With high hopes of a sure hit hurricane named Florence, 2018 became a bust for many NFIP Flood Adjusters is the direct result of two factors; lack of flood insurance coverage and storm track.
Flood adjusters who attended the Five-Day NFIP Flood Boot Camp™ met in Asheville, North Carolina as a staging area on Tuesday prior to heading on to ground zero. Fine tuning the estimating platforms and reviewing the nine different building types outline by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) helped get ready for what could be damaged. Informing them to be aware of wind and flood damage.
Many NFIP Flood Adjusters from all over the country made their way to North Carolina and South Carolina. Along the way, roads were closed due to rivers overflowing their banks, as water from the high country made its way to the lowlands. Roads were washout or wreaked to the point of impassable. At one point it took three hours to travel four miles through the City of Lumberton, North Carolina. After getting through there, the day turned to night and I found myself on a road the local authorities sent us down with an eight foot barricade sitting in the middle of the right lane. This is something you do not want to see when driving a 45’ motorhome coach pulling a pickup with your assistant following you. The barricade caused us to stop and move over to the shoulder of that county road. Where the only thing providing light was headlights on the coach, stars in the sky and the moon. Leaving myself from the pilot seat of the coach, I waived my assistant to the front of the coach so we could drive to the barricade. Five hundred feet away told the truth if I could go any further. With a flash light I saw half of the right lane missing. With further investigation, the road was washed out below the other half of the right lane leaving the oncoming lane and a soft shoulder as the only option. Returning to the fifty-thousand-pound coach, a decision was made to proceed. It was not about going slow, but getting all the speed I could muster out of the 525-horsepower Cummins within the five hundred feet. I arrived at the White Lake Camp Clearwater RV Park forty-five minutes later.
Two days passed; total of four days into the trip.
Thirteen flood adjusters including myself violated my number one rule; do not start the coach, without claims in my queue. They came from everywhere. Leaving their homes and family behind to do what they do best. Help people recover from flood losses!
Calls were coming every hour wanting to know if additional adjusters need to start driving?
Fifteen to twenty flood adjusters ready to take the hill.
Here is the bad news! We were not deployed, but wanted to be on the front line ready to take the hill.
I drove by every type of structure that could be covered by the NFIP Standard Flood Insurance Policy, including Camp Clearwater. It is more than an RV Park, it is a cluster of vacation properties and seasonal mobile home structures that had experienced flood damages.
There was not a single policy in the whole lot.
Bulletin W-18019: “The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will conduct an Adjuster Briefing in Greenville, NC, on Monday, September 24, 2018, in response to Hurricane Florence. The briefing will address coverage, limitations, and exclusions under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) forms, as well as prior losses, Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC), substantial damage, and any other issues that may be encountered in handling claims resulting from the recent flooding.” The room was packed and more chairs were required as flood adjusters (staff, daily and CAT), IA Firms with Team Leads, “H20 Partners” and others from the surrounding areas gathered. It was nothing more than the short version of the 8-hour Annual NFIP Flood Presentation. Hitting the highlights of the preliminary report and the Adjuster Preliminary Damage Assessment. Some time was given to warn Flood Adjusters with FCN Cards who are trying to work both sides of the claim. It was stated there will be future information coming to those who are using their FCN Card to provide “certification” in obtaining work after a claim has been approved by FEMA. While there were no specifics, they implied the FCN Card is subject to be … (FEMA is working on something). FEMA never addressed the amount of flood claims coming until they opened up the meeting for questions. At that time, they reported 7600 claims had been filed. More questions were asked about how many claims were to be distributed. No answer was provided! The meeting adjourned. After the meeting, I spoke with many flood adjusters who traveled to the area without a claim in their que. They too believed this was a sure hit and would result in a bounty that would make the year great. The stories were plenty about being loyal to their companies but to discover the claims the companies received went to people who were higher on the list or to the daily adjusters in the area. Well, the disappointment is not being low on the list of an IA Firm, living local doing daily claims, or being a staff adjuster for a carrier. The disappointment for flood adjusters is the hurricane and the people who failed to have flood insurance. The comparison between Hurricane Matthew 2016 and Hurricane Florence 2018 can provide some insight as to why.
Hurricane Matthew (I was based in Charleston, SC) started in Florida and ravaged the east coast up to North Carolina. While it did not have a direct hit, the damages were significant to deploy many flood adjusters from many IA Firms. As you can see from the NOAA map below the track of the storm.
When you superimpose the map of Hurricane Florence over map of Hurricane Matthew, its personality was much different. Florence was downgraded from a Category 4 on Wednesday at 8:00 AM to Category 1 on Saturday at 8:00 AM.
The facts are staggering for North Carolina after the reality of Hurricane Matthew in 2016. North Carolinians did not experience enough pain from the flooding in 2016. TV Station, channel 11-ABC, RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) reported of Florence, “… there were only about 5,793 flood insurance claims. When it came to public assistance, though, 81,979 North Carolina residents registered with FEMA for disaster assistance. Causey said “the discrepancy is jarring and is indicative of the fact that 97 percent of North Carolinians do not purchase flood insurance, including tens of thousands who live along the Pamlico Sound, the Atlantic Coast, or anyone within floodplains.” Flooding is not the issue; enforcing flood policies is the issue. I was at an auto dealership in Lumberton, North Carolina and had a conversation with an employee who had flood insurance and her son who did not. Both risks were financed. She with a national bank who required flood insurance because the mortgage was backed by a Federal Guarantee Loan. Water only entered her crawlspace. Her son’s mortgage was with a local community bank. The bank did not use Federal Guarantee money; therefore, the requirements were less for his loan requirements. These are two stories about different risk. I’m sure the local bank has many mortgagees with a lot of exposure. I spoke with a Vice-President of a local community bank in my home town. He told me, without knowing the detail of the bank in Lumberton, that people could be upside-down with their property and walk away leaving the bank with a property that has little to no value. All the flood adjusters I spoke with came to the area by their own choice and without claims in their que. When they called the IA Firms, the firms did not say stay home nor did they say come. Therefore, the IA Firms were not on the hook for a “deployment”. The IA Firms were in a win-win situation. They did not deploy and yet they sat with a hotel full of flood adjusters waiting for a call. In addition, FEMA was happy they had flood adjusters ready to accept claims if assigned.
The BUST is what it is!
A hurricane that did not live up to the “weather experts”. The Weather Channel, Mike’s Weather Page and the local channels missed it.
Is that all bad? No! Lives were lost but many were spared.
While taking a break for lunch this past Sunday, I spoke with two FEMA Inspectors from WSP USA Inspection Services and they are working 12 to 14 hours a day.
However, tomorrow is their last; a bust for them too.
They said, 80% of the structures they looked at were wind damage and water damage from the top down. The majority of structures they found with flood damage only reached the crawl spaces of the buildings and not entering the living area.
The highest watermarks, one inspector stated, was 21” and was in a single wide mobile home that would be settled at ACV. But the most important thing they said was, “people did not have flood insurance!”
So what did we learn as flood adjusters? Should we stay at home until claims are in the queue?
Maybe! Maybe not! Close the claims you have and be thankful.
So, do we get ready for Hurricane Rosa that is out in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baha California? Based upon Arizona Department of Insurance the majority of NFIP in force (PIF) are in Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA). The ADI states that flooding is the most common and costly natural hazard in Arizona. Less than two percent of all households have flood coverage. Therefore, ninety-eight percent have no coverage. That in and of itself is less than North Carolina. Whatever you do, always be safe out there!
If you are interested in becoming a flood adjuster, improving your skill-set, learning how to increase your potential income, and reducing the number of days closing claims consider attending the 5 Day NFIP Flood Boot Camp.