We Delivered Hope, 'Hope in a Bag'
As we look back at a year of pain and perseverance from the impact of Sandy, we also remember a special time when members across the state united. Independent insurance agents from Western and Central New York to the Capitol District and from Plattsburg and Binghamton to downstate and even Long Island (yes, the very members with damaged homes and businesses and mounds of claims to process), came together for "Hope in a Bag." Together, we collected more than 1,000 bags of Thanksgiving dinner items to help feed and, more importantly, give hope to storm-stricken families on the holiday. (You can watch the journey – from collection to distribution – on IIABNY’s Facebook page.)
“Governor (Andrew) Cuomo and I would like to thank the members of the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of New York for their selfless contributions to the families affected by Superstorm Sandy through their Hope in a Bag program this Thanksgiving," said New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales. "Providing Thanksgiving essentials is a true commitment to those in need and brought a smile and sense of normalcy to families still getting their lives together this holiday season."
After a disaster, insurance agents are automatically called up to help others recover through the insurance claim process, but our members wanted to help in another way too. We know the power we have together – the power to do great things. Help our own businesses. Help others. It’s what we’ve done for more than 130 years. And, guided by our members, we’ll remain true to IIABNY’s mission for the next 130 and beyond.
Be sure to visit our website's newly updated Disaster Planning and Recovery Section featuring Sandy-related articles, photos and other content.
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Update on Sandy Legislation
Recent news stories have refocused attention on a package of bills introduced last spring by the New York State Assembly in response to Superstorm Sandy-related issues. Among them was a proposal to prohibit anti-concurrent causation language in insurance policies, a bill to establish a private right of action for the insured for unfair claims settlement actions in declared disaster areas and a homeowners’ bill of rights.
IIABNY opposed these bills during the 2013 legislative session and is continuing discussions with the bill sponsors on more appropriate ways to help educate consumers and businesses about their insurance coverage. All of the bills were “one House” bills, meaning they only passed the Assembly. There was no appetite in the Senate to move any of the bills.
One proposal that IIABNY supports (A.2729 sponsored by Assemblyman Weisenberg) would require the New York Superintendent of Financial Services to establish standards for hurricane windstorm deductibles and would create uniformity for the events that trigger the deductibles. It passed the Assembly but did not get through the Senate. This proposal will need industry consensus to move forward, and IIABNY will continue its advocacy efforts when the State Legislature reconvenes in January 2014.
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IIABNY, Suffolk County Local Defend Insurance Producers Disparaged in Campaign Ad
IIABNY’s president and CEO and the president IIAB of Suffolk County are asking a candidate running for a seat in the Suffolk County Legislature to publicly disavow himself from statements made in a campaign advertisement that maligns “insurance salesmen.” After becoming aware of the advertisement, IIABNY’s Richard A. Poppa, CAE, AAI and IIABSC’s Joanne Bentivegna, CAE, AAI, sent a letter yesterday to Anthony Musumeci, who is a candidate in the legislature’s 8th district that covers parts of Ronkonkoma, as well as Oakdale, Sayville, Bohemia, Holbrook, Patchogue, Blue-Point and Bayport.
The advertisement from “Friends of Anthony Musumeci” states in large, bold letters, “Some politicians and insurance salesmen have a lot in common. And it sounds like Bill Lindsay III is your typical politician. But don’t worry – you can trust him. After all, he is an insurance salesman, too. The same kind of people who took your money, made promises, but when Super Storm Sandy hit … were nowhere to be found.“
Bill Lindsay III is Musumeci’s opponent, a vice president at the insurance brokerage Hilb, Regal and Hamilton and son of the late William Lindsay, who represented the legislature’s 8th district for 12 years before his death in September.
In their letter, Poppa and Bentivegna expressed their alarm at the tone of the Musumeci ad and its misstatement of fact. “The truth,” they wrote, “is that these insurance professionals served their clients in admirable fashion following the storm, helping them recover while also dealing with its effects on them personally. Stories abound of producers ferrying claim adjusters on their personal watercraft so that damaged properties could be inspected; of agents contacting customers before the storm hit to offer advice on ways to protect lives and property; of agents who could not return to their own homes working with customers to make sure they could rebuild theirs.”
Poppa and Bentivegna also cited the state report card of insurance company performance following Sandy and invited Musumeci to discuss with them the work of independent insurance producers. As IIABNY Insider was being distributed, phone calls to both candidates had not been returned.
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Looking Back: Letter to Gov. Last Summer Attempted to Set the Record Straight
To Gov. Andrew Cuomo: Insurance companies, their agents and employees put the interests of insureds above their own following Superstorm Sandy, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. A defense of the industry’s performance and recognition of problems with the National Flood Insurance Program claims handling process are prominent in a letter dated July 10, 2013 and signed by IIABNY President and CEO Richard A. Poppa, CAE, AAI, and Chair of the Board Andrew J. Kaufman. In the letter sent to Cuomo, Poppa and Kaufman cited the industry’s low customer complaint ratios compiled by state officials of the insurers servicing the areas hardest hit by Sandy.
At the height of the activity after the storm, wrote Poppa and Kaufman, insurance companies brought in additional adjusters from other parts of the country to handle the large number of home and business claims. “Insurance companies and their agents worked together to respond quickly and efficiently to help families and businesses begin the process of restoring their lives and livelihoods.”
Read the full letter.
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Member Agencies Revisit Sandy, Offer Lessons Learned
A year ago yesterday, a hurricane roared up the east coast of the United States and collided with another massive weather pattern from the west to form the terrible force of nature we call Superstorm Sandy. The punishing winds and corrosive floodwaters of this historic storm threatened millions, forced hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and others into darkness and robbed many of them of their homes, businesses and a sense of normalcy. But Sandy’s aftermath did something else, too. It once again gave the insurance industry, in general, and independent insurance agencies and brokerages, in particular, the opportunity to demonstrate the efforts they will take to help storm victims recover and begin to rebuild their lives.
A case in point is two IIABNY member agencies that earned attention in the national trade press for how they persevered through the storm. As the Insurance Journal reported in its Oct. 7 national edition, Mackoul & Associates found its main office in Island Park submerged in more than 6 feet of water after Sandy made landfall. The agency, recalled the magazine, was able to resume operations and begin serving its customers within a day and a half at a temporary location.
As one Mackoul employee told the Journal: “I really felt that despite the fact that the office was underwater, the well-being of the staff was the owner’s No. 1 concern. Our bosses kept their heads high throughout the whole process, even though they had lost so much personally as well.” Another staff member “Many employees lost a lot as well, and management was there to help them. We are a family. We all work together and have been through a lot together.”
McCartney, Verrino & Rosenberry Insurance Inc. was, like many businesses in Ardsley, without electricity for about 48 hours after the storm. During the outage, the agency’s landline telephone system was offline. Power was not restored until a generator was delivered by Agility Recovery, an IIABNY-endorsed provider. Clif Rosenberry, a principal owner of the agency and former IIABNY President (1997-1998), told Business Insurance magazine that the cell phones issued by the agency, which he called “a saving grace,” continued to work during the outage.
Echoing Rosenberry’s sentiments was Bob Boyd, Agility Recovery president and CEO. Boyd will lead the one-hour webinar “10 Steps to Disaster Preparedness for Insurance Firms” at 11 a.m. Thursday. See next article in this issue for more details. Boyd told Business Insurance: “A lot of companies assume that they communicate the same way they always have the day after a storm. That’s just not true.” Rosenberry said his agency, besides signing up with Agility Recovery, also employed a series of commonsense measures prior to Sandy’s landfall, including printing employee phone lists and setting aside a supply of diesel fuel.
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Ready Your Agency for the Worst with this Online Presentation
“10 Steps to Disaster Preparedness for Insurance Firms,” which will be presented at 11 a.m. Thursday, is a one-hour webinar intended to give an overall briefing on each aspect of the business continuity strategy. Instructor Bob Boyd of Agility Recovery, an IIABNY-endorsed provider, will review best practices that have evolved out of recent disasters. Key topics will include: preparing your employees, managing data, communicating during a crisis, building a disaster kit, reviewing proper insurance coverage, planning an alternate site and more. This course qualifies for one continuing education credit for all licenses.
See Boyd’s online introductory video; then register for the webinar.
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Former NYS Insurance Supt. Says Sandy was 'Missed Opportunity'
Howard Mills has some ideas about how Congress can make it easier for insurers to deal with future natural disasters. Mills, a former state Assemblyman and ex-head of the New York State Insurance Department, recently reviewed the insurance response to Superstorm Sandy and the lessons learned. In a column he wrote for Carrier Management, Mills explained despite numerous consumer education programs, enrollments for federal flood insurance remains “frighteningly low” and upcoming rate changes created by reform legislation will only limit enrollments.
Mills also warned that a year after Sandy, a sense of complacency is apparent, especially after no major storm has made landfall in the Northeast so far this year. He also cited a survey by the American Red Cross and Fedex that found less than 10 percent of small businesses have taken steps to prepare for a disaster based on the effects of Sandy.
Mills, who is currently Chief Advisor at Deloitte, praised the insurance industry’s response to the massive storm, pointing to the Insurance Information Institute’s finding that more than 90 percent of Sandy-related claims have been resolved. Yet, he says there are steps that can be taken to better prepare for the next “big one,” including allowing insurance companies to replenish their reserves through tax and accounting rule changes, as well as avoiding bank-centric regulations.
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Sandy Recovery by the Numbers
The numbers started coming in almost as soon as the floodwaters from Superstorm Sandy started to recede. In the following, IIABNY Insider takes a look of some of the statistics related to New York and compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
- More than $1 billion approved for individuals and households including:
- More than $857 million for housing assistance
- More than $145 million for other needs, including clothing, household items, disaster-related damage to a vehicle, and disaster-related medical and dental expenses
- 272,045 contacted FEMA for help or information
- 185,208 housing inspections completed
- 65 disaster recovery centers opened
- 183,145 visits to disaster recovery centers
- 5,944 individuals and families housed temporarily in hotel rooms under the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program
- 5,592 survivors received disaster unemployment assistance
Small Business Administration
- More than $1.5 billion in SBA low-interest disaster loans approved for homeowners, renters and businesses
National Flood Insurance Program
- More than $3.7 billion in flood insurance payments made to policyholders
- More than $2.1 billion approved in FEMA Public Assistance grants to communities and some nonprofit organizations that serve the public for emergency response, debris removal and repair public facilities
- 2,712 projects approved so far
- More than 21,000 families were able to remain in their homes while repairs were made because of the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power and the New York City Rapid Repairs programs
- 500 voluntary agencies involved in recovery
- More than 3.2 million meals and 2.4 million liters of water distributed
- 26 languages used to communicate assistance information to survivors
- More than 1 million multilingual fliers distributed
- Power restored for 2.1 million New Yorkers
- Nearly 6.4 million cubic yards of debris removed
- At peak, more than 4,150 deployed to New York by FEMA and other federal agencies.
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After Sandy, Preparing in Advance for Next Major Flooding Event Makes Great Sense
Superstorm Sandy, the second costliest storm in U.S. history, was estimated to cause more than $68 billion in damages. The storm’s greatest damage impact was from coastal flooding, which accounted for 65 percent of Sandy’s total insured losses. Risk Management Solutions, Inc. estimates that each year there is an 18 percent chance that a hurricane making landfall in the U.S. will cause coastal flood losses that exceed the wind losses – this probability nearly doubles along the Northeast coast. The RMS model also indicates that there is a 32 percent chance that annual U.S. insured coastal flood losses will exceed $1 billion, and a 16 percent chance that they will exceed $5 billion. Thus, there are huge financial benefits to derive from preparing for the next major flood event.
The National Flood Insurance Program’s floodsmart.gov website has these tip agents and brokers can share with their insureds.
Safeguard Your Possessions
Create a personal flood file containing information about all your possessions and keep it in a secure place, such as a safe deposit box or waterproof container. This file should have:
- A copy of your insurance policies with your agent's contact information.
- A household inventory: For insurance purposes, be sure to keep a written and visual (i.e., videotaped or photographed) record of all major household items and valuables, even those stored in basements, attics or garages. Create files that include serial numbers and store receipts for major appliances and electronics. Have jewelry and artwork appraised. These documents are critically important when filing insurance claims. For more information visit www.knowyourstuff.org.
- Copies of all other critical documents, including finance records or receipts of major purchases.
Prepare Your House
- First, make sure your sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
- Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
- Anchor any fuel tanks.
- Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home's projected flood elevation.
- Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
- Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.
Develop a Family Emergency Plan
- Create a safety kit with drinking water, canned food, first aid, blankets, a radio, and a flashlight.
- Post emergency telephone numbers by the phone and teach your children how to dial 911.
- Plan and practice a flood evacuation route with your family. Know safe routes from home, work, and school that are on higher ground.
- Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to be your emergency family contact.
- Have a plan to protect your pets.
Among the online tools provided by NFIP are resources designed to provide on-demand training and education as well as marketing and advertising guidance for agents participating in the NFIP. Of special note is the site’s Marketing and Advertising section, which offers information about building a marketing plan, the NFIP’s co-op advertising program, marketing calendar, integrated campaign library and other interactive tools.
Agents.FloodSmart.gov also provides an advertising toolbox, complete with templates that can be used as boilerplates for ads in newspapers and:
- Yellow Pages
- Direct Mail
As other companies are withdrawing from the NFIP’s Write Your Own or WYO program, many IIABNY members have turned to Big ”I” Flood. IIABA staff has worked with Selective Insurance for many years to provide members NFIP primary coverage and access to excess flood products. Why Big “I” Flood and why Selective? First, Selective is a longtime supporter of IIABA and its member agents. And Selective, which has participated in the NFIP’s WYO program since 1984, has been rated "A" or better by A.M. Best since 1930. Through Selective, the Big “I” Flood program offers your agency:
- Personal and industry-leading knowledge from the Big “I” and Selective team
- 18 percent commission for new business and 15 percent commission on renewals
- Book rollover assistance and potentially higher commissions
- Access to instant zone determination, quotes, policy changes and inquiries
- Education on flood insurance and how to protect your clients
Get started today by either registering or updating your profile for Big “I” Flood at www.bigimarkets.com. Click on the registration/update link and complete the registration. Your registration gives you access to Big “I” Flood and all the other specialty products available through Big “I” Markets.
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…and be Sure You Check Out Our Blogs
Fresh off the proverbial presses are new postings from IIABNY bloggers: Jamie Deapo, assistant vice president of membership and member programs; Tim Dodge, assistant vice president of research; and Julie MacConnell, director of marketing and communications. First, Deapo questions whether producers have done everything they can to protect their clients from devastating flooding like that caused by Superstorm Sandy in the latest “Word on the Street” blog post “Don’t Leave Your Clients in the Cold.”
In the latest post on the award-winning “Ask Tim” blog, Dodge talks about little-known commercial property coverage endorsements. And, MacConnell continues the Sandy theme with her latest post, "Using Social Media to Communicate Before, During & After an Emergency.”
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