Boots in the Bahamas
What’s the scene like in the Bahamas post-Hurricane Dorian?
By Eric Gilkey
What’s the scene like in the Bahamas post-Hurricane Dorian, where insured and uninsured losses are predicted to hit $7 billion? We chat with Sedgwick’s Elizabeth Demaret and Laura De Sordi, two members of the company’s catastrophe team, to find out.
Laura De Sordi, Managing Director, Latin America & Caribbean
Q. What was the worst catastrophe you handled? How does working in the Bahamas after Dorian compare?
A. Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico in 2017 was the worst. Working in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian is very different, as logistical difficulties are worse because different islands were hit. It’s making the accessibility and transportation between the various islands really difficult. Another aspect of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas was the emotional impact—it’s been very different. Some areas looked like a bomb had exploded.
Q. How long were your days? How did you manage the stress?
A. The days have been endless. They start early in the morning and go on until late at night—of course this is common for most serious catastrophes. Experience I guess is key, so stress doesn’t kick in! Most of the challenges and tensions felt were not new, just a bit different. Having a great team there and huge company support make the impossible possible.
Elizabeth Demaret, Chief of Staff, EVP, Carrier Relations
Q. What challenges were involved in getting your team to the scene? What did they do, once there, for accommodations?
A. Getting people to a catastrophe is a balance between speed, effectiveness, and safety. Clients, understandably, want information quickly on their staff, property, and businesses. We have to balance that with the question of whether they can be effective once on the island and, more importantly, safe.
From a colleague standpoint, we worked with a team to provide alternate transportation such as helicopters and private planes; identified safety and health issues; and secured housing for the claims professionals. Additional logistics included ensuring that our colleagues are appropriately licensed in that jurisdiction. All of this took about five days.
Once on the island, we worked with existing clients who had housing available and a lot of word of mouth to get our teams in a location where we could ensure that they had food, water, and basic safety taken care of.
Q. What is the general atmosphere like? What are your biggest problems?
A. As the infrastructure of the islands begins moving toward recovery, the atmosphere is stabilizing from a security standpoint. Additionally, basic necessities like water, food, A/C, and phone service are also getting more constant, which makes it easier. Our teams all report that the Bahamian residents are really resilient.
As far as problems, the biggest issue from our view is getting supplies to the island and removing debris so rebuilding can begin will be a real challenge for insureds.
Q. What kinds of losses are you handling?
A. Our losses run the gamut from personal homes with values ranging from $300,000 to more than $2 million, to commercial losses with values over $100 million. It took about two weeks for the volume to become steady—insurers and insureds were working with the same logistics issues we were.