Notes From a Few Islands

Ben Hobby and Thomas Sanderson share their thoughts having just returned from working in the Caribbean.

We have just returned from the Caribbean having visited, as part of RGL’s CAT Response team, a few of the islands impacted by the recent hurricanes. The damage wrought by these natural catastrophes is substantial and one can only imagine what it is like to actually experience such events. The owner of the apartment we rented on the US Virgin Islands was quite clear on this, though, when he said “anyone who was not scared was an outright liar”.

Our travels around the islands brought home the extent of the damage. There are a significant number of buildings without roofs, some buildings where the wind was so strong that substantial holes have been blown in parts of the exterior concrete walls, structural steel work has been bent and, in some cases, collapsed. Flood waters have also had an impact on a great many buildings.

In addition to this, collapsed power lines have had a catastrophic impact on the infrastructure of these islands. The sheer number of power lines that are currently littered across the roads makes driving around the islands problematic and this is before considering the impact that the lack of power has on day to day lives at home. It will clearly take time for island life to return to anything that represents normal.

However, what is amazing in circumstances such as these is the power of the human spirit. The clean-up operation is well underway, there is food in the supermarkets and homeowners with limited or no damage are accommodating those who have lost their own homes. The way in which these communities have pulled together is nothing short of astonishing.

The insurance market has also had, and will continue to have, a significant role in helping to physically rebuild these communities. However, what is not often broadcasted by the market is the critical role that business interruption insurance has in supporting these communities in a catastrophe scenario.

In simple terms, by paying the loss of gross profit that these companies have suffered, insurers are enabling these companies to keep their staff employed and to continue paying them. At a micro level, this helps the employees to continue to feed and look after their families. At a macro level, it also ensures that cash continues to flow around the local economy, thereby benefitting the whole community. At times like these, insurance can, quite literally, save lives.

Having seen at first hand the effect of these natural events, we are proud to be part of an industry that can have such a positive impact on the lives of those unfortunate enough to have suffered as a consequence of these hurricanes. More importantly, we look forward to continuing to be a part of the insurance industry’s work in the coming months as we help to rebuild these communities.

 

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