a separate general liability policy so a claim wouldn't interfere with its self-insured retention.
"We split up the list of wholesalers and made sure everyone was in the loop," Olesky said. "We did all the calls on Friday afternoon, but we didn't get it (the coverage) bound until the 19th, so the insurer backdated it."
Marsh eventually placed the coverage with American Empire Surplus Lines--$1 million per occurrence, $2 million aggregate and a $5,000 deductible per occurrence. The premium was $50,000, including a $10,000 TRIA premium, for which Homeland Security reimbursed the county. Fortunately, there were no claims.
This wasn't the first time Anderson or Marsh has had to secure coverage within hours. Anderson said he once had to get immediate sheriff protection, and insurance, for a municipality. At Marsh, "an owner of a private company bought a jet plane on a Friday afternoon to use over the Memorial Day holiday weekend and needed insurance," said Olesky. That involved a last-minute scramble too.
As Olesky put it, "Who says insurance is boring?"
April 15, 2007
Copyright 2007© LRP Publications