Aerial imagery's role in CAT response growing

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September and October saw two massive hurricanes barrel through the southeastern United States, causing human tragedy and massive property damage. Hurricanes Florence and Michael proved once again, no two hurricanes are alike. Varying strengths, trajectories and weather components can make it a challenge for insurers to prepare for and manage the aftermath of these type events.

Though the strength and frequency of these catastrophes are increasing, so too is the technology available to aid in insurers’ response efforts. Aerial imaging is one such technology that leading insurers including Allstate, Farmers and Travelers are using to win the CAT response battle. The use of drones, manned aircraft, satellite and radar imagery gives insurers visibility into pre- and post-event data to analyze and triage affected areas – improving claim efficiency and protecting employees in post-disaster regions.

Aerial imagery can be tailored to the nature of each weather event, such as the case with Hurricanes Florence and Michael. With more time to prepare for slower moving Hurricane Florence, for example, insurers were able to collect pre-event aerial imagery to utilize as baselines, track the storm and overlay with flood prediction/risk models. Unlike Hurricane Michael, Hurricane Florence made landfall and continued to sit on affected areas, with some areas receiving up to 40 inches of rain in a two-day period. Because of this we leveraged a different type of satellite that could see through clouds and determine flooding levels. Flood damage analysis was of the utmost importance dealing with this catastrophe.

With such high flooding, in addition to efficiently handling damage assessments, insurers faced the challenge of protecting claims adjusters on the ground. Aerial data and analysis allowed insurers to see which areas were most affected and, at a more granular level, what areas were inaccessible or hazardous. The imagery and analytics were often detailed enough for adjusters to fully process claims without ever having to physically examine the damaged property.

Hurricane Michael, on the other hand, was stronger and less predictable than Hurricane Florence. It went from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane within 72 hours, with winds up to 155 mph. It barreled through the Florida panhandle into other southern regions, presenting a very different CAT response picture to insurers.

Though flooding was not the primary concern, many affected areas faced total asset destruction from the intense winds. In many areas, the damage was so extensive that insurers could not see where properties were prior to the event. With aerial data, insurers were able to overlap parcel boundaries and pre-event imagery and then compare with their policies to accurately identify properties that needed to be submitted for claims.

The destruction left in the wake of the 2018 hurricane season has shown insurers that the claims response processes that work for one hurricane do not necessarily translate to others. By recognizing the shifting nature of these storms and the technology solutions available to better align response processes to the storm’s characteristics, insurers can ensure they accurately respond, no matter the disaster. The ultimate goal in claim response is providing accurate and timely service to settle customer claims. By harnessing the power of imagery and analytics provided by aerial imaging, insurers can deliver quicker, more comprehensive responses that meet their customer needs.

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