Hailstorm Case Study:
Weathering the Storm
Hail is a relatively common occurrence in the Prairies–especially during the summer months. Even a smaller storm can result in some dented roofs or broken windows. What is uncommon, however, is a hailstorm causing significant and widespread property damage across an entire municipality. Yet, that is what happened when hailstones pelted an Alberta town, affecting most of the municipal buildings.
For the veteran consultants at SPECS, who have worked on numerous claims that include municipal loss situations, this was far and away the worst hail damage they had witnessed. The cost of repairs to the city properties alone was estimated to be well over one million dollars. The client was already familiar with SPECS’ performance on previous claims, so they were engaged to review all the impacted structures. Given the existing relationship, there was both trust in the company’s processes, as well as confidence in a successful outcome.
The scale of the project was not the only challenge. A few buildings were home to local attractions and needed to be returned to their pre-loss condition before the tourist season ended. Adding to the complexity of the remediation process was the requirement that the sites remain completely operational during repairs. With the fall and winter seasons fast approaching, there was more inclement weather on the horizon that could worsen the damage. Swift action was needed–all without compromising the integrity of the assessment or the quality of repairs.
Taking into account the many different types of buildings and exterior building components involved in the project, broad-spectrum knowledge was required to determine the scope of work. To that end, a site visit for an initial review of the properties with both the adjuster and the insured was scheduled.
The degree to which a hailstorm can impact a roof often is not visible from the ground. Therefore, roof inspections–which require adherence to safety legislation–are essential. The qualifications of the appraiser are particularly critical in order to properly identify damage when scoping claims of this nature. SPECS building consultants have both fall protection training and certification that exceeds the provincial Occupational Health and Safety requirements. Their ability to provide immediate and detailed on-roof inspections of the municipal buildings allowed for more precise and streamlined reporting.
An issue frequently encountered with hail damage is the unknown condition of the property’s superstructure, as water can permeate beyond the exterior envelope. Hail damage to a structure is like an iceberg: there is what you can readily see–and what exists beneath the surface. Once the roofing or siding component is removed, old and unusable sheathing or framing may be discovered. Without a comprehensive examination conducted by a seasoned professional, interior damage may only reveal itself over time and in the form of further structural issues, such as leaks and cracks. This damage can then spread to interior finishes, especially if the area is subject to severe weather in the future. Not only did the building consultants have the expertise to thoroughly inspect the structures, but they also established accurate reserves for all claims after the initial inspections.
SPECS quickly developed an initial scope of work for all affected municipal buildings, so bid documents could be created in short order. Awarding all repairs to a single contractor was considered, since economies of scale can help reduce construction costs. In the end, the decision was made to award each building separately to save time and better allocate resources.
Another decision that contributed to the expedient handling of the claim was the use of local contractors. When possible–and adhering to strict cost and quality control measures–it is a regular practice for SPECS to source service providers from the region following a catastrophe. Not only did it help expedite repairs for the municipality, but it also invested back into and supported the revitalization of the local economy that had just suffered a massive blow.
With the repairs underway, SPECS was asked to oversee the work, perform quality control, and conduct invoice reviews for the whole project. The customer relied heavily on SPECS’ recommendations to ensure the claim was handled with low stress for all stakeholders. Any issues were addressed immediately and the process was characterized by open communication. For example, a straightforward and seamless system was set up with the contractors, whereby supplements were presented in full with prices attached for quick approval. This allowed for transparency and the work to continue without delay.
A physical presence was another valuable benefit to claim timelines and processes, as SPECS has three offices in Alberta. Throughout every phase of the assignment, this proximity translated into fast travel to the municipality for everything from inspections and vetting local vendors to managing the repairs and associated financials.
Although the hail damage to this Alberta town was a rarity–both in scale and severity–the ability to identify the damage and know what it would take to repair the buildings, coupled with the selection of qualified contractors, ensured that a thorough job was completed in a reasonable period. In fact, all work was finished within ten months of the storm, while many other claims in the region lasted longer than two years. Moreover, workmanship was not sacrificed, and the final cost of repairs was very close to the initial cost reserve set.
With an experienced team and efficient processes, even an exceptional loss can be met by an exceptional response.